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My sojourn in the coastal district

I left for Mangalore by end of May and for the first time in my career I packed all the household articles and shipped them to Mangalore as I wanted to set up the house there with Jaya and children not wanting to repeat the past mistake of leaving the family back. This time there was no problem with the children’s education as Nimmi had finished her college, Sriram having completed matriculation had to be admitted into the college and Raji was too young to go to school. And Sharada had just been married and had to be left behind with her husband in Bangalore itself to set up a new family for herself.

I had fixed up with the outgoing Branch Manager of the Hampankatta Branch a good house for my stay in Mangalore and he assured me that he would vacate his house before I arrived there so that I could conveniently put all my things in the house and settle down quickly. On his firm assurance only I had planned to take the family with me along with all my household things. But when I landed in Mangalore the gentleman had failed to keep up the promise and I was stranded without any place to stay and download the goods which had come on the same day. He and his family had not vacated the house and had not found an alternate place for my stay. I threatened that I would not take over from him and preferred to return to Bangalore and report to the Regional Office. He begged me to give him three or four days’ time to pack his things and leave. He also offered to get me a portion of his house which had remained locked up for immediate occupation as a stop gap arrangement. In the meantime I had booked for a family room in one of the better hotels in Mangalore until I could occupy the house. I had to request the Branch Manager of another city branch (a lady colleague from Bangalore) to allow me to unload my things in a part of her house for which she agreed. The monsoon had set in and it was raining cats and dogs in the city. We occupied the portion of the house promised by the outgoing B.M. which was so inconvenient. We were four adults and a child and it was hell for about a week before the main house was vacated. My son Sriram was admitted to a college in the city in the pre-University class. Although admissions had been closed I was able to get him the admission as a special case because of his excellent record in the school. Later my little daughter, Raji was also put in the kinter garden school although she was only aged three. Despite the heavy monsoon we managed to settle down.

The shift out of Bangalore had not caused as much heartburn as it did earlier because of two reasons. One was that this time I am taking my family with me, a conscious decision I made after the complete disaster at the time of my last transfer to Bijapur/Ranebennur when I did not take my family along. Secondly, I had for a long time past lost all my initiative and interests in the promotion of sports or any other activities in the Bank as I could see the diminishing interest being shown by the Bank Management in such activities. All recruitments in the sports quota had been stopped, funds allocated had been drastically cut and facilities for practice for the sportsmen curtailed. The once mighty cricket team was struggling to keep itself afloat with aging players unable to perform. And the football and hockey teams which had quietly been performing at the highest levels had turned into a mere shadow of their former glory. They all felt orphaned by my absence from the scene. Since accepting promotion I have been more out of Bangalore than in and I could do nothing about a revival. However I helped who ever came to me for advice in conducting tournaments in the Bank etc. I was happy in merely playing a lot of table tennis and caroms, my favourite indoor games, wherever possible and participated in competitions when invited.

When Inter Branch tournaments were conducted I represented the Branch/Office I was working in at the relevant time. I used to watch our cricket team’s matches in the league and was saddened to see them struggling against even smaller and decrepit teams. This brought to my mind my fears when years ago I saw another fine office team which had been playing in the top division slide down rapidly to the bottom division to eventually being scrapped and I prayed that our team should never experience such a fate. But it was happening right in front of my eyes. I was afraid that it would not be too long before the State Bank team was scrapped from the league altogether.

The Branch was located in the heart of the city and I enjoyed working in this branch. There were a couple of accidents I met while working here. I was commuting to the branch by riding on my moped which I had bought when I was in Bangalore. One day when I was returning home from office in the evening on a busy road a small dog suddenly crossed in front of me and the sudden sight of the dog in my path took me by surprise and the next moment I went sprawling on the road having lost control of the vehicle. It was a miracle that the traffic on the road which takes a sharp turn at 90 degrees at the spot at that particular moment was thin and even the buses that moved on that road at regular intervals were not there. Had that been otherwise I could have come under any of those monsters when I fell from the vehicle with what results I could only imagine. Fortunately a shop owner who saw the accident which happened in front of his shop rushed in and recognizing me immediately shifted me and the vehicle in to his shop. He gave a glass of water to drink. I was in a daze and did not know what was happening. He asked me where I was staying and arranged a car to take me home. Fortunately there were no major injuries on the head or body as my vehicle was a light one and I had intuitively applied the brake to save the poor animal. After reaching home still in a dazed condition I thanked the gentleman for the help. After three days rest I was back on my feet and attended the office. Then there was this incident when one evening I was returning home from work on my moped. It had rained all day and it was already dark when I was approaching the last stretch of road which had a sharp gradient to my residence. As there was a pool of stagnant rainwater in front of his shop the shop owner had kept a big stone to block any approaching vehicle riding through the pool and splash the muddy water on to the shop and its clients every now and then. It was an ingenuous trick adopted by him but as luck would have it I was riding home fast to avoid getting caught in the rain and not noticing the big slab of stone placed on the road I hit it with great speed and was thrown out to a little distance after the impact. Unfortunately my middle finger got caught in a sharp part of the vehicle resulting in a big cut. I held the dangling finger in my hand and after reaching home and taking Sriram along with me went to a nearby Doctor holding in my right hand the profusely bleeding finger which was just hanging on. The doctor immediately performed a minor surgery and stitched the dangling part to the main portion and saved my finger from an ugly mutilation.

