Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New CEO/MD of Bhutan Telecom Limited

I am shocked. Something is totally amiss here. It is as if something or someone is directing events from behind the scene in such a way that Bhutan is steadily being steered on a course of self-destruction and chaos. I get the feeling that some mischief is afoot.

Yes, I am talking of the rumored appointment of the Director of CST, Phuentsholing as the new MD/CEO of the Bhutan Telecom Ltd. How the hell has that happened? It totally blows my mind. With due respect to all the brilliant minds who must have got together to set the criterion for the selection of the new CEO/MD of BTL, I have this question: How did an educator get to qualify to take the reins of a high technology commercial entity engaged in a highly specialized field of operation?  It baffles me - how does a serving academician fit into a job that requires marketing skills, a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the technological trends and developments in the three core areas of the Corporation’s business, knowledge and expertise in innovative product design and packaging etc.? Can he even understand the language the techies who make up the bulk of the Corporation’s workforce, speak?

By no means I am inferring that the Director of the CST is an incompetent person. In fact I am told that he has been doing a great job at the CST. But, no one may refute that an educator’s competencies lie elsewhere. Actually, this reminds me of a funny ad of the Naukri.com that I use to see on TV. In that ad, an extremely competent cricketer is shown pounding away with his bat at a dhobi ghat - performing the job of a dhobi.

While one aspect of the issue is that of a wrong person in a wrong job, the other aspect is that we are wasting an extremely rare talent that the country sorely lacks - that of a competent educator. In my understanding, the Director of CST cannot be of a run-of-the-mill kind of a person. He must possess some outstanding qualities and be suitably educated and trained to head and oversee a premier educational institution such as the CST. How did the government release him?

Clearly this is a double whammy situation. What is happening here is that we are loosing an established and respected educator on the one hand and, on the other, we are putting the same rare talent in a job that he is not suited for. In the process, we are endangering one of the most successful and profitable public companies that have grown from strength to strength over the years. We need the BTL to be headed by someone who can not only count on the support and respect of the company’s numerous staff, but also with an expertise and the vision to take the company forward in this increasingly competitive business environment.

The government needs to intervene and take stock of the situation before disaster happens.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Page Out Of A Bygone Era

I was young and I was impressionable. It was a time when the skimpy “choosh” pants were being edged out of the closet by the silo-sized “GOGO” pants that became the rage of the day. It was “stylish” to sport an unruly, long and wildly flowing hairstyle known as the “Jesus cut” - not the sleek, pony-tailed type that the present-day aficionados prefer. One of the things that was in vogue those heady days was to be seen to be outlandish, nonconformist and something of a weirdo. The highest form of fashion sense was when you dared show a bit of your bottom peeping out of the opening that you intentionally slashed into your jeans. I was too much of a traditionalist and so I wasn’t into all that. But in keeping with the times, and to demonstrate my superior sense of sophistication and taste, I bought myself this utterly meaningless book titled “Book of Nothing”. A man-about-town had to be owning something funky and groovy. And, this book was simply far-out!

It was a regular A4-sized book, immaculately bound with its title exquisitely embossed in a text that exuded class and refinement. Inside, it contained pages upon pages of beautifully textured paper of the highest quality - containing absolutely NOTHING - except for a single short sentence at the bottom of each sheet - printed in the minutest print possible, resembling that of a insurance policy fine print that promises you nothing for everything. The small prints at the bottom of each of the pages read something like: “Nothing for nothing” or “It is very difficult to do nothing” or “You get nothing for nothing” etc.

On Sunday afternoons, I would take the book to such chic places as the Flury’s in Kolkata, select a corner table that is the most brightly lit among all the tables in the great hall - for visual effect. The measure of your standing is judged by how promptly a waiter presents himself to serve you. Any one needing to raise his hand or holler for the attention of a waiter is looked upon with pity and disdain. Having invested a substantial sum in generous tips during my past visits to the establishment, waiters jostled and scrambled to attend to my table. The most nimble-footed would edge out the rest and approach my table and, with supreme congeniality ask me, in usual formality; “Your usual, Sir?”

My “usual” would be a pot of fine Darjeeling tea and an assortment of pastries. While the waiter disappears into the back room to fill in my order, I would pull out my Book of Nothing and make a suave, visual survey of the great Flury’s tearoom - to see if there were any one who I recognized. Even if there were, a knowing smile and a gentle nod of the head were all that was needed to acknowledge his/her presence. Anything beyond that was considered unsophisticated and inferior.

