The Sapient Ape

Life as an employed MBA grad during an economic recovery. DISCLAIMER: Everything written here is fiction.

The Drug Dealer

The drugs I deal...

Just a sec… let me just dust this blog off…. pssshhhh, psssshhhh, psssshhhh.

There… all fresh, just like new.  Special plice… just fol you!

I come back here after three months and find, scarily, that my hits are still at around 70 a day.  Don’t you people have lives?

So I haven’t written in months — being in a secure job, with a secure non-existent girlfriend, and having no monetary security makes one too content to post one’s angst ridden diatribes on the internet.

Oh wait… I just realized I still have plenty of causes for angst.  On we go then!

So I got this job — I deal drugs to foreigners.  At least that’s what I say to my acquaintances.  In reality, I’m the international business manager at a large pharmaceutical in Bangladesh.  I mean in some ways its very ironic (in so many ways, I won’t even get into ’em all).  Pharma — my dad’s industry, and the industry which I rejected job offers from not too long ago in places like Belgium (but who wants to live there anyway — I actually much prefer Bangladesh, still), from companies like J&J.  But here I am.  Mainly coz of my CEO.  I report directly to him, and he’s pretty awesome.  I’ve never felt like I wanted to be a part of a company, and really work for it and take it as far as it (and I) can go before.  In my previous jobs, I felt like a faceless corporate tool, cogging the machine (and sometimes jamming it up).  Motivation was hard to come by.

Now I’m finally in my element — someone took a chance on me and put me in a leadership position, and I’m up to the challenge (at least I think so — I could get fired tomorrow, but that would be a surprise, from what I see of the quality of manager-level human resources here).  I love it — I love the risks associated with decision making, and I’m not scared to make them.  I’ve always been a risk taker, but usually its been in my private life.  Don’t get me wrong — the risks I took, even in my personal life, were measured ones.  But now I can actually shape long-term strategy by suggesting new (and sometimes risky) courses of action.  I can make things happen — with my CEO’s OK of course — after all, this is still Bangladesh, and every company is a one-man show — although I’d like to think that I make it a 1.25 man show.

That’s me — Mr. 0.25.  But what’s not to love about this job — not only do I report directly to the CEO of a $50 million dollar company, handling $1.2 million worth of business (I hope to increase that to over 2 million this year), but I get to travel and have people underestimate me because of my age and my lack of pharma experience.  I love being underestimated.  Watch that it doesn’t smack you in the ass later.  My dad said an interesting thing the other day.

“Misha you’ll do well here because you’re very easy going.”

“But, baba (dad in Bengali), I also don’t take no shit.”

“And that’s why you succeed — most people here either are too easy going or too demanding.  You are both.”

I walk the fine line of being nice, but being an asshole.  The nice asshole, that’s me.  You’ve all heard me say it before, or read it in between the lines of my blog, or been subject to it in the form of my caustic humor, after which I quickly say “Just kidding, ha ha ha, I didn’t really mean that.”   Even tho I did.  My psychologist friend once said that there’s no such thing as a joke. Fuckin’ shrinks.

...and the drugs I don't.

So yeah — I get a free hand (to some extent), to grow the department and my business as I see fit, and I’m not one to sit around — put me in a position where I can succeed, and I’ll take it as far as I can go.  And drag you all with me, whether you like it or not.  I’m gonna tear shit up and make shit happen.  That’s the American way.

In some ways, this recession was the best thing that could have happened to me — instead of being put into a mid-level managerial position where I would slog out another 3 years before I really made a difference to anyone, I was forced to come back to Bangladesh where the quality of the educated workforce was so low, that I look like a star!  Score!  Its strange — I’m really content to be here for some time — these days, in our fast-paced professional world, its often tough to find an opportunity like that.  The only complaint I have is that there aren’t enough women around here. But maybe that’s a good thing.  I’ve always had a soft spot for the ladies.

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Filed under: Career, Personal, traveling, , , , , , ,

No rage against the Raj.

So I just came back from Kolkata today (Calcutta, to the colonially-inclined racists out there). It was my first time in India in like 25 years or something. Which is kinda weird considering I’m brown… but I was always bored by India — more into asian chicks. Ha ha — just kidding — brown chick renaissance goin’ on right here. Besides, I thought, what could be so damn different between Bangladesh and India? Between East Bengal and West? Between Kolkata and Dhaka? Both hot, stinky hellholes epitomizing human suffering, right? Typhoid, dysentery, malaria (do we got malaria?).

Boy was I wrong. Sure they’re both hot. They’re both stinky. Both cities share similar linguistic roots, and many of the men in both places sport thick virility-tickling mustaches. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Whether it’s the Airtel/Aircel ads that bring to mind Indian cricket team captain MS Dhoni telling me to press my internet button, or the fresh and mountainy TATA Himalayan spring water bringing the slight taste of diesel fuel to my mind’s tongue, India (or INDIA!, as it prefers to be known) has seeped into West Bengali culture like arsenic into UNICEF tubewell water in Bangladesh.

Today, Hindi and English are two of the more prevalent languages spoken in Kolkata, a city that used to pride itself on having the “purest” language in all of South Asia (Bengali – as per its similarities to Sanskrit, the now-dead root of most South Asian languages). And no one seems to care about the cultural dilution. Coz everyone’s making bank (except those poor muslims living in those huts on the way to Kolkata airport sorting through filth). Immigrants, whether it be Biharis, Tibetans, or Punjabis, are taking all the shitty jobs that those intellectualized Bengalis think themselves too good for, like street vending, bell-boying and cab driving. Bengalis work 9-5, getting fat on ghee and counting money, as they have for hundreds of years. Except now they do it in multinational banks. And everybody’s happy (cept the muslims of course, but who cares about them).

