Friday, February 21, 2014

My Days South - Episode No.8

I feel it is high time for me to divert from the story of the XYZ Company for some time so that the readers get a break. The XYZ story continued for the entire three years of my stay at the Corporate Cell. Hence in order to maintain the chronology of the events let me shift to my other experiences at the branch. I would get back to this part of the story at an appropriate time.
As mentioned by me earlier, the clerks at the Corporate Cell were being chosen with due care. One fine morning I received on my table a letter drafted by one of the clerks along with copies of several documents. In those days copies of all loan documents in respect of limits above Rs25 lakh had to be sent to the Legal Department at the Circle Office for scrutiny. This correspondence pertained to one such sanction.
The letter had been drafted by one of the clerks by name Javed Ahmed. Even though the letter bore the initials of the Accountant concerned, I could make out that the entire thing had been handled with great efficiency by the clerk himself. It was indeed a piece of quality work. It clearly showed that the clerk was knowledgeable, efficient and well organised. I called him and expressed my deep appreciation for the work turned out by him.
I had occasions to take Javed with me during my visits to certain corporates. He came out as a jolly and thorough gentleman who was willing to take up higher responsibilities. In my earlier posting at Canning Street, I had not seen a single clerk who could come up to the level of this young man. Javed resigned the job after some time and moved to Middle East for better prospects. Our bank lost a capable and efficient employee. My short association with Javed remains etched in my memory till today.
The best clerk I came across at the Corporate Cell was, however, a young man called Basil Lobo. Lobo hailed from a place called Basrikatte located on the way to the famous pilgrim centre Horanadu. True, he did not have the proficiency in drafting letters like Javed. Born in an ordinary Malnad village family, Lobo had come up in life the hard way purely on his own efforts and abilities. But his village background did not limit his abilities in handling the sophisticated customers of our bank in the city of Bangalore. He had a penchant for outdoor work. You could assign any tough task to him that could be sorted out only by meeting the client personally. The task could be recovery of loans, obtention of documents or securing the deposits! You name the task and he was there to do it for you. You could always bet on his success. That was the typical Basil Lobo for you!
Lobo’s official work included follow up of bad loans including loans granted during the famous ‘Janardhan Poojari Loan Melas!’ You had to see how he managed to catch the small borrowers by identifying them and tackling them! Even though the Corporate Cell was expected to handle only loans of corporates, on account of some strange reasons, all bad loans (called LPD accounts in our bank) were being dumped on the Cell for follow up.  We managed to handle them so long as Lobo was there. Once he moved out on promotion, we dumped them back on the Main Branch!
Having worked so far only in Mumbai and Kolkata, I was new to the scooter-culture of Bangalore. But quite unlike in those two cities, as I realised soon, it was impossible to move in Bangalore without a two-wheeler. But those were the days when Bajaj scooters still carried a premium and there was a long waiting list. I could manage to get a Chetak scooter from a person who got it on a NRI quota. But I had never driven a two-wheeler till then and I had the road fear. But once I mentioned this to Lobo, it was a different story altogether!
As already mentioned by me Lobo was a ‘restless’ person. Once he undertook a job, he would not rest until he saw its logical end. Let me tell you the end was invariably the ‘success’ in Lobo’s case! Within a matter of two weeks, he taught me driving the scooter with confidence. He also personally took me to the Indiranagar RTO Office and got me the permanent driving license.
Lobo was at his best in handling the Government officials. He used to take me to different offices for different purposes. He would quickly identify the person/official who would help us out. Then he would approach him and speak to him in his own language – be it Tamil, Telugu, Tulu or Konkani! That would do the trick most of the time. If not, he would find some other way to reach the officer concerned directly. He would take me to the official only after the background work was completed by him. Normally it would be a smooth affair in the end.
Lobo had planned his personal affairs quite meticulously. He started applying for a BDA site immediately after joining the bank. He managed to get a site allotted in his third or fourth attempt. By the time he became an officer, he had already built his first house!
After working in the Corporate Cell for some time, Lobo looked out for greener pastures. He identified the Foreign Exchange Department in our bank as the opportunity for his future career. He managed to get a transfer to our Overseas Branch, which was newly opened by the bank at M G Road in Bangalore. He worked there for two years and picked up all the nuances of the foreign exchange business. He got his promotion in his first attempt and again managed to get a posting to the Commercial Capital of India –the great city of Mumbai.
Lobo was with me through thick and thin even after he left our Corporate Cell. I left Bangalore after three years for a semi-urban posting on promotion as Senior Manager. Lobo went to Mumbai at the same time. By the time I came back to Bangalore after three years to our Trinity Circle M G Road branch, Lobo was back at our Foreign Exchange branch in M G Road! He had become an expert in foreign exchange! He was given the coveted post of a dealer in foreign exchange. How he managed his postings so fast and picked up the expertise in the foreign exchange business could have been a case-study for the interested persons.
Lobo was a man in a hurry. Naturally he could not wait for his normal promotion at our bank. He had already developed connections with private foreign exchange dealers in Mumbai. He was appointed as the Manager of a private exchange company in Bangalore and he resigned his bank job. The year was 1993 and the present day hefty salary packages were unheard of in those days. But Lobo had got a salary package with car and accommodation facility that could have been the envy of a General Manager of our bank!
The career graph of Lobo had moved vertically in a span of about five years. He was after me asking me to purchase a car. He wanted to teach me driving and get me the driving license just like he did it for me for the scooter. But I had to wait for another two years to get a bank car officially. But it came too late as far as Lobo was concerned!
Like all good things in life, my friendship with Lobo also came to an end on one unfortunate day. As the Senior Manager at the Trinity Circle branch, I was facing some critical and tense situation on a particular day. Lobo came to me at that very situation with some urgent request. I told him my inability to help him at that particular time. He was very much particular and told me that he may never come back to me again! But I was in such a situation that I told him I couldn’t help it!
That was the end of my relationship with Lobo. I never saw him again. Perhaps it shows how the bank Managers are made to lose even their close friendships because of the work pressure! A close relationship built over several years was lost in a minute! I am dedicating this particular episode to the memory of my association with this extraordinary man called Basil Lobo. I wish him all the best wherever he is at present!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy

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