Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Don’t Know, Son! -59

The Jaipur Festival Jamela!
Son: The Jaipur Literature Festival producer Sanjoy Roy has secured a stay against his arrest, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: An FIR had been filed against Roy and the sociologist Ashis Nandy in connection with a speech made by the later during the festival, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: Now there is a suggestion for the organizers of such literary festivals in future, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: The organizers should make it a point to secure anticipatory bail for themselves first, dad!
Father: Good one. Go on, son.
Son: They should also insist that all the invitee speakers should have secured anticipatory bail before they open their mouth during the festival, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
Drum Maaro Drum!
Son: The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) appears to be facing its own music, dad.
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: It had started a system of drum beating in front of the residences and offices of property tax defaulters and had successfully recovered a substantial amount, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: Now the BMC workers whose salaries are said to be in arrears have adopted the same tactics, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Teams of Pourakarmikas beat drums in front of BBMP Head office on 28th January, dad!
Father: Go on, Son.
Son: Now they are expecting the BBMP to respond like the defaulters, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
Karnataka Politicians Unsophisticated!
Son: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is said to be having a poor opinion on the Karnataka politicians, dad.
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: The CBI says they are very much unsophisticated, dad.
Father: In what? Go on, son.
Son: The politicians have made money through corruption; but are leaving sufficient proof behind, dad. For CBI their cases are just a walk through, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
Yeddy’s case fit for a Probationary Officer!
Son: The case of Yeddyurappa and JSW Steel Ltd was so simple that the CBI team filed the charge sheet in a jiffy, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Yeddy had allegedly favoured JSW in a mining scam and the company paid Rs20 crore as a quid pro quo to the family through purchase of land valued just Rs1.5 crore, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The CBI officials say there is absolutely no challenge in handling such cases, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: CBI is said to be using the case as a simple case-study for new officers who have joined as probationers, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Highly Sophisticated Tamil Nadu Politicians!
Son: Quite unlike the Karnataka politicians, CBI has found the Tamil Nadu politicians tough nuts to crack, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: In the legendary telecom scandal, the CBI was at its wits end to dig up the manner in which Raja and Kanimozhi received the quid pro quo consideration, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: While the CBI team was certain that Raja had favoured certain companies, he had left absolutely no clues on the considerations received, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: CBI found the modus operandi a highly sophisticated one, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Sophisticated businessmen and politicians in Andhra!
Son: The most sophisticated CBI case was that of Satyam promoter Ramalinga Raju, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: The case had international repercussions and involved lot of accounting juggleries, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: CBI took its own time to unravel the scam, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Now the CBI has another high-profile case of Jagan, the son of former Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Jagan has built a business empire and CBI is breaking its head to unravel the modus operandi, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: Hats off to Raju and Jagan! CBI is said to be making both the scams as case-studies for the top officials of the CBI, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
A V Krishnamurthy
30th January 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

My Days as an Auditor - Episode-5

There was a Udupi hotel by name Vihar near the Santacruz station in those days. It was quite a good hotel. Our Santacruz East branch was also located nearby. But it was difficult to eat food daily in this hotel. As I was holding a first class train pass up to Church Gate station, I continued to visit Rama Nayaks’ for dinner till I settled down with my family. It was comfortable for me to travel to Matunga station as it was the fourth station from Santacruz.

I settled down at my quarters in Santacruz. One Mr.Narasimhan, from Bangalore, who was working at our Kalina branch as an officer, helped me a lot in my initial days. There was an ex-service man by name Pinto, who was working as a security guard in our building. There was a shed in the compound in which he stayed. He used to speak only English and most of the time we could find him in a drunken state. He had a running feud with the land-lady. He would use the choicest English words to curse the lady. One of the duties he performed daily in the morning was to visit the milk distribution centre and collect milk bottles for the tenants in the building. For this he had to collect cash and empty milk bottles from the tenants in the previous night.  Sometimes it so happened that he would spend the money collected for his late night drinks. He would not be in a position to even get up in the morning. The tenants had no other alternative than to purchase milk from a private dairy, which used to be very costly as compared to the Bombay dairy milk. Of course there was no way the money could be recovered from Pinto. On the other hand, the hapless tenants had to pay him in the night for the next day milk collection! Basically Pinto was a lovable old military man who wanted to remain in Bombay till his death. But it was not to be. One fine day his son came from his village in Goa and took him away forcefully. He was the last security man at Vaseem Villa. The empty shed stood as a memorial for him till I left Bombay after seven years.

Our Andheri branch was headed by a Manager by name K R Shenoy. He had very recently taken charge and was quite a knowledgeable and a hardworking man. The branch had recently become eligible for a car basing on the business figures. He had just taken the possession of a brand new Premier Padmini car and was on a high. Unlike the present day, the possession of a car, that too an official car was a great achievement in those days. Of course Mr. Shenoy richly deserved it.

