My days in Calcutta
May 28, 2012
During the course of my career with Reserve Bank of India commencing on 11May 1973, I had my first promotion in 1987 when I was transferred to Calcutta office (now Kolkata) from Mumbai. I observed a paradigm shift in terms of attitude and work culture at this new centre. While in Mumbai it was a busy and fast moving life while Calcutta was more laid back and relaxed. Nevertheless, for any one with an open mind who believed in the 3 A mantras---- Accept, Adjust and Appreciate, every work place is an heaven on the earth.
However, before I was taught the above said 3 A mantras, I was appalled by the lack of work culture and an attitude to make the most of filthy surroundings in general by the people of Calcutta. A typical working day (non working day to be precise) in the Reserve Bank of India, Calcutta would start with late coming by many a staff for one reason or another and end with early going for a similar variety of reasons. In between there will 2 to 3 tea breaks and a major lunch break and not to mention about gossip breaks during which time there will be debates on current political happenings, football, cricket etc. Needless to emphasize genuine and quality jobs will be executed in between the above mentioned breaks.
I do vividly remember my early times in the year 1987 (August) when I had just joined the office in Kolkata when my superiors posted me to Enquiry desk of Exchange Control department (ECD).Public often came to this desk for various forms (pre liberalization days).I pointed out to my seniors that people who approach this desk invariably speak in Bengali and I was unable to follow them which defeated the purpose of my sitting in the said desk. However, the department had other ideas which enabled me to pick up Bengali on account of continuous bombardment on my audio systems so to speak. One more episode comes to my mind during my early days in Kolkata when I was taken to task by one of the communist dominated trade unions for taking photo copy of a few documents since this according to them was anti labour .I was then instructed to get the documents typed and get it compared with the original and certify the typed document as “true copy”. I was amused to learn that taking photo copy of any document was anti labour. Be that as it may, I took this in my stride and had a hearty laugh. More fun was in the offing outside the Bank when I walked down from Reserve Bank Building at BBD Baug to Esplanade to catch the underground metro rail to my residence. From a distance I was able to observe a motely crowd of people surrounding a small portion of the park near the Metro station. As I reached close to them I was astonished and a bit disturbed to find that the crowd was amusing itself by feeding hundreds of rats with peanuts in the corner of the park which had many rat holes. Some of the men in the crowd took the rats in their palm and fed them with the other hand. Brave men indeed. Peanut vendors around this place were doing brisk business.
The above experiences remain etched in my memory to this day in view of the initial shock and awe with which I received these in my mind. Nevertheless and again thanks to Kolkata that I learnt the principles of three “A” mantras among many other valuable HR inputs from Shri Aporesh Acharaya, a trainer of great repute, who taught me values of Human Relations when I did one of the HR courses from MILT (Macgreth Institute of leadership Training). I made use of these three A mantras in the office as also in the market place with great success. It is better to ACCEPT a person as he is and ADJUST yourself according to his personality and shower genuine APPRECIATION on him when required. This policy worked wonders for me during my tenure in Reserve Bank of India , Kolkata and helped come out unscathed during a period when left militancy in the trade unions was at its peak and the then Manager of Kolkata office was keen to suspend and dismiss as many activists as possible.
I had a memorable, pleasant and enjoyable time in Kolkata. Further, learning their language(Bengali) helped me considerably in understanding an average employee better and in turn they started appreciating me for making efforts to learn their language. I did not also make any issue about their attending office late or leaving office early as long as they completed the tasks assigned to them. Thus my attitudinal shift in understanding them with the three “A” mantras was indeed magical and created bonding of quality all through.
K V VAIDYALINGAM