Bachi Karkaria's Tales from TJ Road: Shadowing the honorary secretary of a cooperative housing society
Through this fortnightly column, Tales From TJ Road, Bachi Karkaria tells the story of Mumbai's metromorphosis
Read more columns in this series here.
No, he is not the male version of the exalted Elizabeth McCord in the Amazon Prime series. He is closer to the put-upon wife in Jeo Baby’s Malayalam film, The Great Indian Kitchen.
He has to be as on the ball and on his feet as both these women. Unlike the American Secretary of State, he doesn’t have to deal with a series of unbending Chinese, Russian and European counterparts, terrorists, petulant dictators, refugees and disappearing island nations courtesy climate change. But he does have to deal with unbending/dictatorial/petulant residents, refuge areas and disappearing water supply.
His job is more like the Malayalam film’s unpaid, unending, repetitive housework — that painful but ignored carpal tunnel syndrome of domesticity.
I’m speaking of the honorary secretary of a cooperative society.
To find out all that he is called upon to do — along with his paid day-job — I should have gone to Crescent Bay, the newest, biggest and still-expanding kid on the block, with six towers of 41-54 floors each. Instead, I decided to ask Prakash Correa of Ashok Gardens on our very own TJ Road instead.
Why? One, because it has been around longer so the problems have had more time to arise. Two, its six wings comprising 552 apartments are administered as a single unit unlike our Dosti Flamingoes, each of whose five towers is a separate housing society and therefore has its own Hon Secy. Three, because Prakash is an obliging friend whom I could collar to spell out everything he’s called upon to do.
Reiterating what this column has often pointed out — that a housing society has all the components, characteristics and demands of a township — he put down all the responsibilities of the hon secy. Yes, there is the titular head of the Chairman and the rest of the Managing Committee (all of whom could go to jail for any violations of COVID protocols), but he’s the go-to man, fixer, trouble-shooter, fall guy. On an average, he spends two-three hours on weekdays to almost half a day on weekends. Here’s his list:
Residents: Problem No 1. Handling complaints galore, from genuinely serious to petty, petulant. Listening, pacifying, neutralising.
Dealing with the muscle-flexers: Some residents try to twist rules to their benefit. The onus is on the Secretary to ‘untwist’ them. Sometimes ‘read the Riot Act’ to those who think their money or political influential allows them to flout the rules at whim.
Dealing with authorities like the BMC, police, water department, registrar’s office.
Handling staff of around 185 people
Handling accounts, property management, security, housekeeping, maintenance and repairs of electrical and plumbing units, civil work, gardens etc.
Maintenance dues: collection, accounting and reminders.
Legal: Dealing with legal notices from authorities and residents.
COVID has intensified the Hon Secy’s job.
New, unpopular rules have to be put in place regarding drivers, domestic help and deliveries.
It’s an uphill task to make some residents adhere to COVID-control protocols, from proper wearing of masks to isolation/quarantine.
The BMC has to be notified regarding positive cases.
Testing and even treatment has to be facilitated.
Emergency equipment, from wheelchairs to oxygen concentrators kept as standby.
All this with staff strength reduced thanks to their getting infected — or even rushing back to home-towns in panic.
It’s exhausting just reading this. Imagine having to do it.
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