Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oh Kolkata! - Episode No.2

While I was mentally preparing myself for all types of problems expected in the great city of Kolkata, ironically, the first problem I had to face was how to reach the city from the town of Kharagpur. My first natural reaction was to trail Mr. Mukherjee, as he was the only person who could help me out. Mukherjee asked me to follow him and we were outside the station within no time. He was thinking of catching some bus to take us to the city. But it was an impossible situation as an entire trainload of people was in a hurry to reach Kolkata and only pandemonium prevailed. Suddenly one person appeared from nowhere and told Mukherjee something in Bengali. Mukherjee signalled me to follow him and we together ran with the stranger to a place where a lorry was about to start for Kolkata. It was almost full with the passengers and we somehow managed to get into it in the last minute!
The lorry was expected to reach Kolkata in the middle of the night and I was completely at sea about my stay at that unearthly hour.  What I had originally planned was to reach the city in daytime and land at the Canning street branch. I had thought of asking the branch to help me out for my temporary stay. But my plan had gone completely haywire. Mukherjee understood my plight. Immediately on reaching the city he took me to an establishment run by the YMCA. I was provided with some food and got the accommodation for a day. I was also told that the branch was not away from that locality. Mukherjee left the place after ensuring my stay and promising to meet me later at my branch. He turned out to be the first Good Samaritan for me at the great city.
I managed to reach the branch an hour before the opening time. The branch was located in a huge complex called Bagri Market in the overcrowded Canning Street. During the peak hours of the day the street is so much crowded that any small article thrown from any building cannot touch the ground! I found only one official sitting in the branch. He told me that that he was the Manager in charge of credit and his name was Satish Mallya. Actually Mallya had been promoted to scale III a year ago and had worked as a Senior Manager in Kalakar Street branch for a short time. But he got so much harassed by the employees that he had sought a transfer and was posted as 2nd line Manager in the Canning Street branch.
I was happy to learn that at least there was one person with whom I could speak in Kannada. I was eager to know whether Canning Street branch also had some employee-related problems. Mallya told me that the branch had an excellent working atmosphere so far; but the future was uncertain. He did not elaborate. The Senior Manager of the branch Mr. Shome, a Bengali gentleman, was under orders of transfer on promotion. The earlier Divisional Manager, Capt. Raman, had been transferred and Mr. P Ramamoorthy had just taken charge. Mallya also told me that Ramamurthy had worked earlier in the same branch as an officer and Joint Manager at different times. It was a hat-trick of sorts for him.
As the opening hours approached, the employees started pouring in. The branch had a strength of 120 employees including 13 officers, three 2nd line Managers, a Senior Manager and a Divisional Manager. The deposit section was in a separate wing under one 2nd line Manager. Right at that time the branch had the prestige of becoming number one branch in Canara bank as far as total deposits were concerned. The deposits had exceeded Rs50 crore with major contribution of around Rs30 crore from the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT).
I reported to Mr. Shome on his arrival. I found him a thorough gentleman. He took me to the Circle Office to enable me to register my name in the waiting list for bank quarters. The Manager there told me that no quarters were vacant at that time and as and when any quarters got vacated, the allotment would be made as per the waiting list. He also told me that I could fix the quarters on personal lease with the help of real estate agents. The rental limit for the Managers was Rs1250.
On coming back to the branch, Mr. Shome took me to the deposit wing and introduced me to the Manager-in-charge, Mr. Rajgopalan. He had been promoted to scale III and had been transferred to a local branch as a Senior Manager. I was to take charge from him. Rajgopalan gave me some insight into the ‘uncertain future forecast’ made by Mr.Mallya.
The branch had certain trade union leaders on its rolls and any change in the working system was to be discussed with them prior to the implementation. Mr.Shome had a good understanding with the leaders and the fact that he was a Bengali also made a difference. But there were rumours that the new Senior Manager identified for the branch was not at all to the liking of the said union leaders. He was said to be a strict disciplinarian hailing from the south. He had already taught ‘a few lessons’ to the union leaders in his present branch. The circle office also had a change of guard recently and the new DGM was also said to be a taskmaster who cared little for the union leaders. All in all, the things appeared to be heading for some sort of trouble by the time I took charge of the deposit section at the branch!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
16th June 2010

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