3Ds - Dhokla, Discount & Deeds N our family friend, with her grand-son and husband called on us recently, on a day when we tried making dhokla. Mind gone on a rewind to some harrowing time in the distant past. .......................... For over three weeks discounted bills remaining unpaid stood at few crores and alarmed by this fact, a worried bank manager N gone into details. Payment not received from local public works department (PWD). She rushed out, hailed a cab, reached the chief of office of PWD. After few minutes of discussions, she discovered that bills she had purchased on discount on behalf of her public sector bank for were all bogus running into few crores. PWD chief confirmed no such work allotted yet to contractor. N Was shudder to think of consequences that this would do to her career besides adding to existing high NPA. (Non performing assets) ................................................................. While spouse standing aside of the rangoli on second landing on first floor, I closed the heavy mahogany door and pushed the padlock into the slot, over it the lock and turned the key. Spouse by force of habit, pulled the lock down intermittently thrice gave a satisfactory smiling look at me. He must have over heard the door of his opposite flat being shut and latch clic. My flat owner Garodia (G) residing in opposite flat, opened his door wide tad firmly yet with a smile said , “Excuse me Sir. I seek your help today. Being the last day, I need you to deposit IPO applications with cash and cheques. You see it is already twelve times oversubscribed.” You know Gujaratis - dabbling in stocks, ghee-sweets and real estate - all three run in their dynasty and so in their bloodstream. Yes. It was golden year 1983 for Indian IPOs. G had in hand two large thick envelopes. “Here I have two covers of applications. One with cheque and another with cash. Both sets to be presented at collection centre XX - near your office”. I was irritated but managed an enforced smile upon my countenance, accepted those fat envelopes. As spouse & I were in tearing hurry, never bothered to ask for more details. We simply walked away on stairs when we heard him from behind uttering “good day to both of you”. Mind was busy of day ahead with top boss in chair; an important business negotiation that might stretch beyond the day. How I wish I could have refused envelopes from G ! He & his family - an acquaintance in rail journey - Madras Dadar Express”. Friendly chat in coach for hours leading to exchange our lunch packets, eventually resulted in our landing into their vacant semi furnished flat at ghatkopar, Bombay; and that too at half of prevailing market rent for hire. He was happy that we are in Government Service! No leave and license formalities. Spouse & I quite impressed with their large heartedness. He seemed to have filled application for each individual of his large parivar. I stuffed envelopes into my Echolac brief. It was half-hour lunch break. I must finish G’s work. I hailed an yellow cab, arrived at the collection centre. At entrance, noticed long serpentine queue. Yet, I managed to reach one of six counters and presented the applications and the cash in bundles. I got the acknowledgements: returned to office skipping lunch. Much to everyone’s surprise, meeting concluded ahead of office closure time of five. Minutes dictated and signed by participants. Land phone was ringing. Thought of my spouse must be from her office. But alas. It was from G enquiring about applications. I said “done - and ack had been obtained”. After a lull, G said “thanks” but in dragging tone added that there was excess money in the envelope as few applications were left out. I was dumbstruck. I preferred to remain calm. He said excess amount ₹Two thousand. I bluffed him, “I shall revert. my boss is here”. At once, hailed a cab rushed to the collection centre . The rolling shutter was half shut. I sneaked a peek; and saw a young lady clad in cotton saree under bright lights. Upon seeing me, she exclaimed “what a pleasant surprise!” It was Nandini (N) - colleague of my spouse. I thanked my village deity. She greeted & enquired of my spouse and kids. Few months before, upon their wedding, were on transfer to Bombay as per their request from Chennai branch. I briefly stated purpose of my visit. In a spirited tone, she had responded stating that my presence was timely as one of the clerks at counter, just then detected and reported excess collection of ₹Two thousand and the tally just stands completed. She handed over that money to me. I thanked profusely. She noted down my residential and office address & phone number. It was pre-mobile era. Upon reaching home, I met G with my spouse and handed over to him the excess(!) ₹2000. He was glad for it. We were treated to a plateful of glistening jilebi & yellow porous Dhokla. Few years gone by since our family moved to a spacious government accommodation on hill top overlooking the Arabian Sea. One day morning, N with deadpan face, worried look turned up at my office, when I was watering money-plant on windowsill. After informal enquires of spouse and my kids, in between choked voice N briefed her problem, when I noticed glint in her moist eyes. Under certain tripartite agreement, a real estate agent (REA ) - presented bogus bills into bank and discounted bills to the tune of few crores, which remain unpaid for over a period; and the third party to whom the REA has been rendering covenant service, returned those bills stating that REA was never allotted the kind of work cited in those bogus bills. She said she was in dire straits and might face terrible consequences and that might throw her into disrepute, dismissal from service. She showed couple of such bills for my perusal. I glanced at it for a moment and thought for a while. N said she had remembered that few years back I had deposited a bunch of applications for shares in IPO from this RSA family and suggested that I might be able to persuade the man to pay up the amounts and settle matter amicably. I pulled up left drawer of my table and looked for an old diary corresponding to that year, when I resided in the flat opposite of G. And lo, there in diary, I found the land line telephone number of RSA, tallying exactly as printed in the bills before me. In her presence, I rang up to RSA: and as luck would have it, G responded on the third ring. Suppressing my delight, after routine exchange of greetings and enquires, I expressed my desire to see him same day for an advice on an urgent matter - Not disclosing the purpose. He said, I would be welcome around 8 p.m. and added that there would be Laksmi Pooja and feast. I said ok. I told N to join with her DH at my residence to go to meet RSA. Evening as planned including my wife, we all gathered at G’s residence with basket of fruits & flowers. I could see surprise in the eyes of RSA who with knitted eye-brows looked at N. There was some inexplicable forced silence. In the meanwhile, mrs G called my wife and N to another room where a group of ladies were chanting in Pooja. Now is the right moment. I must break the ice. While N’s DH at earshot, I broached the issue to G and pressing need to settle the matter immediately. He with an endearing smile casually responded “it is all routine in our large business”. Yes - G has now turned a business baron. But it was heartening when he said in same breath, “Thyaghee - I shall do it for you. In a week or two, it would paid up to the bank”. I thanked him profusely and emphasised that besides settling the matter directly with the bank, it was important at the same time for him to write suitably to bank so that N’s integrity never come under clouds. I heard continuous puja-bell and took it as a fine augury; N & my spouse were walking back to drawing-hall with their head-parting-line smeared with freshly applied maroon vermilion, when we were all served with an appetiser. A week went by. It was a Friday at office when I received call from N. In excitement she spoke. “Sir, I am in seventh heaven sir. True to his word, a few moments before, your friend G had settled dues to bank: he handed over an innocuously worded-letter addressed to branch. What a heart you are Sir! Thanks once again”.