civil war


so, i took a short break from the blog. and it turned into quite a long break. but no more of that.

meanwhile, bangladesh has been doing its best imitation of iraq. yet, just like every other time bangladesh has tried to imitate an international phenomenon, it’s failed miserably:

1. apparently, we now have a squad of 20,000 suicide bombers to contend with. the only problem is, of the last three “suicide” bombers who tried to pull a suicide bombing, none of them happened to die. instead, all three survived to be interviewed by the press while lying on a stretcher subjected to massive blood loss from missing limbs, and saying really dumb things like, “the koran tells me to blow off different appendages on my body” and “i’m doing this for allah”. i’m not certain that these bombers can, in all honesty, be called suicide bombers anymore. perhaps a more appropriate title would be “disfigurement bombers”.
2. these suicide bombers decided that they wouldn’t stick to blowing random people up, but rather would focus on different groups of people. that said, they embarked on a mission to kill lawyers. now, if you were a suicide bomber boss, wouldn’t you try to at least save the lawyers so that when the police come to lynch you, there’s at least one person to defend you? apparently not this bunch. seeing as they are too incompetent to kill themselves while killing everyone else, they’re also too incompetent to save the only group of people who could possibly come to their aid.
3. the reason the lawyers are being killed, however, happens to be because they follow laws made by man, not those made by allah. if this were the case, i would expect suicide bombers to strap themselves to every single traffic light and blow them up. i’m quite certain that the koran doesn’t at any point state, “thou shalt stop at a red light, and go at a green”. therefore, this must be a law made by man. i guess, however, that they decided to forego this specific man-made law, especially since no one really stops at a red light anyway.
4. the government, meanwhile, isn’t holding back any stops in adding to the entertainment. what do you do when one policeman gets killed by a bomb? immediately assign another dozen to the same place, so that they can get blown up in turn. simply brilliant.
5. terrorists ravaging the country? surely the prime minister is extremely busy getting to the bottom of this mess? no, wait! bill gates is in town! henceforth, the prime minister and every single minister must meet bill, and sit through a speech and presentation on microsoft’s future plans in bangladesh! and surely the police is too busy finding the terrorists before they strike again? but no! who, then, would provide a massive security deployment for bill freaking gates, the richest man on the planet? and the science and ict minister is surely doing something, right? perhaps figuring out what to do about the much-ballyhooed submarine internet cable which would finally give bangladesh internet speeds deserving of human beings, instead of the current snail’s pace speeds? nope. he’s needed urgently to act as bill gates’ personal tour guide. granted, i can’t think of much else for the science minister to be doing. but still, last time i checked, one of those people was the elected choice of the 7th most populous nation on the planet (well, not of all the voters), while the other made millions being a geek. man, i can’t wait until my geekiness pays off in billions of dollars. i think i’ll hire the commerce minister to be my personal food taster.

well, anyway. i could go on and on about our commerce minister. for instance, at the inauguration of a seminar on capital markets, he started off with a joke about capital punishment, and then said that the two were very similar. i kid you not. after all, on january 1, 2005, instead of partying all night and sleeping the rest of the day, i rushed off to a meeting with him at which i spoke for 15 minutes, only to realize that none of what i had said had penetrated his thick skull.

but no. i shall refrain from poking fun at the ministers of bangladesh. that’s not the point of this post.

the point of this post, however, is to poke fun at the slaves of these ingenious ministers – the civil servants. more specifically, by popular demand, i will talk about my experience shepherding a group of 17 civil servants to dubai and jordan.

first of all, the point of the trip was to visit various economic zones in these countries. however, this was clearly lost on the group. this was not because of a lack of understanding of what an economic zone is – we’ve been training them about them for the last six months. the problem arose, however, with the fact that none of them could pronounce the word “zones”. instead, they referred to it as “jones”. without a doubt, our hosts were very confused, and kept searching for this strange family called the jones.

while this was amusing the first three times, it soon grew old. at one point, i thought that i would punch the living daylights out of the next idiot who called a zone a jone. the climax, however, came when we visited the jebel ali free zone, which they referred to as the “zebel ali free jone”.

now, i understand the fact that the z sound is not in our mother tongue. so therefore the “jone” is acceptable. but, when confronted with a word that actually begins with a j, they go ahead and convert it to a z. somebody please explain it too. prufrock, you guys have zones too, don’t you, or are they jones as well?

in jordan, we paraded a host of ministers and very senior government officials by our delegation, but they weren’t very impressed. we were very concerned. i mean, if the ministers don’t make them sit up and pay attention, what would?

therefore, we were happily surprised when several delegates came up to us and said they were excited about someone we had just met. when we asked them who it was, they replied that it was the bangladeshi chef at the hotel. the entire group was very excited to meet this individual, to the point that we considered simply giving up and going home, since the brightest minds in jordan couldn’t elicit nearly the same response as a chef.

