Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Days West - Episode-21

Over a period of time the inspection department at Bombay underwent major changes. While the earlier officers were chosen with due diligence, a new trend of posting Officers/Managers (including certain very Senior Managers) who could not be accommodated at the local branches started. As a result there was no uniformity in the approach adopted by different officers to similar situations. While certain new officers wanted to show extra-smartness in their approach, there was another segment of people who took the job too lightly and diluted the system to such a level that made a mockery of the whole inspection exercise.

The Fort branch had a major corporate client who extended huge deposit support to the branch. The branch was allowing a special facility to this client unofficially. It would allow the client to keep funds in fixed deposits without any specific due dates. The deposit receipts would be lying in the branch and as and when the client was in need of funds, the branch would close the deposit by inserting that particular date as the due date. The manual system of maintaining the records, prevailing in those days, enabled such unofficial transactions. This was being done purely with the intention of retaining the deposits and not with any ulterior motive. The executives at the circle office were well aware of what was going on in the branch.

One of the smart inspecting officers, who was always on the look out for finding out such unofficial favours, laid his hands on this ‘special scheme’ of the branch and shouted ‘Eureka’! He immediately started preparing a special report on his discovery! The branch officials including the Divisional Manager (DM) were desperate. For them it was a question of losing a major business client. But the smart-officer was not prepared to let go his prized catch! He was bent upon submitting his special report.  There was only one way of solving the issue. The DM spoke to the inspection department explaining the position. The officer was promptly asked to take up the inspection of an outstation branch immediately, leaving his work half-way. Another ‘harmless’ officer was posted in his place. Believe it or not! This officer was so ‘harmless’ that he did not even notice that such an unofficial favour was being extended to the client!

The smart-officer was expected to learn a lesson from this episode. But it was not to be. He was rather waiting for another such opportunity. After some time, he was assigned with another branch headed by a ‘blue-eyed’ Divisional Manager. He went on covering all the ‘suspicious’ areas with due diligence and was on the verge of total disappointment! Finally he took up the work of scrutinising the accounts of the employees. He laid his hand straightaway on the account of the ‘blue-eyed’ Divisional Manager and shouted ‘Eureka’! He found out that the DM had not withdrawn any money from his account since the last one year, even though the salary was being credited regularly! He made discreet enquiries and got it confirmed that neither the DM’s spouse nor his children were employed and there was no other source of income. This time he did not discuss with anybody. He straightaway prepared a confidential report and dispatched it to the department! While we were not sure about the actual contents of the report, we were told the officer had ended his report with a word of appreciation for the wife of the DM, who could manage the household-budget with absolutely no contribution from her beloved well-paid husband! I leave it to the imagination of the reader to guess what could have been the result of such a confidential report.

Indeed this officer had an uncanny ability to dig up certain issues, which were not in the normal domain of the inspecting officers. More importantly, the issues were such that one would find it extremely difficult to rectify and close. The bank owned many apartments in Bombay located at Santacruz, Malad, Versova, Kurla, Ghatkopar and other suburbs. The Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Company (BSES) used to collect meter deposits at the rate of 2 months’ average consumption of electricity. In view of the low electricity charges prevailing in those days, the deposits used to be around Rs100 only per meter. BSES used to pay interest half yearly at 5-6 percent and would reduce the particular month’s bill by that amount.  The amount would come to around Rs3-4 per meter.

The smart-officer had observed this while paying the electricity bill for his quarters. As luck would have it, his team got an opportunity to inspect the circle office. He managed to get allocated the premises and establishment section as the area to be covered by him. He took up the staff-quarters portfolio and straightaway came to the point. He asked for the details of the meter deposits paid by the bank for different meters at the quarters. He also asked them to tell him the system adopted by them to recover the interest from the occupant officers as it was the legitimate income of the bank. They had to admit that there was no such system. He immediately prepared a special report asking the section to recover the interest right from ‘day one’ from the officers concerned! Some of the quarters were more than ten years old and different officers had occupied them at different times. It was almost impracticable to ascertain the details to recover the amount. It was a masterstroke by the smart-officer! The authorities at premises section did not know what hit them!

