Sunday, 21 February 2016

Selena’s Savoir-faire

-Brian Mendonça

This month the salaries were delayed. But when we finally got them, I wish they hadn’t come so soon.

Salaries were finally disbursed on Friday, 12th February, instead of the usual 1st -2nd of the month and sometimes even before that.

The 1st of February dawned bright and cheerful with no advice from the bank of the receipt of the salary. I made my way to the accounts office to inquire with Selena what the matter was. ‘Money first has to be paid for the Carnival’ she said, with a twinkle in her eye.

Despite my disappointment I could not but laugh at this levity. It made the waiting more bearable, and I went away unclear whether the proffered answer was fact or fiction.

A few days later the salary still was not credited. This was getting too much. There were premiums to be paid, the house to be run, and yes the cars and scooter would not run on fresh air.

Around Ash Wednesday I trudged up again to Selena, already shrinking from another salvo from her. This time she countered with, ‘You need to do your penance properly then the salary will come.’ 

There seemed to be some truth in that, since this ‘Prachit Kal’ (time of Lent) was all about waiting mindfully and denying oneself. Believing God was actually testing us, I directed Queenie to withdraw from our reserve account – the one where I deposit the money I make from writing these articles. I also surrendered the matter to God and told Him to give it in His time.

We were almost into the middle of February. I could not even think of what to do on the 14th. But help was at hand. After the act of surrender the salary was immediately credited.

Bouncing up the stairs I burbled my thanks to Selena. She quipped, ‘Good the salary came late. Now you have money to spend for Valentine’s Day!’

Though the wait had been for a nail-biting fortnight, Selena had played the role of a modern Scheherazade, postponing an unpleasant scenario by offering a seemingly plausible excuse to get through to the next day. Though she was in no way responsible for the delay – salaries being a state subject -- she used all her her charm and tact to deal with a potentially fractious situation and instead invoke smiles on the office floor. She dispatched every query with her formidable verbal wit and ensured that peace reigned.

I was wondering how many accounts officers could do that. Many have a couldn’t-care-less attitude. In my M.Phil. days, when I used to go the accounts section at a University outside Goa to claim my Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) the officers seemed to be harassing us because they could not stomach the fact that we were getting a grant from the central government.

Accounts officers are only doing their job. A bit of savoir-faire* makes a big difference.
*(French) /savwa fe/ i.e. tact, grace, social skill; pix of 'The Sultan and Scheherazade' by Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen (1886-1957). Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 21 February, 2016.

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