There was a senior officer called Kamath in the branch, who used to talk very humorously. Shenoy had just learnt four-wheeler driving and had started driving the bank car personally. One day he was telling his driving experiences. Kamath asked him the route on which he was coming daily. Shenoy sincerely thought that Kamath wanted to be picked up. He told him his route, which was actually the route in which Kamath had to travel daily. He also asked kamath whether he wanted a lift daily. But Kamath replied him with a firm ‘no’. Later I asked Kamath why he enquired the route if he was not interested in a lift. He told me that he just wanted to avoid the route as it was risky to be on the road when Shenoy was driving! He had ascertained the route only to ensure his own safety and not otherwise! I am not sure what Shenoy would have felt if he had heard this bizarre explanation! Later Shenoy took us to visit several clients on his car. I was carefully observing him with some apprehensions during his driving! Eventually I found myself safe!

Kamath told me another funny incident. Our bank had two divisions in Bombay, Bombay West and Bombay East, each headed by a Divisional Manager. While the western suburb branches were administered by DO West located on Queens Road, all other branches except Fort branch were under DO East located in Sion-Koliwada. Andheri branch was under DO West. The Divisional Manger (DM) heading this DO had certain qualities and habits not expected of him. As per Kamath, one day during office hours, he found somebody knocking at the window doors behind his seat. He got up and opened the window. To his shock and utter dismay, he found his DM standing outside the window and shouting at him. He was asking Kamath why he had shifted the office door and placed a window there!

Kamath ran outside and tried to bring the DM inside through the door. But the DM insisted that he should shift the door back at the place where the window was situated. As per him he had seen the door there on his previous visit and he saw no reason for the branch to shift it! He also made it clear that he will enter the branch only after the door was restored to the original position!

Hearing the commotion outside, the Manager Shenoy came out of his cabin and met the DM. He could immediately make out what the problem was. He requested the DM to accompany him to have coffee in a nearby hotel. He also ordered Kamath (with a wink in his eyes) to restore the door to the original position by the time they came back! Kamath assured him to do the needful.

After having coffee at the hotel, Shenoy drove the car back directly up to the door of the branch. He told the DM that kamath had already replaced the door as ordered by him! The DM was very happy and entered the branch smoothly. He also appreciated Kamath for his prompt action. However, he warned him not to resort to such gimmicks in future!

I found the incident highly hilarious. But I did not want to take Kamath’s words on the face value. I checked it up with another officer called Narayanan in the branch, who had a reputation to ‘speak truth, only truth and nothing but truth!’ He had a personality quite akin to my present friend and dedicated reader Narayanan.  He confirmed the incident. He also added that Kamath had made some value-additions while narrating the incident to me.

My inspection work was proceeding smoothly in the branch. I found the Manager Shenoy respecting the observations made by me and taking immediate steps to rectify the irregularities. I derived a lot of satisfaction out of the recognition accorded to a junior officer like me by a Senior Manager like Shenoy. But all of a sudden I became conscious of one fact. The rate at which Shenoy was rectifying the irregularities was such that I may end up with no observations to make in my final report! There was every possibility that our department may conclude that I had not conducted the inspection properly as I was new to the department. Naturally I thought that I should catch something which Shenoy could not rectify at least till completion of our inspection. I was not to wait for long.

Our bank had a daily collection scheme on the lines of Pigmy deposit of Syndicate Bank. The money would be collected daily at the doorsteps by an agent appointed by the bank. The money would be deposited in the branch on the next working day. At the weekend the depositor would be given a balance confirmation from the branch through the agent. The depositor could call on the branch any time and close the deposit after/before maturity or take a loan against the deposit.

While granting the loans, a lien against the deposit was to be noted boldly in red ink in the deposit account in the ledger. Otherwise when the depositor closes the deposit, bank may not recover the loan as the granting of the same is not known to the person closing the deposit. Of course the depositors were very much aware that they had taken a loan and it has to be adjusted. But few people had that much honesty. Most of the depositors used to be totally unknown to the bank and it was difficult to recover the amount as the only recourse was through the agent. Many of such depositors, who were generally small businessmen, would either close shop or leave the place.

In the course of my verification of loans against deposits I found three cases where the deposits had been closed without recovering the loan amount as the lien had not been noted in the ledgers. The amount involved was about 3- 4 thousand rupees in each case.  That was quite a big amount in those day standards.

The moment this was pointed out Shenoy was totally upset. All the three depositors had not opened fresh accounts after closure of the old deposits. The agent involved said that he would try his best to recover the amounts. But it was not easy. In any case it needed time.

My team leader Rao told me that I have to submit a special report to the department as the matter was serious and required to be brought to the notice of the inspection department and the circle office for further follow up. I sent a report immediately. This report brought me to limelight in the department as the junior officers very rarely submitted such reports.

I accompanied Rao to some of the borrowing units for verification of stock. One of these units was located in SEEPZ (Santacruz Electronics Exports Processing Zone). Many of my readers may not be aware that the idea of SEZ (Special Economic Zone) is not at all new as SEEPZ was established as far back as in 1973 in Bombay. The units located in SEEPZ had to export their products in entirety as no local sales were allowed. These units got special benefits by way of tax and duty exemptions. The imports were totally duty free. An interesting fact was even though SEEPZ carried the name of Santacruz, the location had nothing to do with Santacruz. It was actually located in Andheri.