But only upon walking the streets of this modern, cosmopolitan Kolkata( they have sidewalks and little shops, and people actually walk and talk, unlike in Dhaka), and checking out the cute girls of all races, shapes and sizes (I like the Orissans! Nah jk, I’m equal opportunity fucker) walking on the streets with no male guardian or protective SUV shell, did I get a sense of how great the divide really is between us Bangladeshis and our snooty neighbors who don’t wear deodorant.

On my first day, I got into a discussion with one of my travel companions about how he believed India is actually falling apart from the inside, coz they are all so culturally dissimilar, and how there’s an Maoist uprising in every state now, and how us Bangladeshis are actually lucky coz we’re a cohesive homogenous unit who all think a certain way, and we really don’t treat our minorities as badly. Ummmm… bullshit. My whole life I’ve seen what culturally dissimilar democracies bring to the global table. New York City, London, and Spain, to name a few. Probably the three pinnacles of human civilization in terms of open-mindedness, acceptance of different cultures, and kick-ass art and music. Immigration, emigration — the movement of people to new locations where they are isolated from those who think just like them — fosters social, cultural, and economic development. Sure, it may be a rocky road, but its one that ends in nougaty nutty goodness.

That to me, is the inherent problem that we face as Bangladeshis. There are a shitload of us — 140 million — but most of us worship the same god, speak the same language, eat the same food, and even wipe our asses the same way (although that last part’s changing, hopefully). We drink the same tea, spit on the same corners, squat to piss, like the same bad Chinese food and music that makes us weepy. How can 140 million be wrong? Well even if they aren’t wrong they sure are damn boring.

Shazia's book cover... I tried to snort this line several times to no avail.

Shazia's book cover... I tried to snort it several times.

The above individual also had a few words of wisdom to ad (nah he’s pretty smart and he’s gonna be reading this blog soon, so I gotta ease up on him). “A friend of mine once said Dhaka has all of the bad things about a big city with none of the good.” We have the insane traffic, we have the pollution, we’ve got the crime, and we’ve got the drug problem. But where is the cultural gemification? Where are the centers for cutting edge music and art? The great street food and the open minded people?

They’re in India, right across the border. Tickets start at about $90 bucks round trip on Kingfisher Airlines, and the stewardesses are hot (with their little red miniskirts)!

Now in case anyone thinks I’m hating on my country, no way. Bengalis have a lot of great democratic, open-minded qualities upon which this country was formed (they escape me right now, its been a while). I just don’t want us to forget those on the road to globalization. I’m just another self-loathing liberal who “wants us to be as good as I know we can.”

Lastly, I’d also like to give a shout out to mah gurl Shazia, who just published her first book with Penguin India, and who’s book launch was the reason I flew out to Kolkata. “Like a Diamond in the Sky.” Its about drugs and Bangladesh so you know its good or at least ironically sad. Read it. She’s gots talents, yo.

Filed under: Politics, traveling, , , , , , , , ,

Diamond in the Desert

So my posts have been kinda on the dark and gloomy side lately, or maybe more serious than usual.  It reflects my mood at the moment, but that will change soon.

This is just gonna be a short one — I’m in Dubai Airport right now on the way to Dhaka, so I have some time to kill.  I’m drinking a beer at 930 am local time.  I can’t believe how many immigrants live in this city/country.  I would say 25% of the population is East Asian, mostly Chinese and Indonesian.  About 40-50% is South Asian, most of them Bangladeshi.  And then you have the locals, who perhaps make up about 20%, with white people maybe making up 5-10% (although I can’t really tell that from the airport, but its an educated guess from the number of MBAs I know working here, multiplied by the number of hot stewardesses I see).

I stopped at one of the duty free stores and rocked out some Guitar Hero — I turned around after “No sleep till Brooklyn” and found I’d drawn a crowd — I guess I’m a rock star wherever I go — is there any way I can leverage that?!?!

Before I left I was dreading this trip, but my experience in the airport so far just reaffirms that I need to come back to Asia at some point.  It IS the future.  Infrastructure is so super-developed here — it really does make the US look like a third-world country.  I know this isn’t true everywhere, or even in the majority of places, but its true enough at the major hub cities around Asia.

Of course at the same time, society is more close-minded and conservative, but really, in Dubai at least, I don’t feel that its much more conservative than like Arkansas or something!   Diversity breeds openness.  Some people may dress more conservatively, but like I said, when its only 20% of the population you barely notice.  And multiply that by .4 for the number of women actually wearing that long black thing, and its really not a big number.

I think I could really clean up here, in terms of the ladies.  Ha ha!  Is that a joke?  I’m not really sure.  But I hear there’s a dearth of places where you can go out and meet people/women, which could be  a bit of a damper on the picking-up-chicks scenario.

A friend of mine also mentioned that reports of Dubai’s dying economy are greatly exaggerated — its no worse off than anywhere else right now.

That’s all for now, I guess — sitting at an airport bar is only so interesting.  More tomorrow or the day after… when I finally reach my destination — the hot, sweaty, dirty city that is my semi-home…. Dhaka.

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