Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Days-South - Episode No.1

The Prelude
One of the conditions put to me before my transfer to Bangalore Cantonment branch from Kolkata was that I should be prepared to handle certain highly irregular and extremely sensitive corporate credit accounts. The condition had been put to me by none other than the Deputy General Manager of the Circle - Mr. Annappa Pai. I had accepted the challenge in consultation with my mentor Mr. B R Nayak, who had a very high opinion about my capacity to face such a challenge.
The story I am going to unfold here over a few episodes will reveal that the conditions were much more challenging than what I (or my mentor B R Nayak) had imagined or foreseen at that time. The first and the foremost difference between the situation at Canning Street and Cantonment was the absence of the support from the higher ups to the actions of their juniors including me. The personalities I came across were a far cry from the Nayaks and Guinns of Caning Street Kolkata. It was a matter of passing on the buck than supporting the people working under you. The lessons learnt were going to be bitter and lasting forever. I have taken care to change the names of all such personalities including the names of the corporates.
It was not as if there were no redeeming features in the working conditions of the Corporate Credit Cell where I was privileged to work. I was provided with an independent air-conditioned office (a special privilege in those days) free from the crowded counters of the main branch.  I had also been given a team of accountants, clerks and a steno, all of whom were simply excellent in their areas of working. The eventual transfer of many of them - mostly on promotion - did not affect me adversely at all as the management took care to offer suitable replacements.
Let me begin the nearly 25-year old story with the above background:
o------o-----o-----o--- -----o------o-------o-----o------o------o-------o------o------o--
I was coming back to Bangalore after a lapse of nearly 18 years. I had lived in the city earlier as a student at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) studying for the 1st semester of BE in the department of Metallurgy way back in 1969. I had to then depart from the city in conditions which were not very pleasant. In fact that was the point at which I have ended my autobiographical story called ‘The Story of a Malnad Boy’.
The Bangalore of 1987 was much different from what it was in the year 1969. The city had expanded geographically and even otherwise. At the personal level it was a totally different situation for me. I was a student with very few resources at my command in 1969. But here in 1987 I was a Manager at the bank with a family of my own. Things were far better financially and quite understandably status wise also. I was eligible to stay in bank quarters and it was only a question of time before I got the allotment as per the waiting list. I had to temporarily stay at my elder brother’s house in Malleshwaram. I could not go for school admission for my sons till I knew where exactly I would be provided the quarters.
To my surprise and pleasure, the bank allotted me a flat within a week of my arrival in the city at a brand new building called Dev Kiran Apartments in Richards Town. The bank had purchased four flats in the building. While two flats were earmarked for Managers at the Head Office, the remaining two were allocated to Managers of Bangalore Circle. I visited the flat with my family and found them quite good. The building was located in a peaceful area adjacent to the Holy Ghost Church. It was also at a comfortable distance from my branch in the M G Road.
But the allotment of the flat came with a rider. The bank had not taken possession of the flats from the builder due to some technical reasons, even though they were ready for occupation. I had to wait till the actual possession was taken. The matter was handled at the Head Office (HO) level and I was asked by the Circle office to follow up the matter directly with them. It became a matter of frustration for me as my frequent visits and telephone calls to HO did not yield any result.
The Estate Department at Head Office was under the ‘only lady’ Deputy General Manager of our bank at that time called Madam Kamala. She had visited our Canning Street Kolkata branch just before I was leaving the city. Our DM B R Nayak had introduced me to her and requested her to help me in case of necessity. She had assured the same to me.
One fine morning I met her at her chambers. She treated me extremely nicely and asked me whether I had settled down comfortably in the city. I told her about my troubles with her own department. She was shocked and was understandably quite furious. She summoned the concerned DM immediately. She asked him to explain the delay in taking possession of the flats.
The DM told her that the bank had some issues to be settled with the builder and that was the reason for not taking possession of the flats even though they were complete in all respects. She then asked him whether the bank would be benefitted by delaying taking possession of the flats for which it had made full payment. He fully agreed with her that the bank itself was at the receiving end by its delaying tactics!
She then asked him to send an officer immediately to take possession of the flats. She also ordered that I should receive the keys of the flat by afternoon and she should receive a confirmation to that effect thereafter! Believe it or not! The officer from HO personally handed over the keys to me at the branch by the afternoon and accompanied me all the way to the apartments!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy

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