It was during this period that in August 1983 my second daughter by Jaya was born. We christened her Supriya, an unusual name in our family. She was a pretty child fair in complexion with curly locks. She was the darling of one and all. Although she was born a Mangalorean her young life did not take off from there as I was again transferred. Mangalore incidentally is also the birthplace of Aiswarya Rai and Shilpa Shetty who later on became famous in the glamour world. Can Supriya become one?

When heading Hampankatta branch as its Manager, I was once sent for training in Man Management at the Ambalamedu Staff Training Centre in Kerala. It was a welcome change for me and I accepted the opportunity with both arms, as it were. The Centre was located in ideal surroundings away from the buzzle of the city. Cochin/Ernakulam was the nearest city and could be reached by bus. On weekends some of us used to spend an evening in the city. There were forty and odd other branch managers also attending the course. There were several sessions touching upon various aspects of man management at the Branch Managers’ level supplemented with practical tasks conducted by the Training Centre’s faculty. I enthusiastically participated in all activities, discussions etc. For relaxation one could indulge in games like table tennis. I used to spend time playing my favourite game with some good players from among my colleagues. At the end of the three weeks’ programme in the last session the participants (about forty in number) were asked to vote for the most popular member of the group by secret ballot. Each one had to fill in a piece of paper the name of their choice. At the end of the exercise the votes were counted and there were only two names. To my pleasant surprise I had polled all but one vote, the one vote going to my rival.

Mangalore to Calicut was only a short distance by rail. And I had visited Calicut many times during my stay in Mangalore and Udupi to see my grand mother and uncles and their families. Sriram traveled up and down daily to attend college after our shift to Udupi on transfer because he had only one more year left to complete his Pre University. There was no point to change college in the middle. Besides travel time by bus between Udupi and Mangalore was just an hour. Sriram was a good student scoring good marks in all subjects consistently. He passed the PUC exams with great distinction scoring 100% marks in all the main subjects Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics in the Public Examination. In fact it was said that he was the first student to score 100% in Physics in the entire history of the College for which he was felicitated by the college at the College Day celebrations. The focus now shifted to getting him admitted to a good engineering college. We had a counseling session at the Engineering College at Panambur and we were offered a seat at the National College of Engineering at Mysore. I escorted him to Mysore and got him admitted to the College and arranged a place for his stay. This is the first time he was living away from me. In the meantime I was seriously planning Nimmi’s marriage too. Just about a year after Supriya’s birth we had another baby coming. Jaya delivered another girl in October 1984 although we were all praying for a boy. She was born in October 1984, a few days before the Nation’s Prime Minister, Mrs.Indira Gandhi was assassinated in Delhi. The nation was in great turmoil. Although born apparently healthy the baby was sick from the moment she was born and on the fifth day we took the baby to a hospital. The child specialist shocked us by saying that the baby had contracted pneumonia and would not have survived had we delayed admitting her into the hospital even by a day. After a week both the mother and the child were discharged to our great relief. We named the child Ambika after Goddess Mookambika of Kollur. As she was born when Supriya had just completed one year it was very difficult for their mother to look after both the babies. Fortunately Nimmi was with us and she shared the responsibility. In fact you could call her the foster mother of Supriya.

I was transferred to Santhekatte branch in Udupi in November 1983 and I welcomed the opportunity to work in the famous temple town of Udupi. Santhekatte was about five to six kilometers from Udupi town but I preferred to stay in Udupi rather than in Santhekatte which was a small rural town and commuted by bus to the branch. It was a medium size branch with moderate deposits and advances mostly to the fishing industry. Malpe the fishing harbour was only a few kilometers from the branch. My regular inspection duties took me to the busy harbour area and it was nauseating to be anywhere near the place because of the stink from mounds of fish captured from the sea and dumped in the vast yards. The only time I went there along with the field officer I literally threw up. My other inspection duties took me to the interiors of the district which was an enjoyable experience. I had also the opportunity to watch other crafts men at work like building fishing boats, brass and bronze ware making and cashew processing. It was something of a coincidence that I was the third branch manager in three successive branches, viz. Sadashivnagar (Bangalore), Hampankatta (Mangalore) and now Santhekatte (Udupi). It so happened that the winner of the President’s Gold Medal Award for Regional Films in Kannada was a resident of this town. He had pledged the Gold Medal at a time of distress with the Branch and had taken a big loan during the regime of an earlier Manager. As there was no or only irregular repayment of the loan or its interest, I sent out a demand notice to the concerned borrower. In the meantime I had the (Gold) Medal verified by a local jeweler but found to my surprise it was grossly overvalued. The gold or what was purported to be gold was just a covering. I had the account closed immediately. My rather short stay in Udupi saw two important events in the family. My last child Ambika was born here and my second daughter Nimmi was given away in marriage here. The famous Sri Krishna Temple in the town attracted lakhs of devotees right through the year. The paryayam ceremony lasting two days in the month of January every alternate year when there was a change of guard in the administration of the temple was an event looked forward to. The various maths attached to the temple took charge of the administration by turns and the heads of these maths had the sole right to worship the Lord for two years. We visited the ancient temple regularly and had partaken in the ceremonial anna dana at the temple on several occasions. The temple has a golden chariot which is a masterpiece of craftsmanship. The legend has it that when Sage Kanakadasa visited the temple he was denied entry as he was a sudra and was stopped at the main entrance. However he went round the temple and prayed from the back side of the prakara when lo and behold, the Lord turned a full 360 degrees to give darshan to the baktha. Devotees even today can have a full view through an opening at the back especially made to commemorate the unusual event. At the sanctum sanctorum itself one has to view the Lord through nine small windows fitted in front of the vigraha.

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