My marriage date had been fixed during the first week of September. I had to discontinue the inspection of Andheri branch at the fag-end of our programme. I left for my village bidding good bye to Rao, my team leader. That was the last inspection I did with Rao as my team leader.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
15th May, 2009

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Arrival of our First Grandson!

The day was December eight
Our grandson saw the daylight
Thus ended of our long wait
In the evening before the sunset!

The place was Shanthi hospital
Very close to the Metro rail
Near the Laxman Rao Park
The extension called Jayanagar

There was a small dispute
Nobody knew who was right!
Did he look like his father?
Or like his beloved mother?

There were some arguments
The settlement was not in sight
But they agreed on one aspect
The boy was cute and sweet!

Our grandson was unconcerned
He was in his own world!
It was a world of dreams
Detached from current affairs!

Perhaps he knew it all
He showed it in his smile!
For him there was no conflict
Nothing like wrong or right!

He says he is like his father
And smiles like his mother!
For him both are very dear
And he is rightly named Kabir!

--A V Krishnamurthy
27th January 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Art of Displeasing (Irritating) - Part -1

The year was 1970. I had just joined the services of a nationalised bank at Shimoga city. I was one of the first persons from our village to get a job in a bank. Naturally the curiosity factor of the villagers to know the monthly salary I was getting was very high. The first question I was supposed to answer whenever I met some person from our village was about the salary. Needless to say it was quite irritating for me. But slowly I developed thick skin to answer the query without much irritation. But there was one person who went to the extreme and tested my patience to the maximum. He was from a place called Kanoor (N R Pura Taluk) and was distantly related our family.
This gentleman used to visit the Shimoga city very often. It seems somebody had told him that bank employees get a raise in salary every three months. It was true that the bank employees’ used to get a quarterly revision in the dearness allowance based on the consumer price index. It could have been a raise or cut depending on the variation. But the version given to this gentleman was that the salary was revised upwards every three months! He used to stay in the same mess where I used to have my meals. He had made it a point to ask my salary every three months!
During one particular quarter (end of three months) there was no change in our DA as the consumer index had remained at the same level. Somehow the gentleman had missed his Shimoga visit that quarter. I was happy that I had escaped his query that particular quarter. One day I was late in starting to the office. My office was just 15 minutes walking distance from my room. As I was already late I was walking very fast to the office when I found somebody following me desperately! I turned back to see the same gentleman running behind me! It seems he had just alighted from the bus and was on his way to the mess when he saw me.  He found me walking briskly and thought that I was running away from him to avoid giving him a brief on my latest salary revision! Seeing him, I speeded up my walk and almost started running. But just like the legendary Thrivikrama (remember: Vikram and Vethal stories) he did not give up. He started running behind me. It was virtually a running race between me and him! We were passing through the well known Big Bazaar in Shimoga and people were wondering why an elderly person was running behind another young man!
Suddenly I remembered that there was no revision in DA that quarter. Without reducing my speed I turned back and shouted at him that there was no change in my salary that particular quarter! I thought he might stop pursuing and go away on hearing me. But it was not to be. He was not all convinced and thought I was hiding my salary raise so that he could not reveal it to my father! He pursued me more vigorously. By that time I had reached the doors of my office duly followed by the Thrivikrama!  I saw my colleague Mr.Katti there. I requested him to convince the gentleman that there had been no change in my salary that quarter and simply ran inside my office! Katti was naturally quite amused. But he managed to send back the gentleman by convincing him fully that there was no change in my salary that quarter! That was the last time I saw that person. He stopped visiting the mess thereafter.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be!
The above quotation from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet proved very apt in my case once. I was studying at Shri J C B M College in Sringeri at that time. The value of money was quite high in those days. So much so I had to repent for having lent Rs2 to a known person!
It happened like this. My father was giving me a pocket money of Rs2 per week at that time. My mother often used to ask me what I was doing with that sort of money! I was finding it difficult to account my expenses. Let me tell you - the famous Mallika Mandir Hotel in Sringeri used to charge 20 paise for a Masala Dosa at that time. In other words, an amount of Rs2 would have fetched ten Masala Dosas for me!  Right at that time one particular day a gentleman known to our family called on me.  After a lot of round about talking, he came to the point.
Actually it was a simple matter. He was in urgent need of money and his requirement was just two rupees. To his good luck (or call it my bad luck) I had just returned from my week-end visit to my home. I had in my pocket one Rs2 note handed over to me by my beloved father as my weekly pocket money. The gentleman’s requirement just tallied with my cash balance! There were only two possibilities for me. Either I had to tell him a lie that I had no money or I had to lend him that entire week’s pocket money.
The first choice would have been preferred by me in the normal course. I was aware that telling a harmless lie was not a sin. But unfortunately I had finished reading the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi – The Story of My Experiences with Truth – just a week back. I had on my own taken the oath that I would not tell a lie under any circumstances! So that was it! The gentleman collected the money from me and packed off thanking me profusely! Of course he did promise me that he would return the money within a week.
Forget the matter of returning the money in a week, the gentleman was not to be seen in Sringeri even after one month! Earlier he used to be in town almost every day even though he stayed in a nearby village! I was desperate to get back my one week’s pocket money. But I was just helpless. Fortunately for me my mother also forgot to ask me the details of my expenses that week. But I was determined to recover my valuable money!
A week after the next month, while on my way to college, I found this gentleman on the road in conversation with somebody. He had seen me; but was deliberately behaving as if he had not seen me at all. I could then make out that my money was as good as gone. I was aware that pursuing such willful defaulters was futile. Still I committed the mistake of asking him why he had failed to pay me back. As expected he offered several excuses for his failure to meet his commitment. However, he promised to pay the amount by next week. I decided then and there that I would not pursue the matter anymore. I wrote it off in my books like a diligent banker!
A week later I was on my way to college with one of my classmates. Suddenly this man appeared as if from nowhere and called me aside. I asked my friend to wait and went near him. He started telling me stories with lot of facial and other physical expressions. My classmate was watching the drama with curiosity. When I came back to him he asked me what it was all about. I told him it was something personal and left it at that.
I saw him again in the next week when I was with the same classmate. Even though I ignored him this time he called me aside again. He repeated the story. On my part I told my classmate that it was just nothing. But the story did not end there. The scene repeated again after another week. This time my classmate was watching closely. He overheard the person telling something about two rupees. When I joined him back after the drama, he asked me only one question – why I was not paying back the Rs2 which I appeared to have borrowed from that poor gentleman!
----- (To be continued) ------
A V Krishnamurthy
22nd January 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Days West - Episode-4

