Remembering J.K. ……..
Mela Singh (The Office Superintendent of PPS in Mr JK Kate’s time)
It is difficult to sum up my experiences with Mr. Kate in just a few words. I shall, however, try to recollect just a few that have direct bearing on the life of a public school in general and our school in particular. When I joined the school in early sixties as an Office Superintendent, I was rather over-confident that it would be a very easy job to handle office work of such a small school. So far as the office work was concerned, there was no problem and I was often patted on the back by the then, Headmaster who was known for his expert handling and management of finances.
But this was not enough in a public school. I was told by Mr. Kate on more than one occasion, that the office cannot live a life different from the life of the school. Everything, every department of the school has to be public school like. I remember one instance when he virtually pulled me up for not arranging to send some peon to the Post Office for a master who had to send a money-order. He later explained to me that if the master had to run errands for small jobs like that and if he had to teach under tension and anxiety, what good work was he going to do in the class ? He emphasized that if we were doing one small job for the master or anybody else who was on duty, we were helping the school in so many ways.
During Mid-Term treks and tours, it was my duty to send a peon to the residences of all the masters and find out if any service was required. During holidays and vacations we in the office had strict instructions to deliver the personal mail of staff-members at their respective residences, Mr. Kate told me that this served two purposes : one-a sound tradition of family life was established and two-no one could sacrifice school work on the pretext of a pressing domestic work. To me the logic seemed convincing.
The office culture in a public school has to be quite different from the much abused “babuculture” of ordinary offices. Mr. Kate was successful in achieving this right in the beginning. We were involved in almost every aspect of school life. You must come out of your files and ledgers and live a more varied life,” he would often say. Though membership of the Staff-Club was optional for the office staff, everyone of us became a member and we never thought we were a different class.
Although we did not know most of the boys as closely as the housemasters and masters did, we had to deal with their parents on many occasions and this brought the office people also in the larger picture of the school family.
Now I can realize that strong foundation of human relationship goes a long way in the shaping of a school’s total personality. When it was emphasized that human beings are more important than life-less files and ledgers and that clock-watching of eight hours is not better than honest work of a few hours, we felt proud of ourselves. The sound foundation of work based on this philosophy has paid rich dividends ever since the school started. Our accounts and management of budget( get have o en been envied by well known schools like Doon, Sanawar, and Mayo. In fact all this was the result of teamwork and a strict watch by the people on the top. This practice has lived till now and worked well. Before doing anything, Mr. Kate’s maxim was, ,ask yourself whether it is good for the school and whether we could do without it. If it is good, go ahead.’
The most difficult thing for most of us including masters was to go on casual leave unless it was unavoidable. I do not want to say that the rules were very strict. In fact there was no need for one to go on leave for small domestic work because they were taken care of by the school.
Some people have a remarkable memory about old boys and Mr. Kate is one of them. While sorting out the school mail, I was once unable to trace the house No. of one boy to whom the letter was addressed. As usual I sought Mr. Kate’s help and I was surprised to find that he not only knew his House No. but also his parents, home, and habits. He knew almost everything about all the old boys. Another such person was the late Ms. Malkani whom we often referred to as the school directory.’
Often people talked about Mr. Kate’s miserliness with regard to school expenditure. He was miser about time too. Once I was sent to Shimla to get the scholarship money released. He chalked out my programme himself in such a way that I had to spend two nights in the train and do the work in one day. In this way I was away from duty only for one day. Mr. Gurdial Singh Dhillon, Speaker Lok Sabha once said, “Mr. Kate knows how to create interest in work whether it is teaching, office work or out door work.” After trekking expeditions, he used to call a staff meeting for stock-taking’ as he would call it. He had a word of praise for those who kept the per-capita expenditure minimum and something else for those who exceeded the limit.
My first duty every morning was to, give him the upto-date financial position. ,”This,” he would say, “helps me in taking decisions that involve money.” The Accounts Section had strict instructions not to spend a single paisa more than the sanctioned limit. Once the Board asked him to bring down expenditure including the salaries by ten per cent. Without touching our salaries, he managed the accounts so skilfully that the Board in its next meeting called him a wizard of accounts.’
At the half yearly get-together, the entire teaching and office staff used to be the personal guests of the Headmaster and the Bursar. Mr. Kate had established personal relationship with everyone and while he drew strength from this relationship, the staff in the bargain got a constant stream of inspiration from him.
A picture of farewell to Mr JK Kate by the School staff in 1972 shows Mela Singh sitting just behind and to left of Mr JK Kate. Mrs Tandon on his right is seen talking to Mr Kate and her child Puneeta is sitting in between them.