Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Days West - Episode-1

The Prelude
The recent Satyam Episode has brought into focus the role of an auditor. Perhaps for the first time in India, two partners of an audit firm have been arrested and placed behind the bars.  This has put into rest the thinking so far that the auditors can go scot free for failing in their duties. In fact it appears that the failure will be treated as a cognizable offence, which did not appear to be so, at least so far.

I had the privilege to work as an internal auditor in a Public Sector Bank continuously for seven years. What was more important, I got the opportunity to work possibly in the best city in India – Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. My experience later helped me - after my voluntary retirement from the bank - in working as an internal auditor for banks including Deutsche Bank whose global investment banking business was outsourced to HCL Technologies.

While I am not quite sure as to how I would go about in unfolding my experiences, I assure the readers that I would confine myself to only interesting events. It is also my intention to cover the uniqueness of life in the city of Mumbai (then called Bombay). I would also focus on the accountability factors, which evolved over a period of time, in the bank for which I worked. The story pertains to the period from Feb 1977 to May 1984.
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Ours was the first batch of promoted officers to be posted to internal audit department in our bank. The bank took a policy decision to post those officers who had passed CAIIB examination and had a consistent track record. The bank was particular on the need to post some young blood in the department, which was so far the domain of the elders (senior officers). I always had an attraction towards working in Bombay. Somehow the bank also took a decision to post me to Bombay.

In those days the officers were not eligible for quarters. But I came to know that in Bombay the bank would provide quarters on first-come-first-serve basis. On writing to the circle office at Bombay, I was informed that my name would be put on the waiting list only on reporting at Bombay. Hence it became necessary for me to find some other accommodation till I got the allotment from the bank.

As I was new to Bombay, I needed somebody’s help on arrival.  My mentor at our Shimoga main branch, B Govinda Rao (BGR), had his younger brother working for Dena Bank in Bombay. He came to Dadar station along with his friend to receive me. He took me to a lodge at King’s Circle in Matunga.  This lodge was run purely on room-sharing basis. I had to share a big room with three other members. There was also an Udupi hotel in the King’s Circle itself, which served good south Indian food at reasonable rates. BGR’s brother took me to the Matunga East Station of central Railway and guided me how to catch a local train on next day to Victoria Terminus Station (VT). Our inspection department was located near Fort Market, which was close to VT station.

I went for an evening walk and had a look at the Matunga market, which was as good as any south Indian market. I could see all kinds of south Indian vegetables there. I could also see a branch of our bank located close to the market. I was already aware that the Matunga area was dominated by south Indians including Tamilians (who were in majority), Kannadigas (mostly from South Kanara), Malayalees and Telugu speaking people. I found myself very comfortable with the atmosphere in Matunga.

I could see two of my roommates in the night. One of the persons was a highly qualified (textile engineer) who was attending a course in SASMIRA (The Synthetic & Art Silk Mills' Research Association).  He was to stay there for only a short period. The second gentleman was actually from Karnataka. He told me (believe it or not!) that he had been living in that room since last 14 years. He did not tell me exactly what type of job he was doing in Bombay.  He used to leave early in the morning and return late at night. He was happy to know that I would be allotted bank quarters after some time.  He gave me some tips on the Bombay-way of life.

I took my dinner at the same hotel in the night. I could watch from my room the busy King’s Circle. I already knew it as an important landmark in Bombay.  A number of vehicles including BEST busses were continuously moving round the circle even late in the night. I thought I was privileged to live in Bombay, thanks to our Bank. I went to the bed late at night thinking about my first day in the new office in the capacity of an inspecting officer. A new chapter in my life was about to unfold.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
17th April 2009

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