BGR reported at the Chamrajpet branch, Bangalore in June 1985. He had been told that he could not be posted as a branch-head as there were no such posts available for Scale-II Managers in Bangalore. He had submitted his appraisal for Scale-III and the results were awaited. He had no alternative than to work as a Sub-Manager and bide his time for his future opportunities. The new Senior Manager of the branch R P Gurpur had joined the branch on transfer from Royapeth, Madras, just a week ago. BGR and Gurpur knew each other quite well.
The Chamrajpet branch had been opened in 1961 in a new building - built to the specifications of the bank. It was quite spacious with a big locker room. The first floor had a well furnished hall, where the bank used to conduct board meetings before the Landmark JC Road building came up. The first Manager was P D Nayak (PDN) - a well built (huge) and popular personality. It appears PDN had a great personal attachment for the first floor hall. So much so that he used to go up and sleep in the hall for one-two hours daily! The Accountant had his strict instructions – not to disturb his sleep under any circumstances!
Another Sub-Manager Mohandas Pushpanadan also joined the branch a few days after BGR. For BGR, the charm of heading a branch in Indore was missing at Bangalore. He was expecting that he would be asked to be in-charge of advances. But Gurpur told him that as a matter policy he expected him to handle staff and general matters as the senior-most Sub-Manager. BGR soon settled down in his new assignment. He was the first person to arrive at the office and the last person to leave as he was holding all the keys.
BGR found the routine work at the branch a smooth-going affair. But it was quite an experience to work under an extraordinary personality like R P Gurpur, the Senior Manager. In fact the story of BGR at Chamrajpet is also the story of this remarkable personality called Gurpur! Indeed it is a challenge to sketch the personality of this great character! But let me make an attempt (thanks to the detailed inputs provided by BGR).
For all those Canara Bank employees who were in the services of the bank in the seventies, Gurpur is known as the founding editor of the house-magazine called Shreyas. He had joined the bank at Head Office as a matriculate in 1957 as a clerk. He was a voracious reader of both Kannada and English literature. He was also deeply interested in arts including music and painting. He had a good collection of books and paintings. Perhaps none in the Head Office was as well-read as Gurpur at that point of time. What was more – he had developed a mastery over the English language.
Gurpur had a handsome personality and used to dress well. He will invariably wear a tie while at office. He had an excellent voice and could speak with an excellent command over the language and with clarity. He was posted to advance department under the leadership of the DGM C G Kini - a stalwart in credit matters.
A simple and straight forward person, C G Kini was an authority in handling large advances. He would follow the RBI guidelines meticulously. Gurpur was trained under him and he used the opportunity to pick up all the nuances. He became an expert in drafting letters. But he had a problem. Even though he was working under an Accountant and a Superintendent, he would not accept any changes made by them in the letters drafted by him! He believed he was always right! Whenever, any changes were made in the letters drafted by him, he would refuse to put his initials! He would say he is not ready to accept the changes made by them. The management somehow tolerated his attitude considering his extraordinary ability to handle correspondence.
Gurpur was promoted as an Accountant and worked in a local branch for some time when he was re-transferred to the Head Office. When the bank thought of launching a house-magazine in the early seventies, it chose Gurpur as the first editor. He was also promoted in due course as the Manager/Senior Manager in the same section. He did an excellent job as the editor and Shreyas received several awards under his editorship. He had the opportunity to work with top executives. He was provided with two stenographers (only executives were provided with stenos at that time). His flow of thought was excellent and no one else in the Head Office had the capacity to give dictation as fast as he could.
Gurpur had all the qualities to become a top executive in the bank. He had also been given the right platform by way of editorship of the house-magazine. But his one particular quality spoiled his career. He would always under-estimate his colleagues! While he could manage to under-estimate his juniors and could still survive, his under-estimation of even the top executives did him in. While he had the support of some executives, he had created an equal number of enemies on account of his attitude. One fine day he was shunted out of Head Office as the Senior Manager of Mylapore, Chennai branch. He had spoiled his golden opportunity!
It is worth mentioning here that Prakash Mallya, who succeeded Gurpur, used the platform of editorship of Shreyas to his best advantage. He got fast-track promotions as DM, AGM, DGM and GM. He retired as the Chairman and Managing Director of Vijaya Bank. But Gurpur’s story was to end in quite an unfortunate manner.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
10th October 2012