Friday, February 8, 2013

My Days West - Episode- 6

The situation in our department had undergone a major change by the time I came back with my family after my marriage. Till that time the department had only two Managers, one of whom sat in the office for follow up of reports and looking after the administration matters. The other Manager used to go out for branch inspection as team leader. As there were a number of teams, all other teams were headed by the senior officers only. These senior officers had a good clout in the department as they had wide experience visiting branches with huge volumes of business.  There were also two senior officers in the office for follow up purposes. These two had vast field experience having covered all types of branches. Their job needed some special skills as they had to deal with senior managers of large branches who often disputed the observations of the inspectors. Sometimes the issues involved used to be very sensitive. The two were handling the work excellently in a professional manner.

One of the new Managers who had joined the department recently had formed a coterie with another senior officer about whom I have made a reference in my first day at office. These two did not like the clout of the senior officers in the department even a little bit. They wanted to show these officers ‘their place’! They had already taken the DM and another manager into their confidence. As a first step in their ‘operation clean up’ they shunted out the two senior officers at the office to branch inspection. They were looking at some innovative ways to cut the other senior officers to their size. They were not to wait for long. The bank management itself came out with a policy, which helped the coterie in achieving their motive.

The bank decided all of a sudden that each team of three officers in Bombay would be headed by a Manager. With this in view it posted about nine Managers to the department. Most of them arrived from Bangalore, while one Manager was posted from a local branch on promotion. In order to train these Managers, they were asked to take a senior officer with them for branch inspection. The bank wanted to form separate teams once the Managers were trained. It all boiled down to one thing at the end. The senior officers were no more free birds. They had to work under the supervision of a Manager.

I was asked to report for inspection at our Kakad Market (Kalba Devi) branch. This branch was at a walking distance from New Marine Lines Railway station of Western Railway. A Manager (newly posted) called D’Souza had already started the inspection along with a senior officer by name Viswanathan. While D’Souza was the most inefficient Manager I ever saw in my career, Viswanathan was a firebrand officer born and brought up in Delhi. It was a strange combination. The management had thought that D’Souza would discipline Viswanathan and at the same time he would get trained by him! It was a weird thinking and in fact neither thing happened. While D’Souza was least interested in learning work (he was under the wrong impression that he knew everything without knowing anything!), Viswanathan was least interested in teaching anything to him. They developed a sort of mutual animosity, which ended only at the end of our programme. As regards the disciplining aspect, I would only say, D’Souza found himself at the receiving end!

As for me, I found an excellent company in Viswanathan. Having been brought up in Delhi, he was very fluent in Hindi and I could pick up the same from him. I also liked his daredevil attitude. Besides I hated the casual nature and the inefficient ways of D’Souza. He had started the work of covering the cash credit accounts and was showing no progress as he got stuck there. The reason was simple; he was spending most of his time in talking to the manager and other officers on subjects least connected with our official work. Actually he was expected to take up some other work after completing the cash credit accounts. But it was not to be. We two completed all other work and one fine morning Viswanathan told D’Souza that we two were reporting back at the department as we had no other work to do.

D’Souza was in a state of shock. He was supposed to complete the work along with his team. Besides, as he was new to the department, he was unsure about giving finishing touches to the final report.  He wanted us to stay with him till he completed his work. But Viswanathan would have none of it. He rang up the department and told them to assign a new programme to us. When they asked D’Souza about the state of affairs, he told them that there was some other work for us to complete. Meanwhile he had found out that ‘Current Accounts’ had not been covered. The department advised Viswanathan to complete the same and get back. They thought that we would be there for another three-four days. But they had underestimated Viswanathan. He was like a genie, which could complete any job within no time! He entrusted me with reviewing the account opening forms and took over the other aspects. By the end of the day I had finished my portion and Viswanathan told that he had covered all other aspects! We told ‘good-bye’ to D’Souza and landed at the department in the evening asking for a new programme! Both D’Silva and the department were dumbfounded. We were asked to join inspection of Currency Chest on the next day.

I should mention here that Kalbadevi area in Bombay is well known for its textile market. The famous Mangal Das market was supposed to be the biggest textile market in Asia at that time. Our Kalbadevi branch was located very close to the market. Even a trader occupying an area equivalent to a small pan shop used to have huge turnover running into lakhs of rupees. Most of them used to be Gujarati businessmen. It was very difficult to even walk in the road as it used to be so overcrowded. Besides a number of push carts carrying textile garments used to move on the road.

Our bank had a very good business. Many of the traders would have huge cash credit limits, but used to maintain huge credit balances in the accounts most of the time. The business grew so big that the bank decided to carve out another branch to divert business. It was the Kakad market branch in a nearby location. Within a short time this branch also secured so much business that it grew as big as the original branch. As most of the accounts were of the traders and hardly there were any industrial accounts, there was no value addition for me during the course of inspection.

I wish to end this episode by quoting an incident in which our department miserably failed in its efforts to discipline our Viswanathan. Our bank had just introduced a monthly diary for inspectors. We had to submit the same in the first week of succeeding month showing the names of the branch/office we were on duty each day. While preparing the same in one particular month, Viswanathan had shown a branch name on a Sunday inadvertently. It was a genuine mistake, which could have been overlooked. But the Manager reviewing the same sent it back to Viswanathan asking for his explanation and for resubmission.

Any other officer would have sent it back after correction with a regret note. But not our Viswanathan! I quote below the reply sent by him along with the diary without any corrections:

To the divisional manager,

Dear Sir, 
I am sending back herewith my monthly diary returned by the Manager to me with a query about my showing a Sunday as a working day at our Goregaon branch. In this connection I wish to inform you that I had to work on the particular Sunday for visiting a godown for stock checking. The Manager had specially requested me as the party was going out of station from Monday. You will kindly appreciate, as inspectors we are expected to accommodate the Manager’s genuine requests. However, if you feel otherwise, I will note not to work on Sundays hereafter. I am returning the diary herewith without any corrections as the question does not arise in the instant case.
Yours faithfully,

I wish to mention here that Viswanathan had already spoken to the branch Manager and requested him to confirm what he had stated in his reply if he was contacted by the department.
------ (To be continued) ------
A V Krishnamurthy
26th May, 2009

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