It was a Saturday afternoon when I was handed over an allotment letter from the bank stating that I had been allotted flat number 8 at ‘Vaseem Villa’ in Santacruz East on a monthly rent of Rs96. I was to take possession from another officer, who was shifting to Bandra quarters. I was told by my colleagues that I was lucky to get the quarters so fast, the location of which was ideal from all angles. Vaseem Villa was just three minutes walk from Santacruz station. Of course, I was aware that the Bombay airport was located in Santacruz. In fact it was hardly about two kms from our quarters. Santacruz suburb was a centrally located suburb of Bombay of those days. It was easy to travel to any part of Bombay from this location. It was very suitable for an inspecting officer as he had to visit branches from Borivli to Colaba and from Ambernath/Ullhasnagar/Kalyan to Nariman Point.

Without any delay I reached the quarters and took possession of the flat. The owner of the building also stayed in one portion of it in ground floor and had let out two big flats above to two families. The other portion had 12 one-room flats all let out to our bank. The landlord had expired and the landlady had a running feud with the bank as her request for vacation of the flats/increasing of rent was not considered by the bank. Of course the bank took protection under the Bombay tenancy act. The flats were in a reasonably good condition. I was immensely pleased to have the possession of a flat in Bombay in the prestigious locality. I should mention here that very few institutions including banks could afford to provide quarters to their employees in Bombay. Our bank was really doing a great favour to junior officers, who were otherwise not eligible for quarters in other parts of India.

I have to mention here that I was already engaged to a girl from Puttur when I arrived in Bombay. I had made it a pre-condition that the marriage date may be fixed only after I was allotted quarters by the bank. I conveyed the good news to my parents without any further delay requesting them to go ahead.

While I was very happy with allotment of quarters, I had a real problem in leaving Matunga for good. I was so accustomed to the area by then and the main issue was the food at the Rama Nayaks’. I had developed a sort of attachment to the area between Kings Circle and the Matunga stations and also to my roommate, who continued to be a mysterious person to me by not revealing his occupation! The way he was continuing his occupation of the shared accommodation at the lodge, made me wonder whether he was up to a Guineas record! He had already completed a ‘life-term’ (14 years) in that room! He must have seen any number of roommates. It was something like, “Men may come and men may go. But I will go on forever!”

I wish to mention here the occasional doubts I used to get on my roommate. He was basically a bully and had a dominating personality both physically and otherwise. In those days, Vardhabhai or Varadarajan Mudaliar, the south Indian mafia don, was ruling the Matunga and Dharavi areas of Bombay. The trio of Hajee Mastan, Karim Lala and Vardhabhai ruled the underworld of Bombay during the seventies to early eighties. Smuggling was one of the major areas of income for their gangs. I had an apprehension that my roommate was a member of one such gang, in all possibility, the gang of Vardhabhai. Vardhabhai was also famous for the annual Ganesh Pooja festival he used to arrange lavishly just outside the Matunga central Railway station (the entrance to Rama Nayaks’). Later I visited the place many times during the annual festival. But while I could see lord Ganesha, I could not manage to get a glimpse of Vardhabhai in spite of my best efforts! My readers should be aware that Kamal Hassan’s famous film Nayagan was based on the real-life story of Vardhabhai. He met his nemesis, the police officer Y C Pawar, in the early eighties. Pawar was responsible for the total elimination of Varadarajan’s gang and he made him flee to Chennai. Vardhabhai died in Chennai in 1988. As regards my roommate friend, he told me good bye on that Sunday in Matunga and I never saw him again.

