The city of Indore was once upon a time ruled by the famous Maratha dynasty of Holkars. Located in the Central India, the city has been a trading and transportation centre since ages. The typical Malwa climate (cool nights even in peak summer) is one of the attractions of the city. The Malwa region is also known for its very good quality wheat. A visitor to the city could relish the best quality of food at ‘Chappan Dukan’ (56 shops) where all types of North-Indian eatables are available on the roadside. The city is also famous for its Namkins. The city had many textile mills once and even today is famous for its Chanderi and Maheshwari silks.
The Navlakha area in the city is said to have derived its name from the nine lakh green trees it had once upon a time. However, now it is just a name of the locality though! The branch had been opened in December 1981 in a hurry in a stopgap 500-square feet premises. Other than the Manager, it had three clerical employees and a peon. There was absolutely no danger of overcrowding at the branch counter. It had accommodation for only two customers at a time! BGR’s first task was cut out – he had to fix the new premises on priority! Believe it or not! The branch had no telephone connection. BGR was told that it would take nearly two years to get the new connection!
The Bombay-Bangalore Target for a 500-sq ft Fledgling Branch!
BGR was officially the first branch manager as the previous person was again a stopgap arrangement from the Main branch. The branch had mobilised about Rs10 lakh deposit in its first six months of existence. It appeared that the Divisional Office at Bhopal had a very high expectation from the branch. It had conveniently fixed a year-end (December) deposit target of Rs150 lakh and an average target of Rs120 lakh to the fledgling branch! However, BGR came to know that that the M G Road branch that was opened 12 years ago (the first branch in MP), had a deposit of only Rs165 lakh at that time! When BGR confronted these figures with the DM, A V Sharma, he was told that being a man from Bangalore and Bombay he was definitely capable of achieving the figures! Even though the DM did not officially admit it, it was a fact that the gap in the Division target (after allocating to all other branches) had been dumped on the hapless new branch!
Mrs.BGR settles down in Her Job!
BGR managed to fix his quarters within 15 days and brought his family from Mumbai. Even though it was a small accommodation, it was located excellently between MG Road and Malwa Market. Besides, BGR got two very good neighbours – a Marketing Manager in SAIL and a Sub-Registrar of Indore University. Even as BGR was trying to settle down in his new assignment, he found his beloved wife settling down in her new job as a teacher! What was more – she could manage the schooling of two kids along with her job!
It happened like this: BGR wanted to admit his two sons at the famous St.Paul’s Convent. However, the authorities told him that the admissions had already been closed. He then came to know about another school called “South Indian Cultural Association School” managed by a Professor of English in the Government College called Viswanathan. The 8-year old school had earned a good name in the city. The school management agreed to admit both the boys. It was located at distance of 5 kms from BGR’s residence and the boys had to travel by auto rickshaw.
The next day BGR’s wife went to the school along with the boys to collect books and stationery. She found a notice on the notice board calling for applications for teacher’s post. She submitted a handwritten application on the spot. The next morning a peon from the school was at the house delivering an interview call! The interview was conducted by Viswanathan. He was pleased to see the name of Professor Gajendragad on the B.Sc, degree certificate of Arundhathi madam issued by the Bombay University. So that was it. From the next morning it was a combined to & fro journey for the mother and the two sons to the school!
It was now the time for BGR to focus on the new premises for the branch. The building identified was a corner building located at the junction of four major roads connecting the M G Road Branch, Siyaganj Branch, the Government College and the upcoming Transportnagar. Indore was a major transport centre with over 50 percent of the business owned by the Sikh community. The new office building was also owned by a Sardarji.
BGR had no occasion to deal with Sardarji customers till he arrived in Indore. On his very first day of office he had the occasion to handle a Sardarji customer at the branch. A heavily built gentleman with huge moustache and thick beard arrived at the branch and sat down in front of BGR. BGR folded his hands and wished him while the customer S Karnail Singh reciprocated to him with “Sat Shri Akal”! The gentleman weighed over 100 kg and appeared to be a dominating personality. BGR was searching for suitable Hindi words to continue his dialogue with the huge personality. However, the gentleman made his job easy by telling him that he was there to help the new manager if he had any difficulties! The gentleman owned a few trucks and had excellent relations with the bankers. BGR soon found himself at home in dealing with the gentle Sardarjis.
BGR was able to get all the work at the new branch premises and the date of shifting was fixed for November 1982. By then a newly promoted Officer from Goa called A M Lad arrived to strengthen his hands. BGR had some difficulty in arranging a welcome speech on the inauguration day. He found himself lacking with his broken Bombay Hindi. However, the senior clerk R C Sharma helped him out with his excellent speech in chaste Hindi. Having occupied the spacious new premises, BGR was ready with his team for garnering new business.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
20th September 2012