Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Looking Back - Episode –13

One of the best decisions taken by BGR while working in Bangalore was to book a Bajaj Vespa scooter. In those days the Bajaj Vespa scooter was a prized possession of the upper middle class and only very few got the opportunity to own it. BGR had observed that many shrewd businessmen in Basavanagudi used to book the vehicle regularly and make a killing on allotment. The scooter that was allotted at around Rs3,000 used to be sold at nearly Rs9,000-10,000/. But BGR saw no meaning in booking the vehicle as the allotment could be expected only by 8-9 years!
In the year 1968 a new dealership for Bajaj Vespa came up for the first time in the city of Mangalore. BGR’s cousin Mohan Rao advised him to book the vehicle at Mangalore to avail the chances of an early allotment. BGR made a booking by paying Rs250. He was lucky. He got the allotment in 1971 – within four months of joining the Shimoga branch.
I had earlier made a mention that the position of an officer in a nationalized bank fetched him a higher status in the society in those days – particularly in a smaller city like Shimoga. Indeed the status of BGR went a few notches up on his purchase of the coveted Bajaj Vespa scooter. In fact the number of Bajaj Vespa scooters in Shimoga could be counted through fingers and most of them were purchased at a huge premium. (The odd looking Lambretta was the only other alternative!).  It was a privilege to go round the city on the prized possession carrying the better half and the offspring! BGR’s first son Adarsha had arrived by that time.
BGR’s scooter was put to a very good use on two special occasions. He had taken a house on rent at Durgigudi extension owned by an agriculturist called Nanjappa. Nanjappa was also customer of the bank and hailed from a nearby village called Malavagoppa. He had let out one house to BGR (it was a twin house) and the other house was occupied by the school going children of his family under the care of his grandmother. Nanjappa’s sister in the advanced stage of pregnancy was staying there for eventual admission to the maternity home on due date. One particular night at 3.30 am, the grandmother knocked at the doors of BGR telling him that her granddaughter was having labour pains. She sought his help to take her to the maternity home.
Fortunately the pregnant lady was in a position to walk. BGR managed to take her  to the maternity home along with her grandmother. There was no telephone facility in the village and BGR’s residence at that time. BGR drove his scooter all the way to the village in the night and reached the house of Nanjappa. Nanjappa expressed his regrets for the inconvenience caused to BGR. Actually he had arranged for another elderly person to stay at night. But the person was missing on the D-day! The lady delivered a male child safely.
The very next year Nanjappa’s wife was pregnant and she was staying in the other  house. BGR once jocularly told Nanjappa and his father to ensure that both of them stayed in the night in Shimoga till the delivery of the child! But believe it or not! One particular night at 3 am, there was again a knock at the BGR’s doors. It was the same grandmother again! She sought his help to take Nanjappa’s wife to the maternity home! The lady had developed labour pains and quite  surprisingly Nanjappa and his father were missing!
When BGR asked about the whereabouts of the pair, the grandmother told him that they were there on all nights except on this D-day! For BGR it was a repetition of the event. He admitted the lady to the nursing home and rode on his ‘Hamara Bajaj Vespa” scooter all the way to Nanjappa’s residence in the village. This time Nanjappa could not have the face to even express his regrets! The lady delivered a baby boy safely. Nanjappa used to visit Bangalore and call on BGR after he left Shimoga. The BGR couple even attended the marriage of his son who was born after BGR admitted his mother to the nursing home! BGR was transferred to Mumbai on promotion in the year 1980. He then sold his prestigious Bajaj Vespa for Rs6,700, double the price he had paid in 1971!
Even though BGR was having a decent salary as bank officer, he was not of the type who would save money regularly. There were several reasons for him for not developing the savings habit. One of the reasons was – he did not mind helping the needy - financially on merits. Most of such instances were off the record. BGR is proud of one such instance merely because the amount of satisfaction he derived out of his act. The person whom he helped now occupies a prestigious position.
BGR had a distant relative from his wife’s side in Shimoga by name R Gopalkrishna. He used to visit BGR’s house occasionally. He was living in a rented house with a large family of eight brothers and three sisters. While Gopalkrishna was an accountant in Udaya Motors, the other three brothers were running small businesses. Obviously the family was facing acute financial difficulties. One of the younger brothers by name vasudev did his graduation in Shimoga and post-graduation in Mysore surviving on ‘varanna’ and tuitions.
Vasudev had applied for several government jobs. He received a letter from the Labour Bureau of Simla asking him to appear for a test for an UDC post. His family was not enthusiastic as it thought the chances of passing the test was remote, while the expenditure to go to Simla was huge. But Vasudev approached BGR telling him that he was confident of passing the test. Seeing his confidence BGR gave him Rs500. The amount was nearly 40 percent of BGR’s take home salary in those days! Vasudev attended the test and came back telling him that he had done exceedingly well.
One month later Vasudev was called for an interview. BGR gave him Rs500 again. He was successful in the interview and was asked to report for duty immediately! A few years later he attended UPSC examination and was selected as an officer. Later he appeared for an officer’s post in the Airports Authority of India. He was selected under stiff competition. Having worked in cities like Ahmedabad, Coimbatore and Chennai, Vasudev is currently the Director, Airports Authority of India, Mangalore. Under his leadership the Mangalore Airport recently received accreditation from Giant Accreditation Board of Australia and New Zealand.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
12th June 2012

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