Anyways, I said ‘adieu’ to Matunga and shifted my bag and baggage to Santacruz. I had to purchase some minimum furniture and other items for occupying the flat. My friend V T Pai helped me in this regard. He took me to Andheri station and got everything for me. You may find it difficult to believe. But Pai managed to transport everything on Western Railway second class compartment for me. The autos were not permitted to ply in Bombay then. They were permitted one or two years later only from Bandra towards Borivli. The minimum fare fixed was Re1 in the first instance! Taxis were hired rarely by the middleclass and the hiring was restricted to only traveling outside Bombay and on arrival at Bombay (to and fro residence to Railway/bus station). People made full use of suburban Railway facility and the efficient services of ‘BEST’ (The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking), which was really the best!

I started gaining confidence in my workplace over a period of time. In the beginning I used to point out even the minor mistakes in my observations. In my opinion ‘mistakes were after all mistakes’ and needed to be pointed out. But slowly I had to change my attitude. I decided to highlight only major mistakes or irregularities. I thought it may not be worthwhile to waste time on matters, which were of no consequence.

As an example of the changing attitudes I would cite one item of our inspection. We had to scrutinize the slip bundles (all vouchers including paid cheques of a particular day stitched together) on a random basis. In the initial days I used to select invariably some slip bundles for the month of January in a year. I was sure to get many cheques with one year old dates, which I would list out for rectification as stale cheques. This happens because every year people keep writing the previous year by force of habit for some time (one would write 01.01.2008 for 01.01.2009 in the cheques).

My observations were causing lot of problems to the branches as they had to contact the individual depositors and get the corrections done by them. After sometime I got fed up myself with this long list. I also thought that no useful purpose would be served by getting such rectifications done. I simply stopped selecting bundles for the month of January!

One of the important areas of inspection used to be the checking of stock declared by the borrowers under their open cash credit accounts in their monthly statements. In Bombay one had to visit godowns in far away locations like Vapi, Kalyan, Thane and places around the Bombay Port (bonded warehouses). Only senior officers used to inspect the cash credit accounts, which always formed a major chunk of our bank advances. I accompanied our team-leader Rao on a few occasions to observe how he was conducting such verifications. It definitely required some special skills. I had to develop the same over a period of time.

Our team completed the inspection of Girgaum branch in the month of July. My next assignment was at our Andheri-West branch. As it was comparatively a smaller branch, only two officers were required. Again Mr. Rao came with me as my team leader. The location was quite convenient to me as Andheri was the second station from Santacruz after Vile Parle. The branch was also located close to the station. I was no more new to the inspection department! I went there with my vast (!) experience at the Girgaum branch. My body language was entirely different! I had come a long way from my non-descript village in the interior Malnad region of Karnataka.
------- (To be continued)-------
A V Krishnamurthy
10th May, 2009

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I Don’t Know, Son! - 58

Air India’s Kachori Probe!
Son: An Air India Mumbai-Delhi flight was said to have been delayed by one hour on 13th January because of a simple reason, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The pilot assigned with the job preferred to operate the Mumbai-Jodhpur-Delhi flight, which had been assigned to her previously, for an important reason of her own, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: She wanted to pick up a batch of kachoris, which were to be delivered to her at Jodhpur airport, dad!
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: She ignored her revised orders and operated the Mumbai-Jodhpur-Delhi flight, as per her original orders, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: She collected her kachoris package promptly at Jodhpur and flew to Delhi, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: As regards the direct Mumbai-flight, it took an hour to find an alternate pilot and there was utter chaos, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Air India has now ordered a probe on the kachoris incident, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
Kingfisher on a ‘Safe Ground’!
Son: The employees of Kingfisher Airlines had threatened to move court seeking to close the airline, dad.
Father: True. Go on, Son.
Son: The employees have not been paid their salaries since Jun 2012, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: Now Vijaya Mallya, the Chairman of Kingfisher, has written to the employees telling them that the airline was on ‘safe ground’, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Already Mallya’s revival plan has been rejected by the Government as it is silent on the mode funding the revival, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: However, nobody is disputing the statement of Mallya that the airline is on ‘safe ground’, dad.
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: It appears what Mr. Mallya actually meant was that all the aircrafts of the airline had been ‘safely grounded’, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
Dismissed for Reading a Newspaper!
Son: A front-page article in Bangalore Mirror says that a woman government employee was dismissed for reading newspaper in the office, dad.
Father: Interesting.  Go on, son.
Son: On the face of it, it appears to be a case of high-handed action, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: However, when asked the reasons for making the news a front-page article, there was said to be no response from the daily, dad.
Father: Go on, son.

Son: There appears to be some vested interest because the tabloid is read mostly on the way to office or at the office, dad!

