Thursday, March 30, 2017

Security Verification

The young Assistant Manager was eager to acquire the knowledge and skills required to make him an efficient bank manager and leader. His first posting as an officer was in a big metropolitan branch. He was one among the nearly hundred staff members in the branch as computerization was not heard in those days. He did not have any opportunity to work in loans department. His promotion as assistant manager and posting to a medium sized rural branch was personally inconvenient to him. But he was encouraged by the chances coming his way to learn many new things. He proceeded to the new place of posting with lot of hope and expectations.

The young man was welcome by his branch manager and given charge of the loans department. The well experienced branch manager started grooming the assistant in right earnest, to shoulder his responsibilities. He was first initiated into processing of loan applications, scrutinize information provided by the applicants, assess loan eligibility and sanction process. Analyzing and accepting securities offered by the prospective borrowers followed soon. Obtaining documents for sanctioned loans and method of disbursing the loan amounts was the next step. The young assistant manager was now confident of handling small and medium sized loan requests on his own and place the cases before branch manager with his recommendations.

The branch's annual inspection was due any day now and the branch manager was preparing the young assistant to face his first inspection confidently. All aspects of a branch's working were checked and verified by these inspectors and the process went on for two to three weeks. Inspection days were difficult for branch functionaries as they had to manage attending to inspectors in addition to the regular bank work. Attitude and working methods of the inspectors was also a cause of concern for branch managers. Some inspectors were indeed difficult to work with, while some others were more understanding and co-operative. 

Inspectors were deputed by the bank's Inspection Division at Head Office to various branches for annual inspections. Their programing was a secret affair and known only to Inspection Division and the concerned inspectors. This was required to keep the surprise element intact during audit and inspections. Inspectors usually arrived at the branch on a day of their choosing, an hour before opening of the branches in the morning. The branch would be opened under their supervision and all physical securities starting from cash would be checked first to prevent any manipulations. The inspectors would then proceed to verify the other areas of branch functioning. One of the important components of such inspection was visiting the borrower's place for physical verification as well as checking the records of the party. The places comprised shop, factory, godown, house or any such business place or location where securities charged to the bank were kept. Branch Manager or a representative of the branch would usually accompany the inspector on such visits. Inspection was a time bound activity and was expected to be completed in a specified number of days linked to the size and business level of the branches.

An inspector arrived at this branch one morning and started his work. After introducing the assistant manager to the inspector and exchange of pleasantries, branch manager called the assistant manager aside and advised him to assist the inspector during the inspection period. "This inspector and I are from the same batch and we have worked together earlier. It is no secret that we do not like each other. But he is a professional and does not mix personal things with official work. Same is the case with me. I will have limited interaction with him. You will be my representative during inspection. Remember that he is an expert inspector and highly respected for his skills. You can learn a lot from him in the next two three weeks", said the branch manager. The assistant manager did not understand this background initially, but slowly learnt the truth in those words with each passing day of inspection work.

Field visits and verification of securities started in the third week. As the branch had many villages surrounding its location, many agriculture and allied advances were to be inspected. The inspector and the assistant manager proceeded to one of the villages one morning. They went to a borrower's place (Borrower A) a little before noon for checking sheep and goats given as security for bank loan. There were no sheep or goat in the yard. Inspector noted his observation on his rough sheets. After checking some pump set and tractor loan accounts, they went to another borrower's place (Borrower B) around 3 PM for checking sheep and goats. The number of sheep and goats available in the yard were matching the number given in the records. Inspector made some noting again in his note sheets.

An inspector was required to give his observations to the branch manager for rectification of deficiencies or give his comments each day, before incorporating them in his final report. On the next day of the visit to above villages, inspector gave the list of observations on the findings of the previous day's visits. When the assistant manager saw the report he was surprised to find that inspector had erred in his noting. He had recorded that security was intact in Borrower A's place whereas it was noted as missing in Borrower B's place!  He immediately ran to the inspector and pointed out the discrepancy. 

The inspector smiled at the young assistant manager. "We went to the two borrowers on either side of noon. Where do you expect the sheep and goats to be at that time?" The assistant manager could not give a definite answer. The inspector explained further. "At the time of day when we visited the two places, sheep and goat are not expected to be at home. They have to be out on the hill side grazing and return only by sunset time.  In borrower A's place there were no sheep or goat, but there was enough evidence to show that the animals were kept there overnight. The wetness of the yard where the animals were kept and the pungent smell of sheep and goat in the yard clearly showed that he has the animals with him. In borrower B's place there was no such evidence. The land was dry and the air was fresh. Having realized that inspectors have come to the village, he managed to bring the animals from some other farmer's place and show it to us. I have also made enquiries locally from other farmers during the visit, when you were away checking directions to the next village. My observation as recorded in the sheets is correct", he said.