There was another smart-officer who had joined the bank as an officer trainee and was posted to our department after he had completed his period of contract and probation. While we had named the first officer referred to above as James Bond 007, we were finding it difficult to assign an appropriate name to this particular officer as he was very ‘violent’ in his approach!  While James Bond 007 was just argumentative, this officer was arrogant to the core.  In the present day terminology he could have been called a ‘terrorist’! He was indeed a terror at the branches. Within a short time after landing in a branch, he was sure to have a showdown with one or the other officer! The problem would start with the sitting arrangement. The branches in Bombay had a genuine problem in providing seats to the inspecting officers. This was an area of friction for the smart-officer as he was very particular in being seated properly.

There was a story in circulation about this officer which could not be verified from authenticated sources. The officer had been posted to a rural branch in Kerala in the final stage of his probationary period. In those days the officers in our bank had the privilege to be seated on a revolving-chair. The bank would provide sufficient number of such chairs depending on the number of officers working in the branch. The particular branch had only one officer other than the Manager. Accordingly it had only one revolving-chair. The smart-officer had to sit on an ordinary chair as he was only undergoing training there. He was not happy at all. He just kept quiet till completion of his probation.

On the day he completed his probation, he landed at the cabin of the Manager. The Manager congratulated him on his successful completion of probation. But he found the officer continue sitting in the cabin without moving out to attend his routine work. On being asked, he made it clear that he cannot sit on the ordinary chair like an ‘ordinary clerk’ anymore!

The Manager was a ‘softy’ and did not want any complications. He rang up the circle office indenting for an additional revolving-chair. They promised to dispatch the same early and a minimum period of one week was expected before the chair landed at the branch. The officer told the Manager that he would function from the cabin till then!

The branch had a senior sub-staff who was known to be a troubleshooter. He was witness to the predicament of the Manager. He had a great presence of mind. Just then he observed a local barber entering the branch. He immediately shouted ‘idea’! The bank had financed the barber under the IRDP scheme. One of the items purchased under the loan-scheme was a revolving-chair! The sub-staff spoke to him immediately and the barber was kind enough to spare the revolving-chair till the bank managed its own chair. The smart-officer was pleased to sit on the ‘barber’s-chair’ and discharge his duties! He found it more honourable than an ordinary ‘clerical-chair’!

The Managers in the department dreaded the posting of the above two officers in their team. But the management definitely knew how to play its role. It posted both the officers under a Senior Manager who was smarter than the two! He was indeed so smart that he kept the two at a safe-distance from him by always issuing written orders and not mingling with them freely. The result was – the three together achieved a ‘Guinness Record’ at our Girgaum branch! Let me explain.

In those days there was no system of allotting man-days for each branch to complete the work within a fixed deadline. The inspecting officers had the liberty to complete the work at their convenience. The Senior Manager had started the regular inspection of Girgaum branch alone. The two smart-officers joined him later. They hardly spoke to each other and proceeded in their own directions! Each of them took his own time to complete the portfolio assigned to him, while the Senior Manager was ‘submerged’ in the cash credit accounts and there was no sign of him coming out of it! The result was – the ‘Marathon race’ had no end in sight! The Bombay inspection teams used to meet at the Fort branch on the occasion of bidding farewell to the officers transferred out. The ‘Marathon inspection race’ in Girgaum became a topic of discussion during such meetings. Ultimately the team completed the anniversary of inspection in Girgaum and in the process achieved the dubious ‘Guinness Record’ mentioned by me above! Finally the department felt ‘enough was enough’ and asked them to wind up before another team landed in the branch to start the next inspection!
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I had the privilege (problem) of dealing with a ‘blue-eyed’ Senior Manager even though I had not been assigned his branch at that time. The Bombay Circle office management was quite fond of this senior manager. It used to highlight his performance in all the forums and in the process he became a larger-than-life personality. His branch was always in the news particularly in the matter of recovery. He was later transferred to a more prestigious and bigger branch. Our team was allotted his earlier branch for inspection and I had to lead the team. The new senior manager was known to me as I had inspected his earlier branch. He was a simple man who concentrated on internal work and did not want to be in the limelight, quite unlike his predecessor. As it happens quite often, the blue-eyed senior manager had neglected the internal work, while he had performed well in the matter of bringing in business and recovery. This situation started coming to the notice of the management as the new manager started the ‘cleaning drive’.

