Joyce, The Anglo-Indian Secretary of The Bygone Era

The word ‘Secretary’, PA (Personal Assistant), Executive Assistant were used intermittently those days. Knowledge of English was compulsory. Most of the convent educated girls ended up as Secretaries. The Secretary was an important character in a number of movies. Quite a few legendary Secretaries ruled the roost. Industrialist G.K.Devarajulu had hired an Assistant in order to prepare a summary on the board of a ship while returning to India after a world industrial tour along with Sir M. Visweswariah. Several eminent Secretaries had worked in a number of enterprises. A capable Secretary would have mastered the art of decision making over the years. Let us now use the opportunity to look into a Secretary of the yesteryears.
Joyce White had put in decades as a ‘Secretary’ and she was happy to recall her service years. She had done her schooling in Stanes School and her B.A in English literature was from Nirmala College for Women. Joyce had wanted to be a nurse but ended up doing a course at the Secretarial College at Pudhupet Convent in Chennai. It was a three year course and she was taught by Irish Nuns. “The Mother Superior was Theodora and she was good teacher. We were taught book keeping, filing, commerce, short hand typing, writing minutes of meetings besides being taught how to conduct ourselves. A certificate was given to us on the successful completion of the course. Organising flight arrangements, handling confidential files, phone calls, appointments etc., were also included. Attitude, behaviour and body language were quite important. The Secretary had to be at her best. It was always a challenging job,” stated Joyce from her apartment facing the densely wooded forest college campus.
Lots of notes, exercises and books were part of the learning process. Joyce had wanted to be a nurse and used to love taking care of elders. Thanks to her sister Babzy, who had done a similar course that it was possible for Joyce to pick it up. Moreover that was a time when Anglo Indians were drawn to working in big companies. They were also holding responsible positions those days. This had influenced Joyce to do this course.
Joyce joined Texind Corporation on Avinashi Road (Kalai Kathir Buildings) and her boss was P.B.H.Pawar, “Sir was a nice gentleman and it was a pleasure to work under him. I was the telephone operator and my first salary was Rs.750. Those were the years when Coimbatore was a pre eminent textile centre. The days would be packed with phone calls and I would be in the company of the EPABX. My day at office would begin by 9:30 AM and go on till 5:00 PM. I was busy at home too, for my kids were growing up. P.B.H. Pawar was a wonderful boss and he understood me very well. I was in Texind, the Mumbai based company for a long time and in between I worked in Bengaluru with DM Industries, Inchek Tyres, MRF etc., It was in DM Industries that P.B.H.Pawar sir saw me while visiting the place and he brought me back to Coimbatore.
The Secretary had worked under Ramaswamy of Servall for sometime before moving over to LMW, Kaniyur. She worked as the Secretary of one Swiss gentleman Max Trinkler. It had been a beautiful experience. Joyce had done all the personal work for the Swiss gentleman. The company was a well organised and disciplined. She moved over to Batliboi thereafter. The General Manager George Verghese had been the boss. Batliboi had been one big family. Joyce climbed the ladder and worked under Mallikarjunan of Amalgamations for a number of years. “I used to flit from one building to another. Board Meetings, appointments, organising things, besides taking care of arrangements were part of my day to day work. Used to prepare the rough drafts and fair drafts of the meetings. I had the privilege of working with some of the top people. It was really great to have known A.Sivasailam, A.Krishnamurthy and Mallika Srinivasan, the top brass of Amalgamations,” smiled Joyce.
Joyce has had a productive life. She married Donald over 40 years ago and they are blessed with Fabian (Nigeria), Sunshine (Bengaluru) and Chrystal Foster (UK). The White couple have five grandchildren. She is a native of Valparai and were married in the Valparai Church. Donald was from Coimbatore. Now, they visit the All Souls Church in Race Course. Donald had served in Brooke Bond, Goel Roadways and Allied Engineering Works.
Joyce was born to Anglo Indian parents – Mildred Peters and Joe Peters. Joyce spoke about her growing up years and work, “We had to keep our pencil sharp. I worked on both kinds of type writers. My Panasonic Electronic Typewriter was my constant companion. A sharpener, eraser, ink bottle etc., along with the Oxford Dictionary were always with me.
My husband Donald types very fast. It was because of my brother Allen Peters that I got to meet him. My teachers Thelma Smaller, Mrs & Mr Rama Rao, Alda Fowler and Fowler the Principal were great people. Well salaries were okay. However perks like House Rent Allowance, Medical Expenses, Diwali Bonus and loans from the companies were a saving grace. My kids are jewels. Nowadays I am ready to teach Secretarial aspirants. Now I spend most of my time by reading scriptures and taking care of the house. My husband plays Sudoku,” added Joyce.
A Secretary and particularly an Anglo Indian Secretary used to be the order of the day those years. Secretaries like Joyce added to the quality of professional life.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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