A small-made man with a prominent nose and wiry, steel grey hair, Ramanth lived in Mulund and had to take the overcrowded and notoriously unreliable Central Line every day to reach the office in Ballard Estate. Ramnath also acted as the de facto personal assistant to my boss Gana and lived in mortal fear of Gana catching him arriving late to work, which was often, due to the unpredictability of the suburban railway system.
Humble, honest, and always happy to be of help, Ramnath could be depended on to deliver a neat, flawless letter every time and was in great demand among the managers. He rarely used a whitener, never typed over a mistake and abhorred carbon smudges and greasy thumb marks.
Ramnath harboured a cynical disdain for those managers whose working knowledge of English was poor or whose dictating skills were not up to scratch, even though he was careful not to show such feelings in public. I must have shown some promise in both departments because very soon Ramnath took me under his wing and patiently chiselled away and smoothened whatever rough edges I had, when it came to official, written communication in English. He freely edited my drafts, sometimes replacing words or even whole sentences and often, playing around with entire paragraphs. I did not mind this at all because every time, the final result was much superior to my original draft.
A few years later, I knew I had passed the test when Ramnath stopped editing my drafts.
I will conclude this post with this interesting story: One day Ramnath is on leave and another stenographer called Sathe is forced to take dictation from Gana. Sathe is terrified of the great man who dictates in a clipped accent at breakneck speed because when he goes back to his typewriter and looks at his own shorthand, he can comprehend nothing. Finally after several attempts and with a little help from fellow stenographers, he completes the letter and places it reverentially in front of Gana.
There is a moment of silence as Gana scans the letter before signing. Suddenly he sucks his breath in sharply and screams: “Sathe! What do you mean by this? Please check your piles? Please check your piles?”
Sathe realised only too late that he should have typed, “Please check your prices”!
Sathe never took dictation from Gana again.