The natural law of life says that everyone, irrespective of his status in life, must die one day. The natural law of office life says that everyone, irrespective of his position in the hierarchy in the organization, must retire. So it was that M retired from the Bank.
Several Indians believe in life after death. It is therefore not surprising that several officials too reappear in the corporate firmament in a new avatar. So was it that M, came to be given a senior assignment in a small private sector bank. He thought it necessary to revamp the systems in his new perch. The obvious shortcut was to implement the time-tested systems in vogue in the bank he had worked for earlier.
For this, he needed the copies of the important circulars and checklists so that he could bring out similar publications in his bank. He called on P, his erstwhile colleague, a General Manager now, who extended the usual courtesies. Upon knowing the purpose of M's visit, P sent word for Y, an officer in charge of a certain department and asked him to get copies of the materials that M wanted.
While M waited, tea and snacks were served and old threads picked up. In about fifteen minutes, Y was back with the papers.M glanced though the material and observed, ‘But these cover only agriculture. How about Small scale insustries?’ P replied, ‘Oh, that area is looked after by another officer; let me call him.’
That was how I was summoned to the GM’s cabin, unaware of the presence of the other two – M and Y. The sight of the unexpected guest surprised me. Though not too pleased with the encounter, I reminded myself, ‘KTR, you are in the cabin of the GM, not with M who chaired your promotion interview, but with M, the guest of the GM. This is not the time to bring up the past, KTR. Rein in your temper, KTR, and behave yourself!’
P, who had genuinely believed that M and I had not met earlier (After all, I was a junior officer in a branch far away from Trivandrum when M was GM), introduced the two of us to each other for good order’s sake. P said, ‘KTR, you would, of course, know M. But Mr M, you may not know KTR. He is one of our bright young officers. He has just been promoted. And he has been nominated for a plum post.
Extending my hand, I said, ‘Pleased to meet you, sir.’ Pretending that he had not seen my extended hand, he turned to P and said, Don’t I know KTR? This bright spark was in a bit of a spot with his boss. But for my timely intervention, a disciplinary case of insubordination would have been slapped up against him. And he will agree that but for me, he would not have been promoted.’
I could take no more. I rose from the chair I was sitting on, drew up to my full height. Livid with rage, I replied, ‘I guess Mr M, that you memory is failing you.’ Turning to my GM, I requested, ‘Sir; I will need five minutes to refresh the memory of Mr M.’
Without giving P the time or option to take a decision on my request, I turned to Mr M and fired my salvo. ‘It was not because of you, but in spite of you that I was promoted. And my respect for the boss who displayed integrity in conveying the adverse remarks to me is greater than for you who played a confidence trick on me.’
Not heeding the frantic gesticulations of P, I proceeded to narrate the story I had related in 'A Trip to Hell - Parts I and II' and added, ‘So, what you did was to extract an apology from an unsuspecting junior officer by promising him that the confidential report would be amended, and then magnanimously pardon him, with a veiled threat to use that note of apology against him.’
Pushing away the left hand of Y who was giving me a hard pinch on my thigh in his bid to control me, I continued, ‘And in the interview that you chaired, the only words you allowed me to utter were the greetings on entry into the chamber. After that you took over, narrated your version of the above story to the other members of the interview panel, and sealed my fate.‘Now, Mr M, tell me if it was your timely intervention that I was spared of the disciplinary case and whether you were instrumental in my promotion.’
When I finished, P asked me to sit down. I thanked him and took my seat. Realising that no business could be transacted with me in that foul a mood, P said, ‘We’ll meet later.’
As I stepped out, M extended his hand and said, ‘Let bygones be bygones. Forget the past. Let us part as friends.’
It was my turn to withhold my hand. I replied, ‘I cannot let SOME bygones be bygones. You are my sworn enemy and we shall remain so.’
With those words, I stomped out. I do not recall if I banged the door behind me.