The Teflon Boss was transferred a few months later.
My new Boss walked into my cabin at 10am on his first day and said, “No late returns (to head office) and no smell of piss. Make sure of these, and you will do fine by me.”
His next instruction was, “This carpet is worn. Change it.”
Immediately, I arranged for the carpet to be changed. I was assured that it would be done by 8pm that very evening.
Boss came into my cabin at 4pm and asked, “Why has the carpet not been changed?”
I replied, “Yes, it will get done today. You told me to get this done only at this morning”.
The Boss said, “I had asked you at 10 this morning. Now it is 4 o’clock.”
The new Boss was trying to ‘kill the cat on the first night’. Best ignored.
Boss was going on leave for a month, and I would be the acting manager.
When the previous manager was to go on leave, he had made me sit with him two hours every day for a month, giving detailed instructions- on what to do or not to do- while he was away. I had to take lots of notes.
This time around, I asked the new Boss for instructions on how to manage the branch while he was on leave.
He looked at me and asked, “When I am on leave, what will you be?”
“Acting Manager,” I replied.
“So you will f*****g well act, won’t you?”
This was the extent of the instructions!!
Boss is back
The Boss was to return from his leave.
I knew he would inspect the entire building. So I made sure that everything was spick and span.
The Boss spent an hour going around and checking everything. He went to the toilets, the basement and even the terrace. He ran a finger over the tops of cupboards to check for dust.
He checked if the fire extinguishers had been serviced. He looked at every nook and cranny in the staff canteen kitchen. He could not find a single fault with anything.
Finally, he said, “The plants look dead.”
Save the day
The branch had a very profitable and very problematic client- the consulate of an oil-rich Middle Eastern country. It maintained large balances in interest-free current accounts- the profitable bit. The Consul General (CG) was an ………….. - the problematic bit.
I had been warned that the CG was very difficult, very rude and very hard to please. Hence, I went warily for my first courtesy call after taking over as operations manager.
To my great surprise, CG was all charm. He came out from his office to meet me, greeted me with great geniality, took me to his office, offered me kahwa (Arabic coffee) and dates and enquired about my family.
In all, he was a very courteous, pleasant and indeed a charming personality.
The next visit was totally different. CG kept me waiting for a full 93 minutes, spoke to me gruffly, complained bitterly about poor service and literally, threw me out.
Over several visits and unstinting efforts to please, I managed to build a decent relationship with him.
At noon on one Saturday, CG’s office called. They said their office safe was overflowing with cash (soiled notes of a low denomination that were collected as visa fees from hapless labourers), which had to be cleared out immediately, latest by 1.30pm because CG wanted to leave for his lunch and siesta.
That meant we had to go to the consulate, count the cash, give a receipt and clear out mighty fast.
Those days there was no note counting machines. Counting had to be done manually, and unionised staff were not supposed to leave the branch to count cash. So, I had to send officers.
From experience, I knew the drill.
I summoned five officers from various departments, packed them into my car and sent them off. Twenty minutes later, there was a frantic call from one of them – there was a mountain of notes, and five people simply were not enough.
I got hold of another five officers. A car was needed, and the only vehicle available was the manager’s Amby. The manager was in a closed-door meeting with an important client and was not to be disturbed.
Time was running out. I requisitioned the manager’s car, ignoring the protests of his driver, and sent off the next lot of officers with express instructions to send my car back immediately. So that the manager would not be without a car.
At 12.45pm, the manager flew into my office in a towering rage. “Where is my f*****g car?” he demanded.
I explained, but no amount of explanation would satisfy him. He plonked himself on the sofa in my office and continued to berate me about exceeding authority, insubordination and the like.
I had no choice but to listen in silence, hoping and praying that my car would return soon and deliver me from this menace.
At 12.55pm, my car arrived and I could breathe a sigh of relief. “My car is here. Would you please take it? I will send your car to you the moment it arrives.”
But the Boss would not have it.
“I don’t want your f*****g car,” he said, “I want my car.”
He continued to sit on the sofa muttering under his breath while I continued signing vouchers, pay orders, demand drafts and the like.
From time to time, someone or the other would enter my office to deliver or pick up papers, and the manager would say, “Don’t be too surprised to see me here at (glancing at his watch) 1.07 on a Saturday afternoon. It is because he (pointing at me) has chosen to send away my f*****g car without even asking me.”
Things continued in this vein until the blessed moment, 1.17pm to be exact when the f******g car arrived, whereupon the manager stomped out of his office to attend to his (belated and perhaps ruined) lunch and siesta.
At 1.27 pm, I got a call from the consulate. My officer said, “All finished, Sir. CG is very happy and he thanked us.”
All is well that ends well!!
(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.)