T had a running battle with the other general manager (GM), a national from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who managed a subsidiary bank.
The two GMs would bicker all the time, and I was in the middle because as head of credit for both banks I was reporting to both.
Every day I would hear them cursing each other.
T would say “That little twit in a frock……”. (T meant the kandoora, also known as dishdasha, a clean, crisp robe, which the other GM, being a UAE national, always wore.)
The other GM would say “Woh harami gora…….” (That bastard whitey).
(The other GM had spent quite a few years in India, due to which he preferred to talk to me in Hindi.)
Matters came to a head when the bickering escalated to writing nasty letters to each other.
Unfortunately, both GMs wanted me to write their letters!
T started it.
“Draft a letter for me, my boy, a really strong letter – to that little twit in a frock.”
I had to draft this letter, you understand. If I refused, T would explode.
At the same time, I knew that when the letter reached the other GM, he would tell me to write a reply.
Therefore, while preparing the letter for T, I had to keep in mind what I would reply on behalf of the other GM.
I also had to be careful about the language I used. If the letter from the other GM was written in the same type of language as T’s letter, I would be exposed. T would know that I was a sort of “double agent”.
I had to write the two letters in two different styles of English.
I prepared the letter for T in “classical” English, using phrases such as:
- Having considered the position in its entirety I am of the view that ….
- With regard to the possible detrimental impact on our operations arising from your failed policies ….
- I hasten to add that your actions will percolate to our international operations with disastrous results…..
T liked it!
“Good job, my lad” he said. He did make a few cosmetic changes, of course, but the letter went off almost as I had drafted it.
Next morning the other GM summoned me and showed me the “letter from T.”
“Yeh badmash shaitan gora ne ek letter bheja hai. Is ka jawab banao. Bada takatwala jawab chahiey.” (This bastard devil whitey has sent a letter. Prepare a reply. It must be a very strong reply.)
Now I had to write a reply on behalf of the other GM.
I had mentally prepared what my reply, to my own letter, should be.
The language was different:
- You always talking for your branches. Why not my branches?
- I am GM, you are GM. We talk and we make policy together.
- I no agree your idea for international branch. My people do good business with Hindi, Paki, Saudi. Maybe your branches learn from my branches.
The other GM was delighted with the reply I had drafted.
“Mabrook”, he said. “Woh sala gora ko achha sabak milega.” (Well done! That bastard whitey will get a good lesson.)
The reply went off.
In minutes I was summoned by T.
He was shaking with rage.
“Look at this nonsense that that little twit in frocks has written! He can’t even write English!”
I cooled him down and suggested that we send a fitting reply to this deplorable missive.
Away went another letter.
“I fervently wish that you, being a fellow general manager, had been endowed with the perspicacity to appreciate the import of the issues that I had enumerated in my previous letter, and the possible impact of ……………”
Back came the reply (written by me, of course).
“My branches doing very good job. My bank doing very well. If international branch no doing well you responsible……”
The letters kept going up and down for two weeks.
Thank God the managing director, to whom all these letters had been copied, stepped in.
He separated the banks.
That created the next issue.
T’s Devious Test
I heard from the grapevine (secretaries, of course – my Betty was the leader of the clan, and nothing escaped her attention) that the two GMs were in the MD’s office discussing the split of the central head office functions, primarily credit and operations.
I was on tenterhooks. Which GM would I land up with?
This matter was finalised at a tri-partite meeting in the MD’s office that morning.
The other GM’s office was closer to the MD’s office than T’s office was. After the meeting was over, he got back to his office before T did, and called me.
“Dono bank alag ho gaya”, the other GM said. (The two banks have been separated.)
“Mabrook”, I replied, “Ab woh gora aap ko nahi satayega”. (Congratulations. Now that whitey can’t bother you.)
“Shukran, Shukran”, the GM said “Mujhe chahiye tha ki tum mere saath raho, lekin woh kambakth gora ne nahi mana. Tum-ko woh gora ka saath hi rahna padega”. (Thank you, thank you. I wanted you to be with me, but that bastard whitey didn’t agree. You will have to be with him.)
“Meri bad-kismat”, I said “Lekin aap ne mujhe saath rakhna chaha, is ke liye bahut bahut shukriya”. (My bad luck. But, thank you so much for wanting to keep me with you.)
I put the phone down, and immediately it rang again.
T was on the line.
“We have sorted out things with the MD”, he said. “The two banks will be separated and credit and operations will be split.”
“I see”, I said.
“That twit in the white frock asked for you”, said T, “and I have agreed”.
“Oh!” I said.
“What does ‘Oh’ mean?” asked T.
“Yours is the bigger bank, Sir”, I said. “I would much rather be with you. But if you have agreed to let me go to the other bank, I have to accept it.”
“Don’t be silly, my dear lad. What would I do without you? You shall be with me.”
This was T’s Machiavellian test of loyalty, which I passed by a whisker.
(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.)