K Joseph was a middle-aged, God-fearing, peace-loving and quiet character. He was the 'wouldn’t hurt a fly' type of chap, and I doubt he had ever raised his voice to anyone in all his life. He was a credit officer in one of our larger branches.
Joseph yelling at a customer? Impossible.
But T did not think so. He waved a piece of paper at me, which turned out to be a complaint letter from an irate customer, who accused Joseph of rudeness and yelling.
I would have dismissed the letter as a frivolous allegation from a disgruntled customer whose loan request had been turned down.
But T wouldn’t.
“Such behaviour is unacceptable. Simply unacceptable!!!” T thundered. “Joseph must be terminated immediately.”
With some difficulty, I persuaded T not to wield the axe right away and to give the poor chap a hearing.
T relented, and summons went out to Joseph – come and meet T at 9am the next day.
Joseph was shattered by the summons. It could mean only one thing – T would tear him to pieces and terminate him.
He cried his heart out before his astounded branch manager and went to seek the only way out of this catastrophe – divine intervention.
He went straight to Church and prayed.
In the meantime, I made enquiries and found that my guess was correct. The complaining customer had a history of overdue repayments, going back on his assurances, complaining about staff et al.
I decided that Joseph had to be rescued. But appealing to T would be futile – he just wouldn’t listen. So, I called the branch manager and asked him to intervene.
He agreed, and late in the evening he called me to say that he had explained the whole matter to T and that T had understood the real position. Joseph was off the hook.
But poor Joseph did not know this.
He had been in Church the whole day, right up to midnight, praying. Early the next morning, he was back in Church, chanting countless Ave Marias.
There were no mobile phones those days and Joseph could not be contacted.
I was in T’s office at 8.15 the next morning bearing witness to a series of harangues as T called in several chaps from the bills department, one by one, thundered at him and threw him out only to start on the next unhappy soul.
Joseph was sitting in the ante chamber outside T’s office, listening to the proceedings, and awaiting his turn for execution.
At last, it was 9am. T’s secretary ushered in a trembling Joseph.
T rose from his chair, hitched up his trousers and fixed his glare on the sacrificial victim.
“You are K Joseph?’ he boomed.
Joseph could only nod, his mouth agape at what was to come next.
“I am told you are doing a fine job. Jassim (branch manager) assures me that you are one of his best. This customer – it seems he is just a complaining type, not to be heeded.”
Joseph could not say a word. He simply did not believe what he was hearing.
“Well done, my boy. Keep it up,” said T and stretched out his hand.
Far from shaking hands with T, Joseph turned and ran out of the room. Instinct told him to run before T changed his mind and terminated him.
T turned to me and, with a perplexed look, said “Funny chap. I was only being nice!”
Joseph became a fervent believer in the power of prayer.
The Restorer of Faith
T’s 'bone to pick this day' was – filing cabinets.
The credit card department had asked for three new filing cabinets, a totally unjustified request in T’s opinion. He called in seven people, one by one, and yelled at them.
“You nincompoops don’t know how to use storage space. You save useless paper and stuff all the cabinets with them. You just want to spend the bank’s money, not earn it…”
The people waiting in the queue for T’s bashing did not know aforehand what had got T’s goat. After getting pasted, each person was bundled out of T’s office by his watchful secretary before he had a chance to talk to the others who were waiting.
As a result, each victim entered the lion’s den without knowing what the subject matter was, only that T was in a particularly vile mood.
The last man in was Pesi Billimoria, an elderly clerk with a balding pate and thick glasses that kept sliding over his long thin nose.
By the time he had got to T, he was shaking with fear, as a result of which his responses were entirely automatic, and truthful.
It didn’t pay to lie to T – he always found out.
“And what do you do?” bellowed T.
“I go through the daily activity report (DAR), Sir.”
To explain, the DAR was a voluminous printout, many pages long, listing every credit card transaction in the previous 24 hours.
“I mark all the unusual transactions and send the report to the operations manager, Sir.”
“When the report comes back, I put it in the filing cabinet, Sir.”
T had the scent in his nose. Another instance of paper being stored for no reason!!
“In the afternoon, Sir, the cleaners come.”
“I take out the report from seven days back, and make them shred it, Sir”.
T raised his hands in joy.
“Glory be to Heaven,” he said, “there is at least one man, who understands storage.”
“You have restored my faith in humanity, my friend. Thank you very very much.”
Pesi left T’s office completely bewildered. What had he said that got him praise while all the others had been pasted?
He shook his head. “Aa manasa paagal chhe”.
(Deserting engineering after a year in a factory, Amitabha Banerjee did an MBA in the US and returned to India. Choosing work-to-live over live-to-work, he joined banking and worked for various banks in India and the Middle East. Post retirement, he returned to his hometown Kolkata and is now spending his golden years travelling the world (until Covid, that is), playing bridge, befriending Netflix & Prime Video and writing in his wife’s travel blog.)