THE CHURNING OF THE OF OCEAN OF LIFE - MY OWN
STORY PART 11 - GAME OF LADDERS AND SNAKES
BEGINS IN RIGHT EARNEST- SNAKE II
Prologue to the Part 11
In the last part ( Part 10) I mentioned that I had a running feud with the Corporate honchos M/S Progressive Constructions Pvt. Ltd., owned by the family of Sri K.S.Rao, ex- Minister and MP from Congress party (now,unfortunately in BJP). It was no surprise, then, bankers are still on the streets regarding the overdue accounts of this Company even after three decades plus. (exceeding Rs.1000 crores)
Back in the 1980s, may be around 1983-84, M/S Progressive Constructions Pvt., Ltd., floated a sister concern, a Proprietary Firm, Hyderabad Builders, mainly for the purpose of carrying out construction of commercial and residential complexes. One such residential complex was Asiana Apartments in AC Guards, Opposite Sarojini Devi eye hospital, in a prime locality. They raised a Term Loan of Rs. 30.00 lakhs from our Bank, our Branch, where I was Sub-Manger by then.(I was mere 30 years age then, hot in blood). Unlike Cash Credit accounts, in term Loans, debits and credits are not permitted on running basis. After one month of disbursing the loan the firm got a cheque of Rs.15.00 lakhs from IDBI, that they credited to the loan account. Shockingly after one month, the firm approached us to disburse the Rs.15.00 lakhs again. I refused. My Manger stood solidly behind me. There was a call from Chairman's secretariat. For one full day, there were heated exchange of words. I asked a written communication from them. They refused. I stood ground, so too my Manager. But, finally, we received Telex Instructions next day. We disbursed the amount. So they got interest benefit for a month on Rs.15.00 lakhs and and also got back their part loan, against all norms of banking. On instructions from HO, we violated RBI guidelines.
The loan account became overdue. Dues mounted to Rs.40.00 or 45.00 lakhs. The firm made a proposal. They had six unsold flats in the Asiana apartments. These were unsold, as they were on ground (abutting the parking lot) and first floors and were not preferred in a posh locality. Window panes were made with iron and ordinary glasses were fitted to the windows. Any passerby can see through the glasses into the bed rooms of Managers. Bath rooms had the cheapest fittings. By the time our bank purchased the apartments, half the pumps were leaking. Paint was peeling off. After all, they were lying unsold for more than a year and we bought them to make their accounts regular. All in the game, no retribution. No car parking was available. Our Management meekly succumbed and purchased those unsalable apartments just to close the loan account. Managers were allotted those flats. No Manager was owning a car then. They occupied the flats without murmur. I remained a "stone in the slippers' of the company officials and owners. These powerful politicos were in a position to get loans and make the banks cough up the loan amount for cheap flats sold at high end rates. People like me lost in the game. I will again come back on the subject, when I come to the 1980s and my tryst with destiny in Hyderabad.
My working life at Mandipet, Davangere was full of successes except a sore note or two in the middle. It surprised many, including the otherwise skeptical Regional Manager. He could not, though unwillingly, but quote me in every Branch visit he was making in the region. "See that officer! Ask him any transaction! He will repeat with date and figures. When you visit Davangere, meet him without fail and learn his working style." was his refrain to the officers and Managers in every Branch. By the mid 1980, I was a house-hold name in the Region, so much so that when I took initiative to revive the defunct Officers' Organization in the Region in 1980, I needed no introduction.
The second most exhilarating experience in my entire career in those parts was the next day after I was relieved. We were traveling by bus to Hospet to catch a train for a final journey from Kaarnataka. The bus was scheduled at 10.30 AM, the time Branch used to open. But the entire clerical and sub-ordinate staff, a few customers and few staff of PB Road Branch were in the bus station to say "Good Bye" to me. Branches started functioning at 11.30 AM that day. Customers did not object. Both Mr.Shivayogappa and Maheswarappa bid a tearful farewell to us. It was an unforgettable experience. I dared "where eagles dare" and came out with flying colors.
Back to the story. I was reverted to my parent branch, from a successful stint in PB Road Branch on deputation. The skepticism with which an officer on training used to receive when he joined a new Branch was absent as I already earned a name "the young man with brain and brawn," The incumbent Manager resigned from the Bank as he was facing charges and a meek looking, just on verge of retirement, extremely talented and good Manager, Sri Perodi Vasuddeva Rao took charge. He was non-controversial, always available for advice and highly knowledgeable man, but did not get promoted because he caste and nativity were barriers. That is banking for those, who do not know. Nothing changed much in the way the banks are run, I feel.
Two or three incidents during my service here are worth mentioning. Shivayogappa was basically a good-natured man, yet times cranky. I had a mathematical talent. I used to total a hundred numbers just looking at the figures and not using pen or pencil to note the carry forward figures. My ledger checking, hence used to take only 20% of the time the other officers used to take. I used to count cash so fast that it was a treat to onlookers. Shivayogappa, after we became good friends, challenged me one day that he would write figures in such a way that I would falter in totaling. He copied figures in zigzag fashion, writing 1000s in 100s column, 10s in 100s column etc., I totaled it with the same speed and precision. He only helped my stock among staff and officers improve further.
We used to have two pigmy deposit collectors (Janata Deposit) attached to the branch. Commission earned on their daily collections was their income. Soon after I gained control over the branch, I made it a point to check their collection register first and dispose them, whatever work on hand. This gave them more time to go for next day collections. Previously officers used to make them sit for hours in the Branch.My immediate identification with the problems faced by the low level employees gave them encouragement and these two were present in the bus stop on the day of my final journey with a humble gift.
We used to have to sub-ordinate staff in the Branch, Shivappa Setty and Rukmaiah Setty. Both were Telugu speaking. But the two used to be in two Unions. Once, there was a personality clash between them. It took Trade Union turn. immediate casualty was Branch work. Me and Manager tried to resolve the dispute but it only extended. After one month the issue was unresolved. Physical filing of papers was the worst casualty. I was finding it difficult to retrieve a paper. So, one fine morning, i woke up and came to the Branch at 6 AM, (I was staying in the portion attached to the Branch). My wife was shocked not to find me in the house but knew I would be in the Branch and brought coffee and breakfast there only. By 10 AM I completed filing, went home, dressed up and came back to the branch. The attenders saw this, the elder one Shivappa practically fell on my feet, both came to me together and took a vow that they would never quarrel and trouble me in future. They stood by their word. This was great experience. I replicated this in almost all branches and succeeded in winning the hearts, through my silence and my capacity to do any work without hesitation.
More on Davangere and Karnataka experiences in the Part 12, with my tussle with big Corporate honchos as Prologue.