Maller was staying at bank-quarters near our Lake Road branch, which was at a walking-distance from my house. He asked me to accompany him in his car daily. With that my daily mini-bus journey came to an end. He was also picking up another two officers called Subramanian and Radhakrishnan with me to the office. On the return journey the car used to be full with other officers and the new Manager, Padmanabhan. One of the officers was a Maharashtrian called Garpure. He was staying alone in Maharashtra Niwas. Garpure was totally unsettled in Kolkata. He had taken his Kolkata posting as a punishment and had no intention to shift his family. He was facing all sorts of problems and was simply counting the days to go back to Maharashtra. This was reflecting in his discharge of duties and his colleagues used to make lot of fun about him.
Other than Maller, Mallya was the only Konkani staff in our branch. Mallya also hailed from the border district of Kasaragod in Kerala and was fluent in Malayali, Tulu, Konkani (his mother tongue) and Kannada. Maller and Mallya both being Konkani and Malayali speaking persons, we all expected them to have a very cordial relationship. But it turned out to be worse than the proverbial mongoose and the snake! Mallya was in charge of credit since more than one year. He had a grievance that he was not given the charge of Senior Manager even though he was in scale III.
It appeared to me that Maller had come to the branch with some pre-conceived notion about Mallya. He had already prepared a report card on him and as per him Mallya was totally corrupt. Strangely, he would talk with him only in English and revert to his mother tongue Konkani only when he had some argument! All efforts made by Mallya to have a cordial relationship with him came to a naught. All of us knew that Maller had a ‘one-point programme’ to discipline and teach a lesson to the majority Union leaders. But we were quite surprised to see him opening another battle-front with Mallya! I had a very cordial relationship with Mallya who was staying very close to my house in Keyatolla. His wife was working for Syndicate Bank in Lake Market branch. We used to visit the family often. The fight between the two was quite a problem for me. I had to do some balancing act between the two!
Let me mention to my readers here that the whole story of Oh Kolkata! revolves around the drama that was built up during the tussle between Maller and the majority Union leaders. The drama reached its climax sometime in the month of September 1984. So it is absolutely necessary for me to describe the personalities involved in the drama. The readers may sometimes find the description of some of the personalities quite unnecessary and even uninteresting! I have introduced some of the personalities only to break the monotony of the story. Readers may kindly bear with me.
One of the officers in the branch was a gentleman called Mavalli (name changed) who was from North Karnataka. He was the only Kannadiga in the branch other than me. Both Mallya and I used to be very friendly with him as we could talk to him freely in Kannada. Mavalli was a below-average officer and was very poor in English language. The branch put him in cash department where his work was limited to counting the currency notes from one to one hundred! As already mentioned by me the branch needed one exclusive officer to count cash throughout the day. Mavalli fitted the job perfectly.
One day, while speaking to some employees, Mallya had told them in a lighter vein that Mavalli was very foolish in dealing certain matter. One of the employees later told Mavalli that he had been called a ‘fool’ by Mallya. Instead of getting the matter clarified with Mallya directly, Mavalli took the matter very seriously and came to him with two other employees asking him for an apology. Mallya told him that he was making some light-hearted comments and there was no intention to insult him in anyway. He thought Mavalli would understand him as he was so friendly with him all these days.
But Mavalli was in no mood to close the matter. He was very particular that Mallya should express regrets for having called him a fool. He was not even prepared to accept the apology in Kannada as he wanted his colleagues also to witness the apology. This was what happened thereafter:
Mallya: Okay then. Mavalli is a fool and I regret the same! Are you happy now?
(Mavalli looks at his other two friends who are equally well versed in English! The three discuss among themselves and get back)
Mavalli: You are only expressing regrets. My friends want you to apologise.
Mallya: Okay then. Mavalli is a fool and I apologise for the same!
(The three discuss among themselves and Mavalli gets back again)
Mavalli: You should say that you called me a fool and that you apologise for the same.
Mallya: Okay then. Mavalli is a fool. I told it so. I apologise for him!
This time all the three were fully satisfied and the matter ended amicably! Long live the English language!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy