Often when I look back on my career path in Canara Bank, the memory of one person brings back smile on my face instantaneously. Yes! This man had a gift of the gab and was a tremendous entertainer. But let me tell you one thing. None of his comments or actions on any particular matter or event looked funny on the face of it. They used to be very subtle invariably and unless you had a sharp brain of your own, you would definitely miss the finer meaning! You would indeed be fooled by his cool and quick comments and actions, as they appeared to be very simple and normal under the given circumstances.
NRG Prasad was my colleague in our Big Bazaar branch, Shimoga in the early seventies. He had joined the bank a few weeks prior to me. While most of us had initial hiccups in settling down in our first job, Prasad seemed to have fitted into the job straightaway. He was handling the DDs/MTs department as his first assignment. For us, it appeared to be a tough job as there was no scope to commit any mistakes particularly in writing the DDs. Moreover we had to use the protectograph, which also appeared to be a skilled task for us then. But Prasad made it look quite easy. Sure, this man had some unique style in discharging his duties! At least, that was what we thought of him at that time. Indeed he had more to reveal as we discovered in due course.
Some of us are having this habit of adding “you know what?” (Adenu gotthunta?), frequently, in between our conversations. Prasad would cut this stuff short immediately by telling, “for God’s sake, I do not know!” (Nammappana aane nanage Gotthilla!). It was quite characteristic of him and we would be suddenly finding ourselves at a loss of words to continue our conversation. But then that was the typical Prasad for you!
Before I start writing more about Prasad, I should give some statutory warning to my readers! I request them not to try and perform any of his actions, if they are bank employees. It may be injurious for them, as they cannot be expected to be as skilled as Prasad! I also request them to ignore the morality of these actions, as they will not fit into the definition of customer service in the bank. But you will definitely appreciate that his actions carried no ill will towards his victims! They were actions that were initiated under the given circumstances and meant no harm to the affected parties.
My first experience about his way of handling of difficult customers was when I handed over him the charge of bills/cheques collection department. There was one particular customer of the branch who used to tender quite a good number of bills and cheques for collection daily. The person who worked for the customer and was attending the bank matters was a highly irritable fellow. He would start enquiring the fate of the instruments sent for collection without even allowing some transit time that is normally required for realization!
Immediately after Prasad took charge of the department, there was some piling up of instruments for lodging, on account of holidays. The ‘irritable person’ had a hunch that the instruments of his firm had been kept pending at the branch without sending them for collection. He expressed his doubts to Prasad. Prasad called me immediately. He asked me quite seriously whether I had told the irritable person earlier about ‘the daily verification of pending items at the bank by the Police in the evening’. I could not make the head and tail of what he was telling. Any way I said ‘no’. Prasad then told the person that it was mandatory for the Police to verify the pending items at the banks daily! If they found any pending items, they would take severe action against the concerned person immediately! The person was so impressed with what was told by Prasad that he stopped enquiring about the fate of bills thereafter! He sincerely thought that the police would fully take care of his firm’s interest!
By the time I was entrusted with cash department, Prasad was already working as a cashier and had fully picked up all the nuances. I started my duty as a receipt cashier and Prasad was the payment cashier in the adjacent cabin. He was also receiving cash when he had free time. We were not supposed to accept fully cut notes, but certain customers were somehow pushing them to me. I was finding it difficult to dispose them, as they were not accepted at the State Bank. When I told Prasad about my problem, he told me not to worry and to give them to him next day.
The next morning he kept them in a corner of his cashier table, which was not visible to the persons, who were tendering cash as receipts. Just as I was observing, he asked one of the parties in my receipt queue to handover the cash to him. This party always used to remit huge cash and would try to dump some cut notes. He was happy to jump the queue and give his cash to Prasad for counting. Prasad started counting his cash piece by piece. In between he would suddenly throw some notes to a corner of his table, not visible to the party, telling him that they were cut notes! After counting all the notes, he gave him back those notes asking him to exchange them. The notes returned to him were actually the cut notes I had given to Prasad! He had set aside the same number of notes from the cash given by the party, which were actually normal notes! Later he gave me back the normal notes in exchange for my cut notes. He had actually performed a ‘P C Sorcar magic’ as far as the party was concerned! He told me that the party was known to cheat his customers and this was only a minor punishment for him!
