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