Thoughts & Ideas

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kursela Days 1 – Getting There



Sometime late in 1987 I received a letter advising me that I had successfully completed my probationary period of two years in State Bank of India and was now a confirmed, permanent employee of the Bank. My joy was short lived as I (along with the rest of my batch mates) came to know that the Bank’s management had taken a decision to the effect that “all probationers were to be posted to rural branches notwithstanding any constraints”. It seems that the Government of India had issued directives that all bank employees should mandatorily spend at least 2 years posted at rural centers. Consequently, my bank had decided that it would be best if its employees did their rural stint in the beginning of their career when they were young and, hopefully still idealistic and before they became burdened with family responsibilities. This is how I came to be posted to a place called Kursela, in Katihar District in Bihar.

By local standards, Kursela was a fairly large, well connected village with direct road links through a National Highway to Patna, Purnea, Siliguri etc. It was also on the main broad gauge railway line connecting Patna to Jalpaiguri, though only a few passenger trains stopped there. Geographically, it was located at the intersection of the Kosi with the Ganges and fishing was a fairly well established industry with a couple of factories producing ice to enable freezing of fish before transportation to places like Calcutta (yes those were the days when Kolkata was known as Calcutta), Siliguri, Patna etc. The village had a high school, a Government Primary Health Centre, and branches of 2 banks. There was a huge palace belonging to the ex-zamindar of the place, though it now looked somewhat neglected and shabby. Other than that there were few pucca houses. And wonder of wonders the village had an airstrip with a hangar in which two small planes were parked. The planes had not flown for as long as local people could remember. It belonged to the family of the ex-zamindar and, with some members of the extended family down to moving about on bicycles, it was improbable that the planes would ever fly again. Kursela also had a cold storage facility for storing potatoes, and the State Bank branch was located in the annex of the cold store.

I was congratulated by all my friends and well wishers on being lucky enough to get posted to such an easily accessible place. It being small matter that going to Patna, the State Capital took 12 to 14 hours by road to travel some 250 odd kms, and the nearest decent urban centre was Siliguri which was also about the same distance though traveling time was a little less.

On confirmation, I was initially asked to report to the Regional Office in Purnea from where I got orders to report to Kursela Branch. I had, meanwhile, shifted to a friend’s house in Purnea and so decided to commute daily to Kursela from Purnea, the distance being only 50 odd kms down National Highway 31. Branch timings were from 10 am to 5.30 pm. On my first day at my new posting, I reached the Purnea Bus Stand by about 8 am and found a bus which would take me to Kursela and would start by 8.30 am. The commuting time to Kursela was about an hour and so I reached quite comfortably by about 9.30 am. After a little enquiry I reached the Branch which was about half a km from the Highway, a little before 10 am and presented myself to my new boss, the Branch Manager who gave me a pleasant welcome and made me feel very important. After the initial pleasantries, and offer of water, paan, and then tea (in that order), all the staff members trooped in to be introduced to me. The expression on their face suggested that they were meeting some kind of unique specimen, which I could not really understand at that moment. It was only later, when I developed friendship with them, did I come to know that the look of wonder emanated from the fact that they had never met a directly recruited officer earlier and had some quaint ideas as to how such human beings looked and behaved.

That evening, by the time it was about 4 pm, i.e., much before the official branch closing time, the Branch Manager suggested that I should pack up and leave for Purnea. I was a little hesitant to leave early but, since work for the day seemed to be over, I agreed. This is when I had my first surprise. The entire staff of the branch, starting from the Branch Manager to the guard, messenger, canteen boy and all the clerks and officers in between escorted me down to the Highway from where I was to catch the bus. They even waited till I got onto the bus! Since there was no regular bus service from Kursela, going to Purnea involved standing beside the highway and trying to flag down a passing bus and getting into one which deigned to stop. It was normal to wait fom one to one-and-a-half hours every evening trying to catch a bus back to Purnea. The mystery on being escorted to catch the bus soon became clear – sheer courtesy. The Branch Manager commuted daily from Purnea where he had his own house and where his family stayed and, so, leaving the branch by 4 pm was his daily routine.

2 Comments:

  • At 5:04 AM , Blogger Prasad said...

    Nice one Sushil.... this reminds me of my first day in State Bank of Mysore, Sira, Tumkur...some 26 years back though I joined there as a clerk... keep writing, u may one day inspire me to start !!!

     
  • At 8:25 AM , Anonymous jaye said...

    wow

     

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