Sunday, November 24, 2013

Oh Kolkata - Episode No.6

The three-story building in Keyatolla, opposite Lake Girls School in Kolkata, belonged to a Bhattacharjee family. The building had totally six flats, with two flats in each floor. Our bank had taken one of the flats on the ground floor on lease. The previous occupant had already vacated the flat on transfer. A Bihari Darwan (caretaker) who lived in the garage of the building took me to the landlady. The Bhattacharjees lived in another building in the same area. The senior Bhattacharjee was a retired top Government official who had been immobilised on account of old age. His only son was a top IAS officer in the Government of Orissa. The affairs of the family were looked after by the lonely Mrs. Bhattacharjee, a lovable, typical senior Bengali lady.
Like most other houses I had seen earlier, this house also had a very small kitchen, despite the house being quite spacious. For some strange reason most of the Bengali houses had this type of small kitchens where the housewife alone could stand with great difficulty! There was very little space to keep the items needed for cooking. This was quite in contrast to Mumbai where we used to keep our dining table also in the kitchen! Location wise, the house was quite ideal. It was at a walkable distance from both the Gariahat Market and Lake Market and Deshapriya Park and Gariahat tram and bus-stop. Just behind the house was the Southern Avenue, one of the greenest parts of Kolkata with tall trees lined up and lakes on one side. I could also find an English medium primary school, called St. Mary’s, in the very next road. The Principal assured me to give admission to my first son for class I. I took possession of the house and immediately booked my journey to Mumbai to bring my family to Kolkata.
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A week later I was back in Kolkata with my family. We had booked our furniture, fridge, etc, through a private truck company. It was our first experience in shifting our family belongings. All our items including the fridge were packed in gunny bags. There was much delay in arrival of the consignment at Kolkata and we were very much worried. The trucks were not allowed to enter the residential areas during the daytime in Kolkata. One early morning somebody knocked at our door. On opening the door, a person told me that our luggage had been already unloaded. I went out to the main road, but could not see anything there. The person pointed towards some ‘shapes’ in front of the Lake Girls’ School!  Actually the ‘shapes’ appeared like ghosts to me in the early morning darkness! One of the items was looking like a statue! On close scrutiny, I could recognise it as our beloved Kelvinator fridge! I was told that the items had been transshipped through different trucks in different states and the items had reached their final ‘shape’ by the time they arrived in Kolkata! I can only say that this experience placed us in a very bad ‘shape’ at that time!
I had actually obtained a transit insurance policy for the goods being shifted on the truck. I immediately notified the insurance company. The company promptly sent an approved valuer for assessing the damage to the goods. The first thing the valuer, Mr. Ghosh, told me was that I had to pay his fee initially and then include the same in my claim application. He proceeded with the valuation and gave a very reasonable valuation of the damage caused to the items. I paid him Rs500 as his fee and submitted my claim for the total amount. Hardly within a week, I received a registered envelope from the insurance company. I could not believe that the insurance company could act so fast, that too in the city of Kolkata! I opened the envelop in a hurry to verify the amount of the cheque. But alas! The insurance company had sent me a regret letter stating that the claim was invalid as the policy did not contain the partial damage clause! So that was it! The insurance company had made me lose another Rs500 by way of valuation fee! There rested the matter!
It took quite some time for us to settle down in the great city of Kolkata. We found the life quite in contrast with the Mumbai-way of life. It was all-in-all a different culture here.
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I was back in the branch after availing the joining time. I found a new Senior Manager in the branch. He was Mr.Maller, who had been transferred from our Bhowanipore branch. He was the man who had ‘taught some lessons’ to the Union leaders in the said branch. He came with the reputation of a ‘tough guy’. The management had proved its intention to act tough by posting him to our branch in spite of the anticipated trouble in the days to come. I could sense a feeling of uncomfortable suspense in the branch.
Maller was a Malayali Konkani (I was told that Maller was the Malayali version of Mallya) gentleman and his short height and thin personality were quite deceptive! He had worked mostly in Tamil Nadu and was more at ease in Tamil than even in Konkani! Attitude wise, he lacked the finesse of a typical Konkani and was more of a dominating and assertive Malayali.
The bank had also posted another Manager to our branch who had also taken charge along with Maller. Mr.Padmanabhan, a typical Malayali gentleman again, had been given the charge of establishment including cash. There was nothing deceptive in his personality! With the typical mustache of an army officer and a Colonel like physique, he was every inch a tough guy! He simply added muscle to the team led by Maller! The battle appeared to be not very far!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy

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