When the assistant manager shared this with the branch manager, he got further insight into various aspects of security verification. "You have to be watchful during field visits. One should not be carried away by what he sees during the visit. What is seen is to be linked to the type of business, local practices, details in the records and above all commonsense. Conclusions drawn based merely on what is visible at the time of the visit may often be erroneous. But that does not mean that you have to ignore what you see physically. Each of these should get due consideration and one should come to a proper judgement after careful analysis of the circumstances obtaining at the time of the visit", concluded the branch manager.

The young man had never thought of all these things. There is a lot more in security verification than a mere visit to a place, he learnt that day.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Saraswati's Son and Parvati's Daughter

Long long ago, Godess Saraswati, who is the presiding deity of all knowledge, desired to have a son. She went to Himalayas and undertook a long penance with this as the goal. After a long time Lord Brahma appeared and gave her a boon to have a son. She delivered a son as a result of the boon. The boy got up as soon as he was born and prostrated before her. He sang in praise of her in rhythmic and perfect meters; his utterance was the earliest poetry. Saraswati was extremely happy and told him that he embodied everything poetry represents. She also told him that there was only prose before him and he is the first person to bring poetry to this world. She blessed him wholeheartedly and named him as "Kavya Purusha" (काव्य पुरुष). As she wanted to have the pleasure of tending to her child for sometime, she advised him to go back to the state of a child for the time being, which he dutifully did. 

Saraswati lifted the child and proceeded towards the sacred river Ganga to take a holy dip in the river. She placed the child below a tree and went to the river. The child started crying after sometime. Maharshi Shukracharya who heard the noise came to the child and took him to his hut. Maharshi Shukracharya was mesmerized by the child's beauty and composed a poem in praise of Mother Saraswati. Saraswati returned from the river but could not find the child. Maharshi Valmeeki who was close by informed her about the child being taken by Maharshi Shukracharya and took her to the Rishi's hut. When Maharshi Valmeeki saw the child, he also composed a poem that led to his writing Ramayana. Later on Maharshi Vyasa also saw the child and composed Mahabharata. Thus Shukracharya, Valmeeki and Vyasa become earliest poets in history of development of rhythmic poetry.

As Kavya Purusha was growing up and Mother Saraswati was enjoying the growth process, a dispute arose between Rishis and Devatas on the interpretation of an important issue in the scriptures. Lord Brahma advised Mother Saraswati to proceed to heaven and mediate in satisfactorily resolving the dispute. Saraswati proceeded to heaven. Kavya Purusha also followed her. Saraswati told him that he cannot go with her without permission from Lord Brahma and he has to stay behind till her return. Kavya Purusha stayed back and grew into a handsome man. He became friends with Kumara Swamy, son of Lord Shiva and Godess Parvati. In due course of time, Kavya Purusha felt lonely, became restless and started wandering aimlessly.

Kumara Swamy could not tolerate the suffering of his dear friend. He went to his mother Parvati and requested her to help his friend Kavya Purusha. Parvati thought for a while and decided that the best way to bring Kavya Purusha on track was to tie him in the knots of love of a girl. She produced a beautiful girl and named her as Saahitya Vidyaa (साहित्य विद्या). She told the girl that her fiancee was going away from her and she should follow him and get married to him.  Saahitya Vidyaa started following Kavya Purusha and followed him wherever he went.   

Kavya Purusha wandered into different parts of the country. Saahitya Vidyaa followed him wherever he went. She tried different varieties of dresses and methods of beautification. Womenfolk of the respective areas also followed the same methods of dresses and beautifications. She tried different methods of music, dance and other allied methods to please Kavya Purusha. Kavya Purusha slowly took interest in her and started his own methods of dressing and appearances. The menfolk of the respective areas also followed him and therefore we have different methods of dresses and appearances in various parts of the country!

