Friday, May 24, 2013

My Days West - Episode-19

There were major changes in our Bombay inspection department over a period of time. I had developed excellent relations with my Manager Mr. S Kamath. He was later transferred to Santacruz East branch and then to Staff section in Bombay Circle office on promotion as Senior Manager. We continued to have regards for each other and kept in touch. Kamath was later posted to Bangalore as Divisional Manager to head the BSRB in the late nineties and I used to meet him at times. He hailed from a well-off family and his only brother was the chief engineer at the Mangalore Port. As a result Kamath was sitting on a pile of L&T shares! While none of us knew the exact number of shares he held, we knew it was in the denomination of thousands! I am referring to the year 1979. Kamath had a beautiful two-room flat at the posh Bangurnagar in Goregaon West where he used to entertain us with parties on occasions. Well! Kamath had a class of his own! His personality remains distinct in my memory after all these years. I feel privileged to look back!

We were placed under a new Manager, by name Polekar, a local Maharashtrian with typical handsome cricketer’s looks. We found him to be an excellent Manager, who gave full freedom to the deserving. He was a no-nonsense thorough professional with excellent credit knowledge having worked in the Divisional Office. Polekar lived with his parents in their flat in Dadar, an area dominated by the middle-class Maharashtrian families. He was very particular in selecting the best things in every field of life whether official or personal. He had purchased a two-room flat at posh Versova in Andheri by availing the bank housing loan. He was very particular and went only for a Raheja-constructed flat, which was beyond the average middle-class of those days. He maintained it in excellent conditions without letting it out even though he never occupied it till I left Bombay.

A R Street was one branch, which I visited three times for regular inspection. I had earlier referred to the stalwart Manager K R Nayak in my first visit. His services were sought by the Trivandrum circle and he left the branch almost immediately after my first inspection. As a strongman he had handled the branch with total control and authority. But his successor was a weak personality and as it happens very often, a situation of vacuum follows after the exit of a strong personality. Suddenly the branch became very notorious for the staff indiscipline. In fact the situation became quite unbearable. The branch’s position became a matter of discussion in all the branches of our bank in Bombay.

The tougher situations do need the tougher personalities and so it was in this case. A gentleman called R D Pai was identified by the management and posted to the branch as the Senior Manager. He had earlier headed a smaller branch of no consequence. As such, many in the bank had reservations about his capacity to handle such an onerous situation. The management also strengthened his hand by adding one more Pai to him! He was Mr. H L Pai, a second-line Manager of the daredevil category!  The pair dealt with the situation with an iron hand. Believe it or not! The two together brought the house in order within a period of just two months! When I visited the branch for the second time, the dust had completely settled down. The situation was like a post-war scenario with the vanquished licking their wounds!

The branch had now earned the name as ‘Sumeet Mixie branch’! It had the account of Power Control and Appliances Pvt Ltd as one of its clients, which had become a household name for the manufacture of mixers and grinders under the brand name Sumeet. The possession of a Sumeet Mixie was very prestigious for the Bombay middleclass of those days. The official price was around Rs800. The company was offering a major discount of Rs100 to our bank employees strictly on a quota basis. The quota had been fixed at one Mixie per week at that time. H L Pai was the designated Manager for the purpose of arranging the delivery.

As far as our bank quarters, Vaseem Villa, was concerned, ours was the first family to possess this prestigious item. Our building had 12 bank quarters and three private flats including the flat of the landlady. One of the private flats had been occupied by the family of a Gujarati business man by name Shah. I managed to get one Mixie with the help of H L Pai at the royal discount of Rs100 (a very good amount in those day standards).

The news of the arrival of the prestigious item in our flat spread fast. We had visitors from all the flats and we were pleased to exhibit our valued possession along with the offer of sweets. My beloved wife put it to full use. The preparation of masalas, dosas and idlis became a simple affair as compared to the earlier usage of traditional burdensome ‘grinding’ stone. The things became quite comfortable and we maintained our valued possession with all the care it needed.

One fine morning the Shah-family came calling on us. After the normal courtesies, they told us that they had planned a party on the next Sunday. We were told that they were inviting all the families in the building. We expressed our happiness and assured them our attendance. We were then told that it was a vada party! Before we could realize the implication of the vada party, the family requested us to spare our Mixie for the purpose.

Our faces suddenly turned pale on hearing this unexpected request. We were quite aware that the Mixie had been designed only for the limited household use. Its motor could not withstand the load if it is used continuously for mass production (of vadas in this case). But we also found it too rude to refuse. We simply nodded our heads. The family, before leaving, told us that they were in fact celebrating the arrival of Mixie in our flat with their vada party!

We were really in a dilemma. We could neither reject the request to spare our Mixie for entertaining the entire building nor could we afford to allow our valuable possession get damaged by over-usage. That night I had a strange dream. I saw a young kid appearing in front of me all of a sudden. The kid was weeping inconsolably. We had the following dialogue:
Me: What is your name my dear? What makes you weep like this?
Kid: My name is Sumeet! My owner is responsible for my misery.
Me: Who is your owner? What is wrong with him?
Kid: You should know. Because you are my owner!
Me: Ha-ha! I can understand now!
Kid: You know they are making my ‘vada’ party!
Me: It is not your ‘vada’ party!
Kid: What else? They are performing my last rites by making vadas on a mass scale!
Me: I am helpless. What do you expect me to do?
Kid: You find some excuse and save me from the early death!
Me: I shall try.
(I woke up at this stage and started thinking about the possible excuses)

By the end of next day we chalked out a valid excuse. We told the Shahs that there was a party at my co-brother’s flat in Thane on the next Sunday. We requested them to excuse our absence. The family felt sorry for our absence with much disappointment. We thought, with the excuse, we had saved our valuable Mixie.

But we were totally wrong. The Shahs got back to us on the next day. They told us that they would not like to continue with the party in our absence. Hence they had postponed the same to the following Sunday!
We were at our wits end. We had foolishly thought that the family would go for some other arrangement. Our plan had failed miserably.

To cut the whole story short, the vada party went on very well with the use of our beloved Mixie. We ensured that the Mixie was not used continuously and the party was conducted in groups with a break in between. The Mixie gave us more than 20 years of unbroken service! The kid had no occasion to appear in my dream again!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
22nd September 2009


psvasan said...

The Sumeet mixie episode and the concept of the dream are nice. Quite enjoyable

AVK Murthy said...

Thank you Sir