I reached office at 8.30 one morning to find my head peon waiting for me at the door. This was most unusual, because he was not on duty until 10.30. Besides, he had a very worried look.
“Bahut gadbad ho gaya, Saab” (a big mess has happened, Sir) he said and told me the story.
One of my officers was a young British woman, on her first posting after training. I knew that she had struck up a friendship with a recently married female clerk in her section. It seemed that the previous evening there was some urgent work to be completed and this officer had asked the clerk to stay back and finish the work. The clerk had protested saying she was not feeling well and did not want to stay.
Not knowing what to do, the officer went to the male operations manager for help. (Yes, I have mentioned him in earlier episodes). He could, and should, have easily resolved this petty issue, but he sent the officer off saying that he did not want to be bothered with such a trivial matter, and that she should figure out a solution by herself.
The young officer went back to her desk and declined permission for the clerk to leave. Not able to resist, the clerk stayed on, completed the job, and went home late.
That night she had a miscarriage, her very first pregnancy.
Her cousin was a junior member of the union committee, an aspirant to replace the venerable Vasant Munde as the union leader.
On hearing the sad news, he spotted a great opportunity to be one up on Mr Munde.
He hatched a plan to stir up a great shindig about the brutal management causing grievous loss to an oppressed co-worker and, in the process, demonstrate how he would be a more strident leader, much more effective than the ageing Vasant Munde, who was in collusion with the management, and so forth.
Overnight, word had filtered through the grapevine to my head peon, who was an ardent supporter of Mr Munde and, by now, a bit fond of me too. Hence, he had decided to give me prior warning.
I realised that this thing could blow up, if not doused quickly.
I rushed to my car and went to the hospital where the young woman had been admitted, picking up a huge bouquet of flowers on the way. I also told my head peon to call the bank doctor, who was a gynecologist as well, to meet me at the hospital ASAP.
At the hospital, I worked swiftly. I met the woman, gave her the flowers, held her hand, consoled her, told her she would have many healthy babies in the years to come, and moved her to a private room at the bank’s expense.
The bank doctor arrived, examined her and said that she would be fine. In the meantime, my car had fetched her husband. I worked on him too and mollified him – these things happened, he agreed.
I was back at the bank just in time to catch Mr Munde when he arrived. I briefed him about the preceding events, the actions I had taken and (in an aside) the nefarious plan being hatched against him.
Mr Munde was smart. He caught on and instantly worked out what had to be done. He took the woman’s husband to meet her colleagues, explained the situation, enumerated the action taken and thus, very quickly, established that all was well and that there was no need for any fuss. The would-be aspirant to the union throne looked on in chagrin.
The union leader had saved me, just as I had saved him.
Mutually supportive! Wouldn’t you agree?
(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.)