While moving around in the various parts of our large country thus, Kavya Purusha and Saahitya Vidyaa reached a city in Vidarbha called Vatsagulma, on the outskirts of Dandakaranya. The place got the name Vatsagulma as a Rishi by name Vatsa lived there. Saahitya Vidyaa and Kavya Purusha finally got married in this Vatsagulma city. (This Vatsagulma is presently known as Washim and is the headquarters of the Washim district in Maharashtra.) 

The newly wed pair went to Saraswati and Parvati and sought their blessings. Both the mothers were very happy and blessed the pair and gave them many boons. They created a special heaven for them and named it as Kaviloka (कविलोक). The mothers advised Kavya Purusha and Saahitya Vidyaa to reside in the minds of all poets and bless them by inspiring them from time to time. The couple are following the advice of their mothers and are thus a source of inspiration to all poets even today.

Mention of Kavya Purusha is found in many places in puranas and also in Mahabharata. However, the story of Kavya Purusha and Saahitya Vidyaa in the above form is given to us by poet Raajashekhara in his "Kaavyameemamsa", considered as an epic in the field of Poetics.  The story is indeed interesting and inspiring!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Man and The River

Emperor Yudhishtira came out of his room ready for the day's official work. As he came out of the main door of his private palace, he saw a line of priests standing with "prasad" and ready to greet him with the usual Vedic chants befitting his status. Such arrangement was common on some important days like his birthday or anniversary day of ascending the throne. There was no such occasion today and yet the priests had assembled in full numbers. He was perplexed and looked at Bheemasena, his younger brother who now also held the post of his senior most minister. Bheemasena just smiled and signaled to the priests to start their chants and offer prasad to the emperor. The emperor received all the prasad with reverence. Once all the priests had left the hall, he asked Bheemasena as to what was the reason of this special arrangement.

"I had ordered special pooja and offerings to all the deities in the capital today. The priests had come with the prasad after such special pooja in their respective places", replied Bheemasena.

"What was the reason for such special celebrations?" asked Yudhishtira.

"I was happy that you had conquered Death for one day" said Bheemasena.

"I do not understand what you are indicating" said the emperor.

"Yesterday an old man came to you asking for some gold coins for managing some function in his house. It appears you told him to come tomorrow and he will be given the same", said Bheemasena.

"What is special about it? It was late when the man came to me. Hence I told him to come tomorrow", said Yudhishtira.

"That is why I was happy and arranged the celebrations. One never knows whether he will be alive on the next day. But you were confident that you would be alive to meet the old man's request. Does it not mean that you had conquered death for one day?", asked smiling Bheemasena.

Yudhishtira understood the lesson his brother was indicating. He nodded and said, "Yes. I knew that nothing is certain in this world., but had forgotten for a moment yesterday. Thank you for reminding this eternal truth. Change is the only certainty in life. But Life itself is uncertain".

Similar references can also be seen in philosophies of other parts of the world. "No man ever steps into a river twice" is a famous saying in Greek Philosophy. Why is it so? Can a person step into the river, come out and after sometime step into the same river? No, it is not possible. Because he is not the same man now. Nor the river is the same. The person is now older than what he was when he stepped into the river last time! Similarly, the river is also not the same. The water flowing at this moment is different from the water that was flowing in the river when he stepped into it last time. Therefore, No man ever steps into the same river twice. When he steps in for the second time, he has changed as also the river. This appears strange; nevertheless it is true!

Heraclitus (535 BC - 475 BC) was a Greek philosopher who lived before Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. He lived in Ephesus, then a part of the Persian empire and present day Efes of Turkey. He was known as the "Weeping Philosopher" and is credited with many wonderful expressions that try to explain the "Laws of the Universe". Heraclitus was the earliest known philosopher of the west who identified that Change is the essence of life. He believed in the Theory of unity of opposites and stated that "No entity ever occupies a single state at a single time". He believed that Fire was the basic element from which all other elements took shape. 

Some of the other sayings of Heraclitus are equally interesting:

  1. Men who wish to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details.
  2. If you do not expect the unexpected then you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.
  3. It is hard to contend against one's heart's desire; for whatever it wishes to have it buys at the cost of soul.
  4. God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger.
  5. Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those who we envy.
  6. Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.
  7. Much learning does not teach understanding.
  8. Big results require big ambitions.
  9. Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
  10. To God everything is beautiful and just; humans however think that some things are unjust and others are just.
and many more......

Many management experts conduct workshops on "Change Management". It is better for them to remember Heraclitus. And his saying: "Nothing endures but Change".