Ramesh was the senior-most officer in the branch where I was operations manager, 40 years in service and counting.
His childhood ambition was to join the army, but (un)luckily his colour blindness was spotted in the medical examination and he was rejected. His uncle got him a clerk’s position in a small Dutch bank where he was the head clerk.
After Independence, the Dutch officers left one by one and Indians were promoted to fill their places, Ramesh being one of the lucky promotees. Years later, the bank was taken over by our multi-national bank and Ramesh rose steadily to his current position as officer-in-charge (OIC) - deposits.
Unfortunately, good old Ramesh was just too much of a ‘nice guy’ to be a manager. He could never see the big picture and actually manage his department. His staff knew how to take advantage of this. They would create problems like “Clearing is not balancing” and Ramesh would rush to sit with the tapes and cheques and ‘manage’ to make everything tally. As a result, the department was in disarray and there was nothing I could do, short of doing the job myself, to get Ramesh to manage.
Things came to a head when the audit report listed several glaring faults in the deposits section. I called Ramesh to my office to tell him what he needed to do to rectify them.
Halfway through the (one-sided) discussion, Ramesh threw up his hands.
“Mujh se hoga nahi, Sir” (I can’t do this, Sir) he moaned. “I am 58 years old, two years from retirement. I am just working to make a living.”
“You are wrong, Ramesh, you are working for free,” I replied.
At this stage. I must confess that I had an ulterior motive. Ramesh was the ‘weakest link’ amongst all the officers in my branch. As long as he was around, things would never go right. But, if he could be made to retire...
I explained to Ramesh that:
- If he retired after 40+ years of service, he would be entitled to a pension amounting to over two-thirds of his current pay. (The formula was: pension = last drawn salary X years of service/60)
- On retirement, he would get a big chunk of money as provident fund, accumulated over the years. Invested in a fixed deposit in the bank (at staff rate, 1% over the normal rate), this would yield approximately 43% of his current pay.
Net result – if Ramesh retired tomorrow, he would get in hand a little more than his current salary. He was really 'working for free'.
Ramesh’s facial expression showed distrust at first, then comprehension, amazement and, finally, thoughtfulness. He nodded and without another word he left my office.
Gotcha, I said to myself. The fish has taken the hook.
The next morning, at 9am sharp, Ramesh handed in his resignation and application for VRS (voluntary retirement scheme).
The next I heard was that he had put his entire PF money into producing a film in his (regional) language. His son was an actor and Ramesh was going to launch him into the big league.
Everyone I have told this story to has shaken his head at this point and said “Poor guy. What folly!” or words to that effect.
But wait, things didn’t turn out the way they anticipated.
Ramesh’s first movie featured his son as hero, script writer and director. It was a rollicking comedy, complete with jilted-lover-finds-new-love, hero-bashes-villain, sexy dance numbers in authentic style and many blue jokes that barely cleared the censors. The audience in the C and D towns in his state simply loved it. It was a super-duper hit.
With the money made in this film Ramesh produced his second movie - same formula with a few tweaks: two heroines instead of one, more fights, a court battle and a crying mother.
Another super hit.
These two films had generated so much entertainment tax that the state government financed 90% of the cost of his third film.
Ramesh never looked back.
When he was next in Mumbai he came to see me, the epitome of a movie producer – safari suit, white shoes, 'phoren' car and a packet of State Express 555 prominently peeping out of a pocket.
“I will never forget what you did for me, Sir,” he said “and I will always be grateful to you. You showed me my destiny.”
Well, that was not my intention – I had an ulterior motive.
But what the hell! Win-win all around, great.
My new OIC-deposits had cleared all the audit points in three months.
(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.)