Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Good Samaritans

The other day I was in a hurry to catch a bus. I was crossing the main road to reach the bus stop at the other side of the road. While on half the way I found a bus just starting to leave the bus stop. I could see from the name board that I had to catch the same bus to reach my destination. I thought it was just futile for me to expect the driver to hold on till I reached the other end. But to my surprise I saw the driver signaling me that he was waiting for me to cross and get into the bus! I managed to get in and thanked the driver profusely. True, there are such service-minded persons even in a Government owned corporation like BMRTC. In fact their service has improved tremendously of late.

Many of us are under the impression that the State-owned undertakings and the Government departments are incapable of extending good customer service. But I have found the facts otherwise on a good number of occasions. The reality is that such things are rarely highlighted and only the deficiencies are publicized more.

The post office at the Jayanagar 9th Block is a fine example of how good the customer service could be in spite of all the adversities. I have often seen this office functioning with a minimum number of employees; still extending their normal services with smiling faces. If you visit the post office in the morning you will, on occasions, find the postmaster Mr. Manohar himself sorting the inward tappal. You will also find a single clerk attending the customers whether it is for a money order, registered post or for a national savings certificate. But if you think that your services may be delayed, you will be proved wrong! They will not allow you that luxury of blaming them for your reaching the office late!

You may not believe me if I tell you that the single clerk I have mentioned above is often a handicapped person. This office is having one such person who is handicapped and cannot use his left hand in a normal way. He can use it only to push the files. But you will find him extending his best services to all the customers with a smiling face. In fact he is so efficient that he can offer a tough competition to his peers in banks and other more sophisticated institutions!

It is often said that the efficiency should start from the top and flow down to the bottom. Indeed it is so at this post office. The other day I had tendered a national savings certificate for collection from Mysore. The postmaster had advised me to tender it one month in advance to the due date to avoid delay from the post office of issue. I had collected the visiting card of him to enable me to enquire over phone. I rang him up on the due date. You may not believe me! But the moment he heard my voice he told me that the payment advice had come. He did not even allow me to tell my name and furnish the details! I went over and collected my payment through the handicapped person referred above. When I thanked that man for the excellent service, he modestly told me that after all he was only doing his duty!

The Income Tax Office is one such office where everybody takes it for granted that things will always move with delay. In fact nobody wants to visit the office except for filing the annual returns. The follow up, if any, is entrusted to a consultant as nobody wishes to have an interface with a tax official!

It was in the above background that I had been postponing my visit to the IT office even though my refund order was overdue for nearly three years. But as my consultant was unable to help me out, I finally took a call one day. I visited the office located in the Unity buildings near Town Hall. I was asked to meet an officer by name Christable D’Mellow. The lady officer received me with due courtesies. When I told her about my case, she straightaway got up from her seat and went in search of the relevant records. But unfortunately she could not locate the same in spite of her best efforts for nearly half an hour. She was disappointed and finally told me to contact her after two days. She gave me her mobile number and assured me that she will ensure my refund order once she got the records. She also took my telephone numbers.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call from her on my mobile within two days. She told me to call on her with a stamp paper as I had to execute an indemnity to collect the duplicate refund order. Accordingly I met her with the stamp paper and executed the indemnity. She introduced me to her assistant Balakrishna and asked me to collect the refund order from him after two days as it was to be arranged from another office.

I contacted Balakrishna after two days. He told me to ring him up after two more days. I was about to conclude that he was a typical Government employee after all. But I was shocked to hear the reason for the delay from him. He told me that he was readying my last year refund order also! He wanted me to collect the two refund orders together! It was too much for me! I could not believe my ears. But it was true. Mr. Balakrishna delivered me both the instruments when I called on him. Long live the tribe of Christable and Balakrishna! Such people are the jewels in a department like income tax, which few would like to visit.

The above are instances of people excelling in their normal functional areas. They are following certain ‘best practices’ without the same being applauded in any of the forums. But there are also certain people who go out of their way to help their associates when it is absolutely not expected from them. Let me put on record what my bosses did for me just for excelling in my normal duties.

Mr. B R Nayak was my Divisional Manager when I was working as a Manager in Canara Bank Canning Street, Calcutta branch, way back in 1985-87. He was a master in handling corporate advances, having worked in major branches in Bombay and New Delhi. Mr. Arup Guin, a Bengali gentleman, was my Senior Manager. We had an excellent team in the office under the leadership of Mr. Nayak. During the entire two-year period, Mr. Guin made it a point to pick me up in his car on our daily journey to the office. He acted like my elder brother looking after my interests while I was in Calcutta.

On a particular day Mr. Guin told Mr. Nayak that he would be on leave for a week. The moment he heard this Mr. Nayak called his driver to his cabin. He told him to ensure that I was picked up daily for a week in his car till Mr. Guin reported back for duty! It was too much for me. But Nayak ensured it later also. In fact on one occasion he had to take leave simultaneously with Guin. But he did not allow me to travel by bus even then. He arranged with Mr. Kamath of Brabourne Road branch to pick me up daily! Nayak was very particular in ensuring that his colleagues were comfortable always. He followed his own ‘best practices’ wherever he went and is fondly remembered even to this day by all his colleagues. Long live Mr. Nayak, wherever you are now!

When it comes to social services there are any number of areas where you can engage yourself. But I was witness to a strange but innovative way of offering help to the weaker section while I was working in Bombay. I would like to end this article by narrating this event.

The route number 84 from Santacruz West to Flora Fountain (Hutatma Chowk) is a very popular BEST bus route in Mumbai. It runs almost parallel to western Railway between the Santacruz and Churchgate stations. But the bus journey is more enjoyable as it passes through areas like Prabhadevi, Mahalakshmi, Hajee Ali and Marine lines with the beautiful Arabian Sea view for quite a long distance. I used to travel on this route occasionally only to enjoy the journey.

On one such occasion I found two young men boarding the bus at the Santacruz depot. As usual the bus was almost full at the starting point itself. The bus had just passed Mahim when an elderly couple got into the bus. The two young men got up and offered their seats to the couple, who thanked them profusely. By the time the bus reached Bandra, the young men had been able to occupy seats again. But I found them restless and it was as if they were waiting for somebody. At Matunga two elderly ladies got in. The young men’s face lit up. They got up immediately and offered their seats to the ladies. I could see lot of satisfaction in the faces of the young men when the ladies occupied the seats thankfully.

The two men continued their venture of occupying the seats and vacating them for the aged persons and ladies till the bus reached its ultimate destination at Flora Fountain. I was quite amused and spoke to them when they got down. They explained to me that they were traveling in the route only with the motive of offering seats to such persons! It was their way of contributing to the welfare of elders and weaker sections. They did that whenever they had time to spare. Before I could offer them my appreciation they got back into the bus again as the same was ready for the return journey. They started once again on their ‘most purposeful and meaningful’ journey in the great city of Bombay! I was left speechless wondering whether there could be anymore innovative ways of extending social service. Hats off to the young men! Long live their tribe!
A V Krishnamurthy
14th January, 2009


Narain said...

Yes, AVK! The instances that you have used in this story exemplify my conviction that the service that one renders to the society at large is the result of one's innate qualities. The institutions must foster and develop these qualities of their people if they need to build vibrant organizations.

psvasan said...

Everyday we read a lot about the bad things happening in the society. But rarely about the selfless work of such samaritans. Good work is seldom noticed and when noticed, dismissed with a 'thanks' and forgotten. I appreciate your concern evident in your writing.

AVK Murthy said...

Thanks to NN and PSP