Father: Really! Go on, son.
Son: Now there is a doubt whether the newspaper read by the employee in the office was Bangalore Mirror itself, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Open Book Examination at the Open University!
Son: The Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) has created a record of sorts, dad.
Father: Like what?  Go on, son.
Son: It conducted an ‘open book examination’ for the students of M.Tech, M.Sc. B.Tech and MBA courses at the Hombegowda College at Wilson Garden in Bangalore, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The students were caught mass copying using textbooks and gadgets freely, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: A surprise inspection by the Higher Education Minister found the mass copying going on under the benign eyes of the ‘collaborating invigilators’, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
A V Krishnamurthy
16th January 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Days West - Episode - 3

I was at the Matunga Road station of the Western Railway at about 9.30 am in the morning. I was traveling for the first time in this Suburban Railway, which was known for its excellent services. It was quite unlike Central Railways, which always had problems of its own. These trains originated from Virar, Borivli, Andheri and Bandra stations and terminated at the Church Gate Station.  During peak hours the frequency of fast trains used to be within a gap of 2-3 minutes on many occasions. Inspecting officers were eligible for travel by I class by purchasing monthly passes. One could purchase a two-way pass, which allows you to travel to both VT station on central Railways and Church Gate Station in Western Railways via Dadar station. I purchased a pass accordingly, which cost me only Rs40 at that time. One could travel any number of times in a month with this pass in the two-way route.

The travel in first class was quite comfortable as compared to the overcrowded 2nd class compartments. I was to get down at the Charni Road station, which was just before Marine Line station and Church Gate station. Our bank had located most of its branches in Bombay very close to the suburban Railway stations and that was a great convenience for the staff. Our Girgaum branch was about 15 minutes walk from the station and I reached it comfortably. I met Mr. K Rao, the leader of our team at the branch. There was another officer Mr.Hegde with him, who was also a promoted officer of our batch. Mr. Hegde had worked in our Malleshwaram, Bangalore branch before coming to Bombay.

The Girgaum Branch was headed by a Senior Manager called Ganapat (KPG) Rao. He had worked mostly in zonal office and was an authority as far as advances were concerned. He had trained several officers in credit-appraisal, particularly, for the corporate accounts at the zonal office. He was a very nice gentleman and took the audit observations seriously. He respected the initiative of the young officers.

The Girgaum branch was a prestigious branch of the bank. It had the distinction to be the only branch of the bank at the all-India level, which was designated to handle import business directly, whereas all other branches had to conduct the business through the foreign departments concerned. It was also the only branch in Bombay (other than the Fort branch, which was headed by a Divisional Manager) to be fully air-conditioned. I got the privilege to work here during the entire summer of 1977, thereby avoiding the inconvenience faced in the other offices.

The Girgaum area was dominated by the automobile dealers, particularly Punjabis, in those days. The branch had about 130 staff occupying three floors of a building and another annex, which handled the foreign business exclusively. It was indeed a prestige to work in this branch at that time. 

It was customary to ask the new inspecting officers to cover the deposits and other miscellaneous departments including the advances against deposits. Accordingly I was assigned the work by Mr.Rao. I had worked in all the departments including advances except the foreign exchange business at the Shimoga main branch. It came in handy for me in my inspection work. But I had no exposure to corporate advances. I went through the previous inspection report for guidance. I had been given a manual on inspection of branches, which was supposed to be a Bible as far as inspectors were concerned. We used to refer it as ‘Red Book’ in view of its colour and the importance attached to it by our department. Our bank had designed the inspection report with detailed check-lists and one could cover the different aspects basing in theses check-lists. The bank also had a manual for different type of deposits, advances and miscellaneous departments. Of course one had to go through the circulars issued from time to time by our Head Office to keep himself up-to-date.

We took our lunch in a nearby place where there was a south Indian mess. The food was reasonably good without much oil content and charges were quite reasonable. Rao told me that it was very much necessary to have at least one good meal everyday and so long as I was in Matunga, I could have my dinner at the Rama Nayak’s. The other officer Hegde was staying with his brother-in-law in Thane, a Central Railway suburb, and was quite comfortable. He had also already settled down in the work place as he had reported early. At the end of my first day on duty, I found myself quite comfortable. There was no necessity for the inspectors to work late and we could leave the office at 6 pm comfortably.

I could get into an Andheri-bound train at Charni Road station and reached Matunga Road Railway station within half an hour. On getting down at the said station one has to pass through a very lengthy over bridge covering the central Railways workshop. This workshop was supposed to be the biggest Railway workshop in Asia in those days. It extended from the Western Railway Matunga Road station to the Central Railway Matunga station. I finished my dinner at Rama Nayak’s and reached my lodge by 8 pm. My roommate made his usual enquiries and found me well settled in my new posting on the first day itself.
Our team had a nice experience of working together at the Girgaum branch. Slowly I picked up the nuances of the branch inspection. I remember one particular interesting episode in this branch. I was covering the term loans of the branch. Among the loans was a premises loan sanctioned to the owner of the branch building. Originally the repayment was to come from only the monthly rent payment by the bank, which was a book adjustment. Subsequently the loan was enhanced and the land-lord was to pay the additional installment by cash. But he was not properly informed in the matter. The department recovered the additional installment by debiting the current account of the owner resulting in overdrawings. While the loan appeared as a regular account, the overdrawings had touched Rs3 lakh. The owner was not aware of this situation as the branch used to honour his cheques and kept him in the dark about the arrears.