and the disinterest in the various people we met with could hardly be contained by several of the delegates, who promptly fell asleep at every single meeting. now, my boss is an expert at falling asleep at meetings, but these guys obviously need a world of practice in this respect. one person fell asleep with his head lolling back on his shoulders, his mouth wide open, and a column of drool proceeding down his chin. another’s head would tilt to such an angle that we were worried that it would fall off. and another’s head was always bent, with his chin making intimate contact with his chest.

concerned that our money was being spent on a useless exercise, since all the meetings were being attended by a group of zombies who were either asleep or thinking about sleeping or awake for a few minutes between naps, we decided to lecture them on the propriety of falling asleep at the meetings. the lecture itself was going quite well, until three of them decided to fall asleep while we were telling them not to. nevertheless, we made it through the entire study tour without killing a single delegate.

finally, no group is complete without its usual assortment of strange characters:

  • one of them had decided to get inebriated at every single opportunity, resulting in him often getting lost in transit, with the rest of us searching intently for him, only to find him seated at the nearest bar. and then, in jordan, he became convinced that his life would be infinitely better if he shared a drink with me. henceforth, every single evening, he would call me to go drink with him in his room. to top it off, he had a really creepy, child-molester kind of voice. therefore, every evening i would try and fend him off with some kind of excuse or another – which is the only part of the trip where my sprained ankle actually came in handy. on the final day, while checking out, i find he has left me half a bottle of scotch at the hotel reception. not being someone to waste any consumable items, i proceeded to polish it off rapidly. it certainly helped to ease the pain in my ankle, i’ll tell you that. in fact, i quite forgot that i had ankles in the first place.
  • another seemed to exist for the sole purpose of shopping. this woman spent approximately $500 on various items every single night. while most of her shopping was confined to jewelry, she also bought a commode. yes, you heard right. a commode. apparently there’s a severe shortage back home in bangladesh, or it was meant to be a nice eid gift for someone special.
  • several of them enjoyed eating mcdonalds. which is fine – i enjoy a double cheeseburger as much as the next person. however, this entire group of seven or eight men insisted on going to mcdonalds every evening in a suit and tie. and, to top it off, each and every one of them wore a trucker’s hat. you haven’t lived until you’ve seen eight men in suits, ties and trucker hats gorging on big macs and french fries.
  • it being the month of ramadan, we expected some of our delegates to be fasting and/or in a religious frame of mind. however, we weren’t prepared for four of them to turn out to be fanatics – when we got to the jordanian border with saudi arabia, these four leapt up from their seats, just to be able to kiss the soil of the holy land. apparently the strict border security, waving uzis and shouting in angry arabic, didn’t deter them one bit from this goal. we barely managed to prevent them from getting shot or from causing an international incident.
  • and then there was the prospect of exercise:

    us: how many of you want to go to petra?
    [all hands go up] us: it costs $30 per person…
    [most hands go down] us: …and you have to walk for at least half an hour…
    [all hands are down by now] us: …but we’ll pay for everybody.
    [all hands go up again] [after a gruelling four hour bus ride] us: well, we’re here. let’s go.
    them: umm…err…half hour walk…err…maybe not…we’ll wait in the bus…we don’t have walking shoes etc. etc. ad nauseum.

    in comparison:

    us: the nearest shopping mall is in that direction…
    [half the group leaves in that direction] us: …about half an hour’s walk.
    [the other half start walking too].

  • last but not least, there were the usual who came up to me and tried to engage me in conversation, with reckless disregard for any particular topics that may be of interest to me:

    dumbass 1: did you know that dead sea mud is great for the skin? i hope we get to buy some!
    me: haha…how interesting…lol!
    my brain: i’m afraid that your skin condition is incurable. no amount of mud will help you, whether or not it is from the dead sea. if, however, you really want it, i can get some mud from outside the hotel and throw it at you, for no extra charge.

    dumbass 2: did you know that the export policy of bangladesh is blah blah blah blah blah blah blah?
    me: haha…how interesting…lol!
    my brain: i wonder where the nearest bar is, so that i can get severely drunk right now?

    dumbass 3: you know, i worked for your father, and he loved me like a son! he’s so great, he’s so interesting, he’s so handsome etc. etc.
    me: haha…how interesting…lol!
    my brain: i didn’t realize i hated my father quite as much as i do now. although it’s interesting that he’s treated the entire bangladesh civil service like they were his children. so therefore, even if he was never there for me, it’s great to know he was a great father to somebody at least.

    and yes, i did say “haha…how interesting…lol!” a lot on this trip.


  1. Hi! Nice blog – I came over from JAP’s. All the best for your date šŸ™‚ Will be back to see ur travel pictures.

    By the way, your ‘no comments’ link wasnt working for me.

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