Friday, December 27, 2013

Oh Kolkata! - Episode No.19

Nayak had been placed in a very unenviable position at that point of time. He was in a highly agitated state of mind. He had to somehow wriggle out of the situation unscathed. At that stage he thought it fit to meet the DGM to brief him about the two proposals in the pipeline. On coming to know about the proposals, the DGM was also highly perturbed. He advised Nayak to call for the official confidential opinion about the two companies from the existing banker. The idea was to decline the two proposals in the initial stage itself if the opinion was found to be adverse. He asked Nayak to act fast so that the proposals were officially rejected by the Circle Office (at the DGM level) before the GM got back to him again.

There was a possibility of the other bank not furnishing the details of all the irregularities in the two accounts, in which case it would have been difficult for our bank to reject the proposals. During his personal discussion, Nayak could make out that the bank was looking at the takeover proposal from our bank as a case of ‘good riddance’. Naturally it was in the interest of the said bank to hide the irregularities with them. On the other hand, it was equally important for us to see that the bank listed out all the adverse features.

Nayak paid a visit to the units and offices of the two companies. The Group was interested in shifting the accounts to our bank as they had been ‘assured’ that they would be permitted higher limits despite the adverse financial position and irregular dealings with their existing bankers. They admitted that there were irregularities with their current bankers.

Nayak met the bank officials again and sought the official opinion about the two accounts from them. He cleverly told them that our bank had decided to take over the two accounts despite the known irregularities in the accounts. He also told them that the Group had admitted the existence of irregularities in their accounts and they could list out all of them as our bank would take over the accounts in any case. That did the trick for us. The bank furnished the official confidential opinion to us on the two accounts listing out the irregularities in full.

Nayak acted immediately without any further loss of time. He made out a detailed proposal to the circle office listing out all the adverse features in the accounts and the financials. He personally handed over the papers to the DGM. The very next day, we received a strongly worded letter from the Circle Office rejecting the two proposals under the signature of the DGM. The DGM had also instructed the branch not to entertain such proposals in future!

The GM rang up Nayak after some time. Nayak told him that he had submitted the proposals to the Circle Office and the same had been rejected by the DGM. The GM then spoke to the DGM. He was told by the DGM in no uncertain terms that he would put his foot down firmly on any such proposals in future also! The DGM had perhaps saved the heads of many of the Managers in the Circle by standing firm in his attitude as long as he remained at the Kolkata Circle Office.
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I should mention here that the two years I spent with my Senior Manager Arup Guinn in Kolkata will remain permanently etched in my memory. I had a perfect understanding with him both at the official and personal level. Except on a few days when he/I took leave, we travelled together in his car on our way to and back from the office. There was only one occasion when there was a communication gap between us and I went to the office directly in a mini-bus. He was totally upset on that day. But he handled me just like any elder brother would do with his younger brother! I realised it was actually my fault. I really did not know where to hide my face!

Guinn lived in his own flat near the Vivekananda Park, which was very close to my residence. The Guinn-couple had only one son called Arnab. He was studying in a prestigious school in Kolkata. Guinn had lost his mother. His father, a retired official, was living with him. Guinn’s only brother (younger) was a hotelier in Singapore. He had left India at a young age, empty-handed; but had set up the hotel in Singapore through his sheer hard work and entrepreneurship.

The Guinn-couple was made for each other. Mrs. Guinn was a typical Bengali beauty and was the perfect match for him. Guinn used to tell me about his family affairs during our daily travel together. Often he would tell me how a man’s life would reach a dead-end in the absence of his beloved wife - the life-partner. He was telling this from his own experience with his beloved aged father. The gentleman had witnessed a vacuum in the evening of his life on the death of his beloved wife. Any amount of affection shown by his son, daughter-in-law and the grandson, could not fill up the void created by the death of his partner. He had almost become a recluse.

