Friday, May 17, 2013

My Days West - Episode-18

The last outstation branch I visited during my inspection career, spanning seven years, was the Nasik City branch in the year 1980. I went there along with my colleague Arnab Das.

The branch was headed a Maharashtrian Senior manager Mr.Sathe. Sathe was an elderly gentleman who maintained a very low profile. The branch had the legacy of an earlier Senior Manager, who had created his own records in the branch. Sathe was finding it difficult to bring the branch out of the stranglehold of the said Manager even after he was posted to Head Office at Bangalore. The said Manager had the full blessings of the management wherever he went. He had since been elevated to the post of a Divisional Manager and that had added to his influence in his erstwhile branch. He was now in-charge of Official Language Cell at the Head Office and could go on all India tour (including Nasik-his personal headquarters) in his said capacity.

The first and foremost record created by him was to become the first employee in our bank to rise from the position of a sub-staff to the Divisional Manager cadre. It was undoubtedly quite an enviable record. But there were also some other records which were not so enviable! He was also the only employee in our bank, who had constructed a hostel by availing a ‘housing’ loan from our bank! Not only that, he had made a wonderful arrangement to take care of the hostel in his absence. He had appointed the senior sub-staff of the branch as the warden of the hostel! The said person was also to look after his interests in the branch mainly with the valuable clients.

Another record had been created by him quite unintentionally. The branch had financed a big Marwari firm, which was in iron and steel business. In the normal course, the Manager had purchased some material from the firm. But he had conveniently forgotten to pay the amount to the tune of Rs10,000. But the firm was indeed very ‘firm’ in making the relevant entries in its books! But it never made any follow up for recovery. Naturally the Manager had presumed that the firm must have written off the amount.

The credit limits of the party fell due for renewal. The firm submitted its audited financial papers along with the application for renewal. The branch prepared a credit report and sent the papers to the Divisional Office at Pune for sanction. Even though the branch was expected to go through the financial papers thoroughly and offer its comments, it had made only a superficial attempt, as was quite common at most of the branches in those days. It had left that job completely to the purview of the Divisional Office.

Indeed the Divisional Office did a thorough job. But the Officer in-Charge had a shock of his life when he found the name of the Branch Manager in the balance sheet of the company under the head ‘sundry assets – bills outstanding for more than six months’. He rushed to the chambers of the Divisional Manager with the balance sheet. Within no time the Manager got a lightening call from the Divisional Office. It is beyond anybody’s imagination to say how the matter was put an end to. But suffice to say the Manager had the right connections. He came out unscathed from the incident!

But Sathe being a low-profile gentleman was not at all in the good books of the management. While he was made to clean up the mess left by his predecessor, he got no recognition for his efforts. He was under orders of transfer and another high-profile Manager had been posted in his place. However, major part of our inspection was completed by the time Sathe was relieved.

The branch had an accountant by name Madhyastha, who was also from our batch of promotees hailing from Udupi. He was unmarried and was staying in an independent house. He was cooking his own food. He gave us good company. Even though Nasik had some good Udupi hotels, we soon found it difficult to eat the similar food daily. We became partners in Madhyastha’s cooking venture. Arnab’s Bengali style of cooking and Madhyastha’s Udupi style were an interesting combination! In any case, our food problem had been solved.

Some times good things do follow one another quite unexpectedly. Madhyastha had a neighbour by name Mr.Pai, who was the Manager of Satpura Industrial Estate branch of our bank in Nasik. He was earlier a Sub-Manager in our A R Street branch and both of us knew him quite well. He was very friendly with us. He was to proceed on a month’s leave for visiting north India by availing leave-fare facility. He requested us to stay in his house during his absence! We were too glad to oblige! With that our lodging expenses had been eliminated totally.

Madhyastha was the officer in-charge of credit. He was knowledgeable and was handling the department efficiently. But he had one drawback. He had his own opinion on certain matters and any amount of logical argument would not convince him to change his stand. We had one such instance during the course of our inspection.
The branch had financed a new industrial unit, which had started commercial production of aluminum conductors just a few months back. I visited the unit to conduct the stock inspection along with Mr.Sathe. During the scrutiny of sales invoices, I found a strange discrepancy. The company was selling the finished stock at a price less than the raw material price! The unit had its main office in Bombay from where all the sales and purchases were being conducted. The Manager at the Nasik unit was only acting as per the main office instructions. Hence he could not throw much light on this discrepancy.