When I brought this to the notice of the Senior Manger, he was totally upset and took the concerned officers to task. The land-lord was an aristocratic Maharashtrian gentleman with impeccable manners. He settled the arrears immediately and took us for a dinner. He had a very high opinion about Bangalore city and the city-culture. He told us that he was particularly pleased with one aspect – Bangaloreans did not have the habit of spitting on the walls!  He showed us how Bombayites had spit on the walls near the stairs of the bank premises owned by him!

I developed close friendship with some officers at the branch. I was particularly close to an officer by name V T Pai (who was from Sagar in Shimoga district). He was a senior officer staying in bank quarters at Malad. He used to take me a to a Maharashtrian hotel on our way back from office only to eat the hot and tasty ‘Sabudana Vada’. He also guided me as to how one could get a seat in the Western Railway in the evening hours from Charni Road station. The methodology was as follows:

Instead of getting into a train coming from Church Gate station to go towards our destination, we would catch a train going towards Church Gate, which was only the second station after Marine Lines station. During the evening peak hours the trains would almost go empty towards Church Gate and come back fully loaded in that station itself. Hence one could not hope to get a seat at Charni road station. All the trains reaching Church Gate would start on their reverse journey within hardly a few minutes. Hence one would not waste much time by traveling in the reverse direction, but could occupy a seat from Charni Road Station itself. The passengers waiting at Church Gate station would sometimes find all the seats fully occupied by such people traveling in the reverse direction! The only risk was the destination of the train from Church Gate would be decided only at the Church Gate station. If the train is terminating at Andheri and you were to travel to Malad, Jogeshwari, Kandivli, Borivli or Virar, you had to catch another train in Andheri station.

Mr. P K Rao had told me to regularly follow up for the allotment of bank-quarters. I used to telephone the premises department during week-ends. I also personally visited the office on a few occasions. Ultimately one fine morning (after about a month) I got a call informing me that I had been allotted a flat at the bank-quarters in Santacruz East. With that a new chapter had opened in my life at Bombay.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
3rd May, 2009

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Don’t Know, Son! - 57

The Dented and Painted!
Son: President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit Mukherjee, a Congress MP, was in the news recently for calling the Delhi protesters as beautiful women highly dented and painted, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: He had to apologise for his outburst, but his phrase has struck the image of the respected President and his family very badly, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Pranab had built a fantastic public image since the days of Indira Gandhi, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: His maverick son seems to have dented his father’s image badly, dad. It will definitely require a lot of painting to bring it back to the original shape, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Interesting New Phrase!
Son: Whatever may be the reaction to the outburst of the young MP, the usage of the phrase seems to have become the latest favourite according to Business Standard, dad.
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: So much so that the Finance Ministry previously headed by Pranab himself, has found the usage very comfortable, dad.
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: When a finance ministry official was asked about the possible changes in the tax structure in the Budget 2013, he is reported to have said that “there will be just some denting and painting”, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
Diggy finds his Position Shaky!
Son: At least one top Congress functionary is said to be finding his position shaky in the way the new Congress MP (Pranab’s son) has made his entry on the national scene, dad.
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: Digvijay Singh (Diggy) has so far maintained a monopoly in issuing controversial statements for the Congress Party, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: So much so that the Congress President had even thought of engaging one exclusive person to deny all such statements of Diggy, dad!
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: But Diggy is said to be worried that the maverick MP from West Bengal may steal the show away from him considering the way he started with his ‘dented and painted’ phrase, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
A New (Controversial) Channel in the Offing!
Son: Of late the news channels are finding it tough to cover the controversial statements being issued by the politicians, VIPs, religious leaders and others, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: The foot-in-the mouth disease is spreading so fast that even before one controversial statement is covered by the channels, another statement is being issued by another dignitary, dad!
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: All other important news items are being relegated to ‘footnotes’ by the busy channels, dad.
Father: True. Go on, Son.
Son: One national level media company is said to be seriously thinking of launching an exclusive channel for coverage of only such controversial statements, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The channel is likely to be named ‘Controversy Now’, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Billion Dollar-Man in Tamil Nadu!
Son: The top businessmen in Tamil Nadu suddenly find themselves dwarfed by the presence of a five-billion dollar man among them, dad.
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: The Income Tax Sleuths have discovered five $1 billion US Treasury Bonds (valued at Rs27,000 crores) in the house of Ramalingam, a dealer in copra, groundnuts and securities, dad.
Father: Wonderful. Go on, son.
Son: When asked by the newsmen how he attracted the IT raid as he was not even an IT assessee, Ramalingam is said to have given his own version, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: It seems he submitted a proposal to invest just Rs1.60 lakh crore in a petroleum refinery and that brought the IT sleuths to his doors, dad!
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: Ramalingam is  said to be a worried man now, dad.

Father: How come? Go on, son.

Son: He is worried that Vijay Mallya may ask him to invest in his Kingfisher Airlines, dad!

Father: Go on, son.

Son: Ramalingam says he doesn't believe in Faltu (silly) investments,dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
A V Krishnamurthy
8th January 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Days West - Episode -2

My first day in Bombay started with me having an early breakfast and reaching the Matunga Railway station by 9 am.  That was to be my first journey on the famous Suburban train services of Bombay. There are two separate stations in Matunga for central Railway and Western Railway. While the central Railway trains originate from Victoria Terminus (VT), the western Railway trains originate from Church Gate Station. Only slow trains stop at both the Matunga stations on platform numbers one and two. I got into a second class compartment with some difficulty. Within about half an hour I was at the famous Victoria Terminus (VT) station. The station was once upon a time known as Boribunder station. The landmark Times of India building is situated nearby and in fact the newspaper is referred to as the old lady of Boribunder. The station has since been named as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST).