Often the senior Guinn would complain about some illness. It appears he was testing his son and daughter-in-law whether they really cared for him. He would make it look quite serious. Guinn would be forced to admit him to a nursing home. The doctors were unable to diagnose any sort of sickness in him. He would be discharged after a few days. This became a routine for Guinn after some time. He realised that his father would not be satisfied unless he was admitted to a hospital. He made a regular arrangement with the nursing home. The doctors agreed to create an illusion of ‘serious’ treatment to the ‘healthy’ patient! I had met the senior Guinn on a few occasions at the hospital while undergoing such illusory treatment!

Guinn was a very straightforward man who would not take any nonsense. He would be very blunt while dealing with such characters and situations. Our Circle office had a separate section to deal with the accounts of sick units. It was headed by a Manager called Shambulingam (name changed). We had the account of a sick unit called Paharimata Iron Works Ltd. Shambulingam used to personally handle the file and he was in the habit of addressing a number of letters to our branch on the conduct of this account daily.

I was also handling this account personally at our branch. I was replying to each letter of Shambulingam separately. I used to find many of the queries raised by him repetitive in nature. After some time I got really fed up with the ‘Shambulingam-correspondence’. One day I spoke to Guinn about this matter. He told me he knew exactly the reasons for my problem with Shambulingam. He explained that while the account of Paharimata was only one of the over 200 files handled by me, for Shambulingam it was one of the four or five files of sick units he was handling at the Circle Office! He had to sit idle most of the time. To prove that he had a lot of work on hand, Shambulingam was writing multiple letters to the branches even though the issues dealt with were repetitive in nature!

Guinn told me he knew exactly how to stop such repetitive correspondence. He asked me to keep the replies pending for a week and then handover all the letters to him. Accordingly I handed over a bunch of ‘Shambulingam-letters’ to him after a week. Guinn immediately called the steno and dictated a single letter in reply to the entire bunch of letters of Shambulingam, in consultation with me. He listed out all the letters of Shambulingam in the chronological order and in respect of different letters of the same day he mentioned the time of writing (by presumption) as 10 am, 11 am, 12 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm. He concluded the letter by requesting Shambulingam to write a single letter in future at the end of every week covering all the queries on the account. That was the end of the multiple ‘Shambulingam-correspondence’! A few days later, both Guinn and I attended a meeting at the Circle Office. On seeing Guinn, Shambulingam was trying to hide and slip away! But Guinn managed to catch him and asked him whether he was happy with our replies!

I got an opportunity to visit Mumbai in my official capacity. The West Bengal State Electricity Board (WESB) was a major corporate client of our branch. They had received a cheque for a huge amount from the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) drawn on our Tamarind Lane branch in Mumbai. They requested our bank to depute an officer at their cost to Mumbai to collect the proceeds, as otherwise it would take more than a week to realise the amount. It was an opportunity for me to meet my friends and colleagues in Mumbai.

After returning from Mumbai, I submitted my TA bill to the bank covering my expenses including the airfare. The bill was kept pending at our Circle Office. Whenever I sent a reminder, I would receive a query asking whether WSEB had reimbursed the amount to the bank. WSEB was taking some time to send the payment. We felt it was not proper to remind them as they were a prestigious corporate client. I brought this to the notice of Guinn. He immediately wrote out a letter to the Circle Office on the following lines:

The TA bill of our Manager has been held up at your end for the reason that WSEB has not reimbursed the amount. We are unable to appreciate your stand as our Manager had proceeded to Mumbai as per the instructions of our bank and not at the behest of WSEB. The understanding with WSEB that the cost will be borne by them is with the bank and is not with the Manager individually. In our opinion, Bank cannot refuse the sanction to the Manager if WESB ultimately fails to make the payment. We request you to sanction the bill without any further delay. Meanwhile, we assure you that we would pursue the matter with WSEB and will inform you once the payment is received”.

That settled the matter finally. We received the sanction of the bill within three days of Guinn’s above letter! WSEB remitted the amount to us a week later.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
(Note: The story concludes in the next Episode)

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