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Ownership Quandary......
Reminiscence

Ownership Quandary......

Durgadas P.V.

Probation time as a direct recruit officer in a bank was a learning period for me. I was made to sit at every seat of the bank branch including cash counter. The work at the clearing house where cheques were exchanged between the banks was a really challenging experience. Similar was the counting of cash on a busy day. The posting as the custodian of the safe deposit vault was considered a lazy job. But when I was assigned to that seat during the festival season, it got transformed to be a tiresome affair. The vault was in the basement. Each time for giving access by applying the master key, I had to go up and down at least twenty steps. At the end of the day just preceding Diwali, the attendance was about one hundred. Imagine the condition of climbing two thousand steps on a single day though not in one stretch.

But the trouble started after the banking hours. As we went to close the vault, we found a small ornament lying on the floor near the door. As per procedure, a report was made duly signed by the custodian. The item was kept in a sealed envelope in the safe. A ‘ call letter ‘ was sent to all who visited the vault on that day with a view to find the person who has lost the item. Needless to add, almost all persons who visited the vault on that day were of the fairer sex…… who else needed ornaments !

A couple of days later, ladies started calling on the branch in response to our communication. Some people called over telephone and ascertained the matter. Some customers were prompt enough to say that they have not lost anything. Many wanted to know the description of the item found. The full description of the ornament was not disclosed as it would invite more claimants. Many ladies came to the branch once again to open the locker to confirm if there was any loss. A few of them did give ambivalent and pretentious replies like “ you see, my daughter-in-law has so much jewelry …. we are not sure as to whether she has lost it or not…..” . By that time it was known outside the branch that the piece of jewelry was a part of a pair of studs with a diamond. I did not know how the matter got leaked out. But I was almost sure that the subordinate staff who helped in sealing the item before it was kept in the safe was the culprit. Those days, even calculators were hardly used. Computers and surveillance cameras were unheard of. But nothing escaped the hawk like eyes of certain staff members and their memory discs with unlimited storage space….!

Within a week’s time , we had at least five claimants for the item. They were called to the branch one by one to get the detailed description to find out the real owner. One of the lady staff also helped me in interviewing and questioning them as I did not know the local language. At the end of the screening process, there were two ladies who vehemently made claims for the stud. There were even threats from one among them to lodge a police complaint if the decision was delayed beyond one or two days.......! I never thought the problem would take such a turn. I could find out from the lady colleague that the stud was one of its kind worn in the nose. My suggestion to ask for the pair to find out the rightful owner was thus ruled out. The only alternative was to find out another decisive method to find out whose claim was genuine.

By now, the staff union also started making some vague remarks about the way in which the matter was handled. My manager told me to sort out the matter amicably so that it would not figure in the next union meeting……! To my surprise, I realized how far and deep, the unionism had vitiated the working of the bank……! I was worried about getting a bad remark in my monthly progress report during probation. That night I did not get not get proper sleep. The first thing I did in the morning was to request the manager to break the seal of the envelope to verify the nature of the stud. When I saw the stem of the stud, it was hollow with grooves within. I almost cried out ‘Eureka Eureka‘. I sent word for both the ‘claimants’ to bring the threaded screw back of the stud so that the rightful owner could be found out. As expected, only one lady could dare to come with the conclusive proof………! The lady was handed over the piece of jewelry against a proper written acknowledgment. Before leaving the branch, she thanked all of us profusely. She even wore it on her nose. I heaved a great sigh of relief.

If it had happened today, I would have clicked a selfie with her ……

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Rejoinder…….

The story was the basis for my getting the nickname of Solomon among a few of my colleagues.....!

Later I got information that the wrong contestant who ‘reached‘ the final round was an interested party of the informer. I thanked my stars for giving me a way out, so that the dummy player had to give a walkover in the decisive final round.