I got a call from the ‘blue-eyed’ Senior Manager some time after I took up the inspection. He sent me a message to meet him and I met him accordingly. He had an extremely polished behaviour and took me to his home and introduced his family to me. Everything was very nice with him except that I could not make out what exactly he wanted from me. But I got the message in due course. He did not like the way in which the new senior manager was bringing out the irregularities in the internal work position, as it was affecting his carefully built image adversely. He wanted me to protect his image. He also wanted me to highlight those aspects where the new Senior Manager himself had failed to deliver. I had to handle the situation very diplomatically, which I did.  

As luck would have it, after sometime we were allotted the inspection of the branch headed by the ‘blue-eyed’ Senior Manager himself. Fortunately our team was headed by our Manager and I had no much role to play. The Senior Manager was particular in securing ‘A’ grade in inspection in line with his image. Ultimately he managed to get it. He retired as a General Manager of our bank.
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One of the branches inspected by me with comfort was Dadar branch located very close to the Dadar station. There was a Special Assistant by name Rao, who hailed from South Kanara district. This man was very enterprising and used to be very friendly with us. He appeared to be well-off as could be seen from a good number of fixed deposits held by him in the joint name of his wife. The bank was paying a preferential rate of interest of one percent to the employees. As per rules a declaration was to be obtained from the employee that the money belonged to him (to ensure that the benefit is not passed on to an outsider).

While inspecting the fixed deposit portfolio, I had observed that the branch had not obtained the declarations in a good number of cases including the deposits of Rao. I had given an interim report asking the concerned officer to obtain the same before I wrote my final report. This had become a matter of routine for us. The officer had observed that Rao was moving very closely with the inspectors. He played a mischief by telling Rao that his ‘friend’ had made some serious remarks on his accounts. Rao was totally upset. He came running to me asking me what was wrong with his accounts! I told him that it was a very minor matter and he had to simply sign some declaration forms. Rao was so upset that he immediately wanted to sign them and see that my remarks were eliminated. After sometime he came back to me with the signed forms. He was so serious that he thought he had to convince me that the money belonged to him! He added an additional sentence in the declaration and showed it to me telling that it should set at rest all my doubts! The sentence read – I hereby declare that not only the money belongs to me; even the wife belongs to me and me only!  

The Dadar branch was headed by a very elderly benevolent Maharashtrian Senior Manager by name R S Dhuru. He was one of the first Maharashtrians to be recruited by our bank. He used to recollect and tell us about his younger days in the bank. By a strange coincidence, I inspected his next branch Kalina and literally followed him to Kandivli branch. Immediately after taking up the Kandivli branch inspection I spoke to him personally at his cabin:
Me: Sir, I am virtually following you wherever you go! I hope you don’t mind.
Dhuru: Why not? I definitely mind!
Me: Really?
Dhuru: Sure. So much so that I have decided not to give anymore opportunity to you to follow me!
Me: How come?
Dhuru: I am retiring this month end Baba! That’s it. Don’t think otherwise.
(Both of us laughed heartily. Dhuru retired at the Kandivli branch after an eventful lengthy career in our bank).
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The other branches inspected by me in my memorable inspection career in Bombay included Colaba, Mahalakshmi, Prabhadevi, Juhu Vile Parle (JVPD Scheme), Bhat Bazaar, Byculla, Sion, Koliwada, Chunabatti, Vakola, Santacruz West, Borivli, Sakinaka, Matunga West, Ghatkopar East, Mulund Camp, Bhandup, Thane West, Vartaknagar in  Thane, Kalva and Divisional Office West. Some of the branches I wanted to inspect for better exposure, but got no opportunity,  included Fort, Nariman Point, Mazgaon, Mandvi, Worli and Parel.

