DEPUTATION TO HEAVY ENGINEERING CORPORATION RANCHI
In 1962 I was promoted as Senior Accountant in the P & T Directorate. I was given the responsibility of transferring all work related to Foreign Post from Bombay to the Directorate at New Delhi. A separate section was created for the purpose and applications were called for from postal employees willing to work in the directorate on deputation from their present postings. I spent some time with the in-charge of Foreign Post, Bombay to understand the systems. I had taken with me a newly deputed employee so that he could also understand the processes involved and train the other employees recruited for the section. We had to face quite a few teething problems before the systems could be stabilised at the directorate.
My eldest son was now of school going age. He was put in the municipal school which was nearby. He had by this time started talking in Hindi. My wife had, during her days at Bangalore, had already passed some examinations in Hindi. My daughter was now 2 years old. My wife started attending tailoring classes during this period. I bought for her a hand operated Usha sewing machine. After I left for office and my son for the school, she used to go, taking our daughter along, to the house of the woman who was teaching her for a small monthly fee. My wife picked up the skills for cutting and stitching trousers, shirts, frocks, gowns and inner garments for the children.
One of these days my little daughter went missing. My wife was frantically searching her everywhere. Seeing her panic the people in the colony also started searching. Mr. Sharma, in whose quarters we had been given lodgings, peeped through the window of our room. There wrapped in the folds of a sheet my little daughter was sleeping. He burst into laughter and shouted in Hindi pointing inside the room ‘Wah, Wah yahan dekhiye’. My wife looked inside and realised that she had raised a hue and cry for nothing. She had not noticed that beneath the folds of the sheet our daughter was sleeping. She said sorry to the people for unnecessarily disturbing them and thanked them for their concern for the child.
Now my turn for government quarters had come and I was allotted quarters in Netaji Nagar. I got accommodation on the first floor. Three clerks from Madras GPO who had been my colleagues at Madras GPO, had joined the Foreign Post section on deputation. One of them had come with his wife and daughter and he was in dire need of lodgings. I offered to give him one room in the quarters allotted to me. We kept one room, kitchen and a veranda for our use. Bathroom and toilet were common to both of us. They were with us for only a couple of months. Afterwards they got accommodation in the outhouse of one of the MPs from Karnataka and they shifted to that place. He used to write articles in Tamil periodicals. After coming to Delhi he interviewed a few interesting personalities and his interviews appeared in the Tamil magazine Kalki.
Once the couple were visiting us with their daughter. My daughter was around two years old. She was playing with their daughter. When they were leaving they asked my daughter whether she would go with them to their house. She nodded her head. We were however sceptical. But the couple took her with them. It was about 8 PM. We had gone to sleep thinking they would leave our daughter back in our place the next morning. Around midnight we heard someone frantically knocking at the door. On opening we found that my colleague from Madras GPO was standing there with my daughter who had been crying herself hoarse to get back to her mother. My colleague said sorry and went back home at that unearthly hour.
Life in the colony had its own advantages. Every service was available at one’s doorstep. The presswalla who irons your clothes, the tandoor walla who makes roties for you, the vegetable seller, the fruit seller, every one offered his goods and services at your door. There was great fun and merry-making during festivals like Holi. In summer we slept on the open terrace on charpoys. The terrace was made cool by drenching it with several buckets of water. Occasionally there would be showers and we folded up everything and got indoors where it was very hot. When the showers stopped we got back to the terrace. The sleep was disturbed. Even otherwise the heat of summer sapped one’s energy and one eagerly looked forward to the advent of the rainy season.
In April 1964 I availed Leave Travel Concession to go to my home town. On such visits we used to visit my wife’s maternal grandfather who was staying at Kuthanur. He was a Kaviraj, a physician who was trained in allopathic and Ayurvedic systems. His father had earned a name in the surrounding villages as a doctor. The Kaviraj used to narrate anecdotes from his life and take me around the village. We used to bathe in a canal which had been dug for irrigation purposes. We also used to visit the Bhagavati temple at Kavasseri to which we owed allegiance. We also made it a point to visit Coimbatore where my wife’s aunt was living. She was my mother-in-law’s younger sister. Her husband was an advocate of law and had good practice though he was in his sixties. His first wife had died early and my wife’s aunt was his second wife. While staying with them we had gone out to visit another relative in Coimbatore. The relatives insisted that we have our lunch with them. When we returned to the advocate’s house we were embarrassed to see that he was waiting for us to have lunch with him. He was furious when we told him that we already had our lunch. It was but natural. He was an elderly gentleman and he felt slighted by our action. I apologised profusely and tried to explain the position but he could not be mollified. The next day when we were taking leave of him he was his normal self and we were relieved of our feeling of guilt..
When we were returning to Delhi in May 1964 we heard the news of the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister and the architect of modern India. When we alighted at New Delhi railway station, we could sense the gloom in the air. ‘What next?’ was the question on everybody’s lips. One could not imagine an India without Nehru at the helm of affairs. His mantle fell on the shoulders of Lal Bahadur Sastri.
Those days P&T Accountants and SAS accountants were in demand for working in Central public sector enterprises. A request had been received in the P&T Directorate for sending a few senior accountants on deputation to the the Heavy Engineering Corporation, Ranchi. I was also among those who applied for the deputation. In August 1964 my deputation to HEC was approved by the Director General, P & T, New Delhi. That put a period on my days in New Delhi, the capital of India, where I had happily spent five years from 1959 to 1964. .
I joined as Accountant in Heavy Engineering Corporation Ranchi in August 1964. I had left my family in Delhi and had asked my friends to help my wife pack the household things for the journey to Ranchi as soon as I secured suitable lodgings there. In the interim period I stayed with the family of one of the Accountants who were also on deputation from the P&T Department. I was posted as Accountant in Railway Finance section headed by a Jt. Controller of Finance and Accounts. The Railway Division was headed by a Divisional Engineer whose responsibility was construction and maintenance of the interplant railway tracks. Railways left the wagons containing the goods to be delivered to HEC at the interchange point. These wagons were hauled on the interplant railway tracks by diesel locomotives and the goods were unloaded at points from where they could be transferred to the stores or directly transferred to the production departments. Railway Finance was responsible for keeping Works accounts, checking measurement books, passing contractors bills, checking muster rolls, making labour payments, prepare the payroll for the railway division, maintain the cash book and other finance and accounts related functions.
Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited had three plants, namely, The Foundry Forge Plant, the Heavy Machine Building Plant and the Heavy Machine Tools Plant. The first two plants were supplied by the Russians (USSR) on deferred credit terms, payment to be made in rupees. The third plant was supplied by the czech Republic on similar terms. The Foundry Forge Plant was capable of making heaving castings and forgings. It had a 6000 tonnes press for forging heavy equipment. The Heavy Machine Building Plant was capable of turning out complete equipment for a steel plant like blast furnace, coke oven equipment, rolling mills and so on. Heavy Machine Tools Plant manufactured different types of heavy machines like drilling machines, lathes and so on.
After about two weeks of joining I was allotted one of the temporary quarters built at the site of a dam constructed across the Suvarnarekha river for supplying water to the colony The quarters were situated at about 5 KM from the factory. My family travelled from Delhi up to Patna by the Delhi - Calcutta Mail. I had been to Patna to receive them. The luggage also had come in the same coach in which they travelled. We loaded the luggage on to the Patna-Ranchi train and reached Ranchi next morning. We hired a van so that we could carry the luggage with us and finally reached the site of the dam where our lodgings were situated. That was the starting point for a long spell of 15 years we spent at Ranchi.