As the waiter begins to fawn all over me serving tea and laying out the pastries, I would begin my great act of reading the book with undistracted attention - unhindered by the clang and clatter of the cutlery of a great mass of people having their afternoon tea. To complete the show, my eyes would be strained with intense concentration at the blank pages of the Book of Nothing. Occasionally, an acquaintance would pass by my table and seek my permission to flip through the blank pages of the book and utter some words of appreciation such as; “Ah .. so refreshingly different and … umm … unique” - to demonstrate his/her own level of sophistication and worldliness.

The next sophisticated thing I did was to buy myself a largish, black and white, horizontally oriented comic book titled “The Fillipino Food”. During a period when quaint little comic books with prim and proper characters right out of the Mills & Boon classics were the order of the day, this comic book was filled with morbid graphics of an energetic hero brandishing a gargantuan syringe in place of his manhood. While he himself experienced a star-spangled orgasmic release, the person whose arm he poked with his syringe shriveled and died away. On one of the sixty odd pages of the book, a woman was shown lying on her back with her legs spread wide open and a TV screen in place of her Kesang Buthri. On it was depicted the cosmic mandala, the Milky Way and the gateway to the heavens. All these abstract renderings were totally beyond my sophistication and intellect - finally exposing me for the country bumpkin that I really was.

One portrayal in the comic book that remained etched in my mind over the years is its depiction of the human race sprouting out of an old, stinking tennis shoe. I clearly understood and commiserated with this uncommon theory. That is why, perhaps, the human race, even after so many centuries of continuous evolution, still secretes the stink and the stench of its place of origin.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Pitfalls Of Half-Truths

Half truths, like half-knowledge, are extremely dangerous. They not only help permeate misinformation, they misguide and mislead people. This truth was brought home to me recently as a result of a local weekly printing only Part I of my three-part article I wrote on this Blog - supporting the Tobacco Control Act.

It would be, perhaps, unfair to assume that this weekly deliberately attempted to mislead its readers by failing to print all three parts of my article. However, the reporter at that paper could not have failed to see that unless Part I of my article is read in conjunction with Part II and III, the core issues I raise would be lost to his/her readers. In fact, read in isolation, the Part I of the article sounds more like an emotional outburst of an adolescent rather than a well thought-out view of a seriously concerned citizen.

The following true-life incident will demonstrate how a media house has to be careful about what they print or do not print in their papers. A thoughtless and irresponsible media can cause serious problems.

Blissfully unaware that a printed version of Part I of my article in my Blog was reproduced by one of the newspapers, I walked into the office of one of my long time friends for whom I have the highest esteem and respect. In a world filled with ass lickers and gold diggers, he remains one obstinately principled person who dares to speak his mind - to the point of sounding uncouth and rebellious. He is a no-nonsense person but for reasons unknown, this day, he sounded like a person gone totally bananas.

The moment I entered his office, he yelled; “Oh there you are you asshole! Who gives a shit about what you think?”

I was dumb founded. I had no idea what the guy was talking about. So I asked him; “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I am talking about your smart-aleck article in the Journalist. You want to know what I think about it?”

I said; “What the hell are you talking about? What article? I did not write any article in any paper”.

“The stupid article you wrote on the Tobacco Control Act”.

It dawned on me that the paper must have reproduced my article and the fellow must be referring to it. I told him I didn’t know that the article was reproduced there. I told him I will look it up.

Still fuming, he said: “You want to know what I think of your views?” With that he proceeded to pull out a cigarette from the packet that was lying on his table, lit it and started to puff away at it vigorously - until he was coughing breathlessly.

I looked on aghast. Why is such a level-headed guy acting like a man possessed? Obviously my article infuriated him so much that he forgot he is not allowed to smoke in a public space. He could stand to be penalized for what he was doing.

Once he cooled down a bit, I began to explain to him my point of view. He looked a little startled and said that I said nothing like that (I realized much later that he read only Part I of the article) in the article. Half an hour later, two of us began to discuss the flaws in the Act and what amendments were needed to be made to the Law.

At the end, he understood that the issue I was discussing went way beyond the need to control tobacco consumption. I laboriously explained to him that central to my argument is the need for strong laws to bring order and discipline into our society. I explained to him that the TCA is in no way a flawless Act but that is no reason for people to trash it as a bad law. It is a law that present day Bhutan needs desperately.