Our batch was due for promotion in the year 1983. But on account of some court case, the promotion process could not be taken up in that year. However, in the beginning of 1984 the process was initiated and we submitted our appraisals. I got my promotion as Manager with retrospective effect from 1983. The results were out in the early May and the time to get out of the inspection-career had finally arrived.

When I look back on those eventful years of my inspection-career in Bombay, I get a sense of satisfaction. The value-additions and takeaways were many. I had the opportunity to deal with several stalwart Managers in our bank. I also came across several interesting characters. It was really interesting to see similar situations handled in different ways by different Managers. While some of them took even simple matters very seriously, others cared a damn for even serious matters. As far as Bombay city was concerned, I got so comfortable after sometime that I wanted to continue my career there.

My earlier Senior Manager M S Kamath had assured me to get a proper posting in Bombay, as he was heading the Staff Section there. But I was told by the Department that they would post me to our Head Office in Bangalore. But one fine morning, I received the orders posting me as Manager at our Canning Street, Kolkata branch. With that my Bombay-career came to an end. My initial days at Kolkata were more eventful than Bombay. But that is another story. I may get back to my readers sometime in future. But let me take a break here for the time being!
A V Krishnamurthy
18th October 2009

Feedback on the Story


I can say only one thing. Not only you were at the right place at the right time but had the uncanny ability of recollecting the events and narrating them in such a way that I felt I was also along with you.

I don't think you had diarised the incidents, because I do not recollect your having mentioned any such thing.

Belated Diwali greetings from Halifax, UK to all of you and your family.

Warm regards


Dear AVK, 

My hearty congratulations on completing these wonderful biographical sketches collected with Mumbai as the focus.

The narration was superb. You have a style that is one of its kind and is eminently readable. It is like reading RK Narayan.

Please look for a cartoonist who can sketch catchy moments. (I would love RK Lakshman type) I stand by my idea and promise

to help that idea happen: publishing your work.

I would recommend the title: My Days: West

I would also strongly recommend to you to write My Days: East, collecting your Kolkata days.

I eagerly look forward to your next days....

With best wishes and regards,

G o p a l a n


Congratulations on completion of Mumbai Inspection experiences. Hats off to your memory and it was really absorbing. Waiting to hear your KOLKATTA episodes also.


My dear AVK

"East is East and West is West; and never shall the twain meet” You have relived your life in West for us week after week!  We enjoyed every episode.  As your colleagues, we could see us in you. 

In the East, you should have far more interesting life.   Here you might be taking slight departure from the careers some of us had.  We look forward to the day when you decide to write about that.

Till then may thanks,


N. Narayanan

Hello sir,
When are you starting your ‘My days – East’?  I am eagerly waiting to know about your experiences in Calcutta and other places you visited in Eastern India.  When I read your articles, I visualize the places and feel like I am physically and mentally there.  Even your descriptions about the hotels and the quality of food make my mouth water.
Veena S

I specially liked the humor hidden in each incident.
I, sometimes feel, though I served Canara Bank for 26 years, I never had the opportunity to be part of these varied experiences.....


Rajagopal Tholpadi


Thanks for providing us such an interesting memories of your golden career.  One suggestion, could you pen on any interesting events in your life, which left a magical impression. May be of others, but with your vision, and bit of imagination, you can create.
Or may be an opinion of others regarding an incident, so as to light up your creativity.
Thanks and Regards,

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