On another occasion it was my turn to hand over charge to him of the term deposit department. In those days the interest was paid only half-yearly in June and December and there were no compound interest/re-investment schemes. Many of the depositors wanted payment of interest in cash. It was a laborious task to prepare cash vouchers for each deposit. They were to be prepared in duplicate and revenue stamp was to be affixed on each voucher.
There was one major depositor called Bhagwath who had a number of deposits in the names of his family members. He used to send a messenger to collect the interest in cash on all of his family deposits. This messenger was a cranky fellow who would sit in the department through the entire day. He would go on talking and would hardly allow you to concentrate on your work. Besides, he wanted to be served tea at the interval of every half an hour as he was representing the number two depositor of the branch! He was indeed a nuisance. But we were helpless. I had hinted Prasad about this gentleman whom he had to face at the end of each half-year. He told me he knew exactly how to tackle this special character!
That half-year end arrived as usual. As expected, the messenger of Bhagwath also arrived at the branch to collect the interest. Prasad welcomed him with due respect and requested him to take his seat. He immediately ordered a ‘special tea’ for him as the first serving. As there was some delay in serving the tea, Prasad himself went out to get the tea. He returned after some time with the ‘special tea’. The party was quite impressed by the treatment meted out to him by Prasad. He began his chatter as usual sipping the tea simultaneously. We thought it would end only at the end of office hours! But we were wrong. After some time he told Prasad that he wanted to visit the toilet. Prasad guided him with due courtesy. He came back after some time, when another cup of ‘special tea’ was waiting for him! He drank it as usual and started his chatter again. But alas! He had to visit the toilet again! This time after coming back, he told Prasad to keep his vouchers ready and that he would get back to the branch only later to receive cash. He left the branch in a hurry. He came and collected the cash only at the end of the day. Thereafter he never sat in the branch and asked for any tea! It appears that a medicine called ‘Pargolax’ did the trick and resulted in the change of his attitude!
Many of us in the bank used to visit a hotel called Manohara Café during our lunch break. After coming out of the hotel, we would visit a Muslim Pan Beeda Stall at the Ameer Ahmed Circle. The shop owner was a friendly guy who knew all of us by our names. One day he asked Prasad whether he had a brother in Tarikere town. It seems he used to visit Tarikere frequently. Prasad told him he didn’t have any. After some days, he asked the same question to Prasad and he patiently told him ‘no’. But the matter did not end there. The guy repeated the question to him on another occasion! This time Prasad told him clearly that as far as he knew, he did not have any brother in Tarikere town! However, he also told him that he would enquire with his father in the evening about such possibility! He assured him that he would get back to him on the next day!
Our branch conducted a picnic to Sringeri town. We also visited the Sringeri Mutt and had a darshan of the Goddess Sharadamba. We sought an audience with the Swamiji and got the necessary permission. However we were told that we had to remove our shirts during the meeting. Prasad immediately told us that he may be excused. When asked for the reasons, he told us that he would remove his shirt only in front of two persons. One was his doctor and the other was his Wife!
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Prasad has since retired from the bank on superannuation. I met him very recently in a marriage function. Presently he is practicing as an advocate in Bangalore. I am sure his opponent advocates must be having a tough time with him. He has become an expert in handling clients who are facing suits filed against them for having their cheques bounced for want of funds! He told me that he is accepting his fee as hard cash in advance from this category of clients! He does not want the cheques issued by them in his favour to bounce! Long live Prasad! You have a class of your own! Nobody can beat you there!
A V Krishnamurthy
11th July 2010