On return to the branch I discussed the matter with Madhyastha. He immediately told me that the unit being a new one had not yet achieved the breakeven. But I explained to him that the unit can never achieve a breakeven if it continues to sell the product at a price less than the raw material cost. Even assuming hypothetically that the unit was able to bring down all other overheads to zero, still it would be incurring cash losses! My colleague Arnab also joined the issue with Madhyastha. We had a big argument during our dinner on that night. But Madhyastha stood his ground. I made my observations in my report and left the matter at that.

We enjoyed our stay at the house of Mr.Pai. The Pai-family was a music-loving family and had a vast collection of Hindi and Marathi records. The records included the famous Abhangs sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and others. They also owned a fantastic music system. There was also a vast collection of comic books including Phantom, Mandrake and others. We took the full advantage of the same. Pai was an enterprising gentleman with a lovable personality. He resigned his job after some time and established a small scale unit in Nasik. He also became a permanent resident of Nasik. We remain indebted to him for making our stay comfortable in Nasik.
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It will not be appropriate for me to conclude this episode without writing about the legendary city of Nasik and the sacred river Godavari, also called Dakshin Ganga.

Even though I hail from a place located on the sacred riverbed of Tunga in the Malnad region of Karnataka, I remember to have heard the name of the sacred river Godavari more times than Tunga, right from my childhood days. On the occasion of each and every festival and religious function in our home and village, the Purohits would start with the following manthram:

“Shubha thithe, shobhane muhurthe,
Manvanthare kaliyuge prathama paade
Bharatha varshe, Bharathahkhande
Jamboo dweepe, Dhandakaaranye
Godaavaryaha dakshine theere
Shalivaahana shakhe, Bhouddhavathare

I have always wondered as to why our ancestors were particular about describing our location as on the southern shore of Godavari. Well! That question remains unanswered. But I was eager to see the sacred river for the first time in Nasik. I could see it now and take a dip both at Nasik and also at Tryambakeshwar from where the river originates.

Legend has it that Sage Gautama lived on the Brahmagiri Hills at Tryambakeshwar with his wife Ahalya. The rishi kept his stock of rice in a granary. Once, a cow entered his granary and ate up the rice. When the rishi tried to ward off the cow with Durbha grass, it fell dead. The rishi wanted to relieve himself of the sin of ‘Gohatya’. He worshipped Lord Shiva and requested him to bring Ganga to purify his hermitage. Lord Shiva pleased with the rishi appeared as Tryambaka and brought along river Ganga. Since Ganga was brought down to Tryambakeshwar by Sage Gautama, she is known here as Gautami. She is also known as Godavari because the river helped Sage Gautama to relieve his sins.
Although the river originates only 80 kms from the Arabian Sea on the Western Ghats, it flows 1,465 kms to the east and empties into the Bay of Bengal. The river is sacred to Hindus and has several pilgrimage centers on its banks. Nasik has been held as a special place of pilgrimage for many thousands of years. Every twelve years, Pushkaram fair is held on the banks of the river. Thousands of people have a holy dip in the sacred waters of the river to purify themselves of all their sins. The river flows through the two states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh irrigating vast lands and serving as a lifeline for a vast population.
The city of Nasik, which claims its lineage to 150 BC, is situated 180 kms from Mumbai and is the third largest industrialised city in Maharashtra after Mumbai and Pune. As per the mythology Lord Rama had made Nasik his home during his 14-year exile.  The city claims its name from the Sanskrit word Nasika (nose). It was here that Lakshmana cut off the nose of Shurpanakha with the blessings of Rama. The Sita Gumpha cave in the city claims to be the place from where Ravana abducted Sita.
The city has a pleasant climate. The HAL plant here employs more than 7,000 people. It also has the famous India Security Press. The other major industries include Bosch, ABB, Mahindra & Mahindra, L&T, VIP, Graphite, Glaxo, Kirloskar, Ceat and Schnider. The city has been famous for its onions and grapes. Presently it is known as the wine capital of India. It produces around 60 percent of wine made in India.                                      
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
18th September 2009

1 comment:

psvasan said...

The descriptive piece about the river Godavari and Nasik town is interesting