I had been told that our inspection department was located in Marshall building, near Fort-Market, which was at a walkable distance from VT station. On the way I passed in front of GPO, another landmark of Bombay. I could locate our building without much difficulty. Our bank had taken only a part of one floor on lease. In fact one had to pass through Marshall & Co office to reach our office.

Our office was headed by a Divisional Manager by name Mr. Bhandarkar. The inspection department here was controlling the inspection of all the branches falling under the Bombay circle office, in all about 60 branches. The inspection reports were also followed up and closed in this office only, whereas the reports of all other branches in India were followed up directly from the head office at Bangalore. To that extent the Bombay office had its independent status. There were only three managerial level officers with the rest of us, about 15 officers, all in the junior officer level.

I was asked to report to a manager by name B P Shenoy. He was a nice gentleman and he introduced me to the staff there and told me that I can get familiarised with the office set up there on that day. He also gave me orders to join a team at our Girgaum branch on the next day. The inspection of the said branch was going on under the leadership of a senior officer by name P K Rao. I was also handed over certain stationery items including a couple of pink-pencils. I was told that I had to use them during my audit work just like the green-ink used by the external auditors. I was also asked to go through the previous inspection report of the branch to acquaint myself with the nature of work and to have a glimpse of branch profile. Accordingly I collected the previous report available in the office and went through it.

During lunch hours I went to a Udupi hotel nearby along with another officer by name R Kamath. He was also new to Bombay, but had already worked as an inspector in Coimbatore. He was too talkative and told me a lot of things. He was particular that we should not develop intimacy with the branch managers during the course of our inspection. He even told me that he was invited by one manager in Coimbatore to come home for lunch. But he rejected the invitation. The reason was (believe it or not!) he was afraid that the manager may put poison in the food! He almost made me think that our profession was dangerous as we had to deal with snakes (managers)!

As it was lunch time at most of the offices at that time, there was lot of rush at the hotel. We had to purchase meal tickets at the counter. I found two queues in the hotel and was about to join one of them when Kamath warned me that I was going for the wrong one. One of the queues was for meal tickets while the other was of those who had finished their meals and were in the queue to reach the wash basin to wash hands. I had chosen the second queue!

I was about to purchase two tickets when Kamath told me that in Bombay there was no such practice. The people were accustomed to ‘military’ (Tera-Tera and Mera-Mera) system of spending for only themselves. After getting the tickets one had to stand at the back of a seat near the table where another person was having his lunch. This was a different type of queue again. One had to select a particular seat depending on which item the previous occupant was eating at that time. If he is in ‘rasam-stage’, it would mean that he had just started and would take his own time to finish. On the other hand if one is in ‘curds-stage’, he is about to wind up. We had to choose the later seat for standing behind so that we could occupy the seat at the earliest. After finishing the meals one had to join the queue for wash-basin. I found the system highly patience-testing and irritating. It was very difficult to have a person standing behind you and watching you closely when you are eating your food. But that was it. The typical Fort-Bombay culture! I got accustomed to it in due course. I should mention here that the quality of meals was quite good and the charge was also reasonable.

The area in which our office was located was known as Fort area extending from VT station to Church Gate station. Our bank had a number of branches and offices in the area. The branches included the Fort branch, Tamarind Lane branch and Fort-market branches. The offices included the circle (zonal) office, foreign department, A/Cs & investment department and a currency chest. This area had the major branches/ offices of all other banks including RBI, India Mint and Bombay Stock Exchange. With the landmark Gate Way of India located nearby, this area was a commercial-hub of Bombay in those days. Most of the offices worked from 10 am to 5 pm, while the bank branches worked from 11 am to 6 pm.

I visited our circle office in the afternoon and met an officer who was in-charge of allotment of quarters for officers. I got my name registered in the waiting list. I was told that the bank had quarters in Versova, Malad, Bandra and Santacruz and I had to wait for my turn. The officer was very unhelpful and could not throw any light as to when I could expect an allotment.

I was back at my hotel by 7 pm. I had been told in the office that I could have my dinner at the famous Rama Nayak’s Hotel, which was located just outside the platform number four at the Matunga central Railway station. I took my food there. This hotel had a history of being the first original Udupi hotel in Bombay. The food was indeed very tasty and reasonably priced. The cleanliness, quality of both food and service were also excellent. I decided to have my food there till I was at Matunga.

My Karnataka-room mate enquired me about my first day in the Bombay-office. I told him that my real inspection duty would start from next day. When he came to know that bank-quarters were located at Versova, Malad, Bandra and Santa Cruz, he was extremely happy. He told me that all the suburbs were excellent and serviced by the efficient Western Railways. I went to sleep thinking about my first day of working as an inspector in the bank.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
26th April, 2009