Friday, February 15, 2013

My Days West - Episode-7

The next morning saw both of us at the currency chest located at Mangalore Street in Fort area, very close to our circle office. There were already two other officers doing the inspection and we joined them. In due course some more officers also joined and it almost became a crowd. But it was a nice opportunity for me to know my other colleagues. I was the only new officer there and the senior officers introduced themselves to me. Some of the officers did another favour. They introduced to me all the other officers in absentia by describing their personalities in their own way. One of the officers absent was Albert Touro, whom I met later. Touro retired later as the CMD of Vijaya Bank.

When those officers came to know that I was staying in Santa Cruz Quarters, they asked me whether I had met an inspector by name Manian, who was also staying there. I replied them in the negative.  One of the officers summarized the personality of Manian in his own way. He told me, ‘you can be sure that he will not help you if you are in need; but you can also be sure that he will harm you at the earliest opportunity’. Indeed it was an appropriate description of the officer as I came to experience later. All the officers were also quite clear about the best officer in the department, he was one Mr.Selvaraj. They were cent percent correct as I could confirm myself later.

Some of the officers had just got married and were in the process of setting up their families just like me. In those days (the year 1977), the purchase of furniture was the first and foremost in the agenda while setting up a family. There was no way one could purchase all the items at a time for want of that much money. Almost all officers were committed to remit a significant portion of their earnings to their parents/family. This being the case, the disposable income out of the take-home pay used to be very meager. The order of priority was the fans, teapoy, cot, almirah, sofa set, mixer and fridge/television set.

While sharing their experiences, one of the officers told an interesting event. Our Malad quarters had a number such officers. Each officer was using his own ingenious methods to set up the family at the earliest. One of the officers thought that purchasing second hand items was the best way to use his meager resources. His wife had her own reservations in the matter. By coincidence, he came to know that a particular officer was vacating his quarters on transfer and was looking to dispose certain furniture. One of the items on sale was a double cot. Our friend was in a hurry to purchase the same as he was fed up with sleeping on the floor with his beloved partner! He started the negotiations. He was told by the seller that he had purchased the cot for Rs400 and was offering it to him at a bargain price of Rs300 after using it only for one year. The item was of course in a good condition. Our friend made a tough bargain and brought down the price to Rs250. The seller agreed with lot of reluctance and made it appear that he was losing heavily in the bargain. The transaction went through and the seller left Bombay immediately thereafter.

Our friend and his wife enjoyed sleeping on the cot for sometime; but not for long. One particular day, our friend had an occasion to visit a furniture shop near the Malad Railway station along with his colleague. While the colleague was making his purchases, our friend found a cot there which was similar to the one he had purchased for a bargain price. He just enquired its price. He was told that it carried a price of Rs200 and with a discount of ten percent he could get it for Rs180! When the shopkeeper came to know that he had purchased a similar second hand cot for Rs250, he merely exclaimed, “Voh tho dukandaar kaa baap nikla!” He also told our friend that the particular officer had purchased the item from his shop earlier at a cost of Rs150!

Our friend was shell-shocked to know that he had been cheated by one of his colleagues, who had since moved out of Bombay. He found it difficult to swallow, as an amount of Rs50-100 made a vast difference in those days. But he committed another blunder. He told his wife that he had been cheated. The result was - he was made to sleep on the cot alone! His wife moved back to the floor leaving him alone on the cot to repent for his superior bargaining powers! He had really not ‘bargained’ for this type of boycott from his beloved wife! Suffice to say his deal with the ‘dukandar kaa baap’ had turned out to be a very costly affair.

The inspection of currency chest is the most boring job one can come across in our department. Actually it is a question of counting from 1 to 100. But the counting of soiled notes is indeed a punishment, comparable to the imposition work used to be given by our teachers in schools. Our Bank had two currency chests in Bombay, the other one being located in Sion-Koliwada. Currency chest is actually a set up where the bank holds huge currency stock on trust for Reserve Bank. Each chest has a certain capacity to hold cash depending on the denominations. The bank takes out the currency daily to meet the requirement of cash by its various branches in the city. It will also collect surplus cash from the branches and puts it back in the chest daily. At the end of the day it sends a statement to the RBI furnishing the details of the withdrawals and deposits. The net amount is either credited or debited to the bank’s account by the RBI depending on whether the deposits exceeded the withdrawals or vice versa. The currency held in the chest is only a stock and represents the amount which is not in circulation. As per RBI rules, the physical stock is to be verified every month by the bank inspectors on a random basis (fixed percentages) and certified to the effect. The bank is required to sort the currency into issuables and soiled notes. Only issuable notes and fresh notes received from RBI are remitted to the branches. RBI would from time to time lift the soiled notes for destruction at its ‘crematorium’. Also it will arrange to lift the surplus stock or recoup the empty bins as the case may be.

My next assignment was at our Abdul Rehman Street (A R Street) branch. The branch was again at a walkable distance from New Marine Lines station. It was located very close to the well known Crawford Market. This time I went with another senior officer by name Jayaraman. He was a Chartered Accountant by qualification. He was highly knowledgeable; but somehow I felt he was not giving his full output. He was a cool guy and was quite in contrast with our ‘stormy petrel’ Viswanathan. He taught me a good number of new things. He found me over-focused on my work, and used to frequently advise me not to take the work too seriously. Overall, I liked his company.

A R Street branch was headed by an upright Senior Manager by name K R Nayak. He was like an army commander both in his personality and in discharging his duties. He used to be so upright that the people working in the Circle Office were simply scared of him. He was in total control of the very large branch with about 100 staff on board. I would even say that I never came across such an upright personality in my auditing experience of more than 60 branches.

The first time he called me to his cabin, I should admit that I was also scared. I had been entrusted with the coverage of the entire bills department. This department was located in an adjacent building under the charge of a senior officer by name Shetty. Shetty was an efficient officer and was under the impression that I would hand him over a clean report. But I could find out several irregularities mainly by way of deviations in sanction terms. When I handed him an interim report, he was shocked and tried to convince me offhand. But he found me unrelenting. He took the report to Mr. Nayak complaining about my observations. Nayak summoned me to his cabin immediately.

I was already aware of the stern handling nature of Mr. Nayak. I had my own apprehensions in facing him for the first time. But I was equally sure that my observations were quite appropriate and needed rectification. Mr. Nayak asked me to take a seat along with Shetty. He went through the report word by word. He asked Shetty whether what I had observed in the report was true or not. He had to admit them to be true. His excuse for the same was - such deviations existed since many years and nobody had objected so far. Also all the bills were paid in time and there were no overdues.

Mr. Nayak asked me what type of rectification I was expecting for my observations. I told him that the branch needed sanctions for such deviations and also approvals for having deviated so far from the sanction terms. He sent away Shetty and summoned his steno to the cabin. He went on dictating letters addressed to circle office seeking the necessary sanctions and approvals case by case. He also contacted the Circle Office over phone and told them bluntly that he required the sanctions urgently. He then asked me whether I was satisfied with his actions.  I was really stunned by the way he handled the things in my presence. I simply said that I was fully satisfied. Within a few days Nayak produced all the approvals received from the circle office. He also told me to give him my observations daily to enable him to set them right. He did set right all my observations by the time I handed over my final report. It was a great satisfying experience for me. I found my work worthwhile and fully recognized by a stalwart like Mr. Nayak. He had not disputed any of my observations in the end.
------- (To be continued) -------
A V Krishnamurthy
1st June, 2009

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