Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oh Kolkata! - Episode No.15

By the time Arup Guinn took charge as Senior Manager, Maller had already left the branch. I had taken charge as Manager-Credit from Mallya. But I could hardly get any insight into the department as Mallya left immediately thereafter. Ramamurthy was kind enough to post Babu to my department to handle pre-sanction advances. But Ramamurthy also left the branch well before Mr.Nayak reported from Mumbai. Das was given charge of staff matters and Goyani that of deposits as soon as they joined the branch. This set up was in place by the time Nayak came from Mumbai.

Once Maller left the branch, I had resigned myself to travel by mini-bus to the office daily. No doubt it was an inconvenient journey in addition to the cost. However, I knew the (free) travel by a private car daily was definitely a luxury and the facility for me was gone with Maller’s departure. But to my pleasant surprise, the first thing Mr. Guinn did on joining the branch was to tell me that he would pick me up daily in his car! He also told me that it was easy for him as he was staying only a few buildings away from my residence! That settled my daily travel arrangement for the rest of my stay in Kolkata! Guinn was also lucky, as the bank decided to replace the old car used by Maller with a brand new Premier Padmini car!

The personalities of Guinn and Maller were quite in contrast. Guinn had joined the bank as a direct officer and had become a Senior Manager at a young age. He was an M.Tech from IIT Kharagpur. He had earned a good name in the bank and that was why he was given charge of the Senior Manager of the prestigious branch of Canning Street. He was also a no-nonsense personality and was a taskmaster. The only common factor with Maller was that he also acted tough in the matter of staff discipline. I should say that the Union leaders were not exactly pleased with his posting. The fact that he was a Bengali did not make much difference to them at all. But happy they were indeed to get rid of Maller!

As already mentioned by me, the pre-sanction department was in a total mess at the branch. The worst casualty was the filing of correspondence and other documents. I had selected a young clerk called Ajoy Bhattacharji to assist Babu. The three of us as a team streamlined the department within a matter of three months. Guinn gave us a free hand. By the time Mr. Nayak joined the branch, the things were more or less in a good shape.

Guinn helped me in developing one skill for which I will remain indebted to him for life. While I was in Shimoga Main branch, my mentor BGR (B G Rao) had encouraged me to develop skills in correspondence. In fact under his guidance two of us (me and KNV) were the only persons privileged to get our official letters typed out by the typist! But I was only accustomed to write out the drafts and never thought that I could dictate them to a stenographer.

Guinn was observing that I was spending considerable time in replying the letters received from different sections in the Circle Office. The letters used to pile up whenever I took leave. Once when I reported back after about three days of leave, I found no letters pending on my table. To my surprise I found that all the letters received in my absence had been replied by Guinn personally. I could not believe that he could do it, in addition to his other duties. Guinn told me that it was too simple. He had used the services of a stenographer. I was not even aware that the branch had a steno. He immediately called a person called Manas, who had been entrusted with a routine department as a clerk. He asked me to use his services in future to speed up my correspondence.

I was not sure that I could dictate letters to the steno easily. But Guinn told me that I had good English writing skills and I had to only try to learn the art of dictating. Thanks to him, I started from the very next day and my confidence grew over a period of time. When Mr. Nayak landed in the branch, he told me that he was envious of me as he himself was not using a steno! This skill stood me well in my subsequent assignments. It helped me that all the branches I was posted to had a steno among the employees.

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Mr. Bolar Ramanath (B R) Nayak was a highly popular person in Canara Bank in Mumbai. He had the privilege to head major branches in Mumbai and New Delhi. His name used to appear often as an achiever in the circulars issued by the Mumbai Circle Office. The last branch he headed in Mumbai was the biggest and the most prestigious branch - the Fort branch. His next expected posting was either a Divisional Office or a Circle Office. As such, he was not quite happy in his posting to our branch. But once he took charge, he never looked back.

My Senior Manager Guinn had one drawback. He was blunt in his talk and diplomacy was not his forte. Besides, as a postgraduate from IIT, he preferred to speak in English. He was quite uncomfortable with the Konkani-speaking management at the Kolkata Circle Office. But that was exactly the strong point of Nayak. Even though his mother tongue was not Konkani, he could speak the language very fluently. He used it to his full advantage. He was also a very friendly personality and made it a point to maintain a very good rapport with the top management in the Circle Office and Head Office. This quality helped him obtaining special permissions and sanctions for the deserving customers and staff of the branch.

The first question Nayak put to me on being introduced to him was to ask me about any impediments in discharging my functions as a Credit-Manager at the branch. I frankly told him that I needed training in the credit appraisal as my exposure to pre-sanction department was very limited. Nayak spoke to the DGM immediately and I was posted for a credit appraisal programme at the staff training college in Bangalore in the very next week. It was a 15-day programme that helped me in picking up skills in the corporate credit appraisal. At the personal level it helped me in completing my private work in Bangalore at the cost of the bank!

But getting the theoretical training was one thing and handling the corporate accounts was another. I definitely needed more exposures and guidance. That was exactly what Nayak gave me in the days that followed.   
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy

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