If you are a philatelist, I need not explain what the title means. Though I used to collect stamps, coins and match box labels while I was in the school, I never knew the terms philatelist, numismatist (I still don't know what a collector of match box labels is called ) till I was in the college. But my narration is about a different first day cover connected to my first day in the Bank as a probationary officer.
Before ten in the morning, I reported to the then Regional office of Bank of India at Laxmi Road, Poona (maiden name....!). By 10.30 the office became alive. I went and handed over the appointment letter received from the Bank's head office directing me to report to that office. The dealing officer was very courteous and introduced me to the Chief officer (personnel) who in turn said that I would be posted to Karve Road branch. When asked about meeting the Regional Head, I was told that there would be a formal meeting later.
Since I had walked my way from the temporary place of stay at Deep Bungalow Chowk to Laxmi road that morning, I didn't have much problem in walking again from Sadashiv peth to Erandwane in Karve Road. If I had a smart phone on that day, I would have googled to find out who that great Maharshi Karve was, as I had not known him earlier!
By the time I reached the branch, there was hardly any staff. It took a while for me to reconcile because it was an evening branch with cash hours 2.30 to 6.30 pm. The timings for the staff were from 11.30 am to 7 pm.
Being a novice to banking, everything seemed new to me. The only previous experience with banking was going with my dad for withdrawal of cash and keeping a heavy coin-like thing called token in hand from the time the cheque was handed over till the cash was collected. In between there was an impatient wait for the number of the token being called out by the cashier. What happened behind the counters was not known to me.
The Agent (as the branch head was then called) introduced me to all the staff members. The last to get introduced was one Mr. J who was seen sorting out letters on a big dining table upstairs near the staff room in an unkempt manner.
My mother had instructed me to pray to the family deity for a couple of minutes before starting any work on the first day. When I was made to sit on the transfer counter, the accountant told one of the junior clerks to explain how to go about. For him, it was difficult to make a post graduate in Genetics understand debit or credit. Since it was a predominantly savings branch, he took an easy route of advising me to put all the yellow vouchers on the right and the cheques on the left side of the transfer register. As many figures were not written in English numerals, I had to disturb him quite often. After a few yellow vouchers, there came pink and white vouchers which made the whole transfer writing quite complicated. In the evening, when the sides were totalled up, it didn't tally at all after a couple of trials by me and more trials by others. The mistakes were mainly in the Marathi numerals being written as English look- alikes, eg. four as eight, one as nine and so on.
The final job was to check the day's dispatch. Mr. J had sent me the registers and the envelopes with the advices, letters, etc...I was supposed to verify the addresses on the cover and also see that the contents were appropriate. The total of the stamps used and the balance postage stamps were also to be tallied with the imprest cash kept aside for the purpose of postage. After I verified the covers, they were sealed by Mr. J and entrusted with the branch peon for posting. From the way in which the other colleagues and the peons behaved with Mr. J, I could make out that he was not a very smart guy. They were seen pulling his leg for trivial things for which he retorted with anger.
The second day was very eventful. The brunt of the first day's work haunted me on this day as the daily books were balanced in the forenoon working hours in such evening branches. First of all, more mistakes were discovered in the transfer register. There were mismatches in the voucher pairs which my " teacher" forgot to forewarn me. The second was a bit shocking. While checking the postage stamps stock, another officer found out that the whole lot of postal stamps of rupees three hundred and odd was missing. I was summoned to the Manager's cabin and asked about it. I said that I had counted and confirmed them the previous day. Mr. J also said that he had sealed all the envelopes after my checking and sent them for posting. The peon confirmed that he posted all the covers in the evening itself. Now, it was a riddle where the postal stamps would have gone.....!
A thorough search was made in the dustbins, drawers of the counters and the tables but in vain. At last, the accountant decided debit suspense account and buy new stamps to carry on the day's work and report the matter to controlling office after two days.
I became slightly nervous. Also I was reminded of the fact that I did not pray for two minutes before I started my work as instructed repeatedly by my mother.
The third day, the accountant was on leave. I was asked sit on the table behind the savings counter. At about 12 noon the post man came in. He said in Marathi..." You have to pay a fine to receive this letter....." He handed over an envelope which was slightly heavy. The post man continued " it does not carry any address....from address is yours. That's why it is delivered to you....."
I paid him the fine from my pocket and accepted the cover. When opened the cover, my suspicion turned out to be correct. It was the whole lot of balance of postage stamps which I had checked couple of days earlier.
I had warned Mr. J against keeping the stamps loosely in the tray. I had told him to keep it safe in a cover preferably in a cloth cover used for sending registered letters. Later when he was summoned he confirmed having followed my instructions. But he had done it so well that he had sealed it too.......! The peon promptly took and posted it along with the other envelopes.....!
After confirming that all the missing stamps were received in tact ( which formed almost one third of my monthly salary) I did close my eyes and prayed for five minutes to my family deity and I thanked for saving me from the problem of " first day cover "...