Friday, July 14, 2017

Punatshangchhu Diaries: Episode 2

I didn't know that I had gone to study in Brown Man's Ivy League college, in engineering sector, trust me I wasn't the prodigal kid nor was I some kid whom professors would remember. With a racial pun there, I apologize. Today, few of my friends from my class hold very significant posts in Nepal and India, screw those guys because they were the reason why my GPA got embedded in the shadows of their colourful grades: we were graded upon a topper's performance and I seriously don't get it, what Mr. Amit Sunal would eat and the amount of hours he slept to top and receive many gold medals - today he is posted as a Commissioner at this tender age, somewhere in India. 

During my college days, WAPCOS had come to recruit us, it was somewhat like AIB's Mass Recruiter Saab Ka Massiha type of company for our college. Not many people were interested in it, just that back home in Bhutan, it was a popular company from India. In India, however, WAPCOS happened to be a Mini Ratna company, meaning they had to make profit of 30 cores or more in past three years or their firm's worth being more than 500 cores. My Nepal's friends were pushy about it and asked me to go give an interview. I went there with slippers and big formal T-Shirt, with my GPA I knew I won't qualify. There was no GD nor there was any aptitude test or anything, or did I write an aptitude test? I clearly don't remember, however I was interviewed and I was asked whether I would work in India for a year or two? I had signed bond with Department of Adult and Higher Education, and I knew clearly, that I had to serve in Bhutan for 8 years. I told them frankly, and they said, they would want someone who would work in India for a year or two. Little had I known then, that it wasn't easy to be placed in other nations while working for WAPCOS. 

When I had joined Power House, most of my bosses were Indians. No work had resumed then and I was free most of the days. I was given to read contract documents. To this day, I take it as blessing in disguise because working for PHPA did make me a better engineer. Unlike any other organizations in Bhutan, the Contract Documents of PHPA had various volumes, if I compare it with Paper Bundles, then it might be equivalent to 5 paper bundles of A4 size. No wonder, it was hard for Auditors to grasp what we were talking or explaining about. And there were two sets of those bundles, draft and the finalized one with signatures of competent authorities. 

To this day, tunneling confuses me at times, because my conclusion about tunneling is this: There are two countries leading in Tunneling. Austria and Norway. Both compete with each other and both sort of don't acknowledge each others' methods. Of course we all agree upon the norms of conventional tunneling, but the methodology, though similar vary and though varying is similar.

My first job was to build some supervisors' quarters, which of course wasn't RCC structure. Those were prefabricated steel structures. The site was funny because I was told that people were buried there, I however never found any corpses or skeletons, and that's the thing about construction industry - perhaps everybody is so far away from their families and entertainment and recreational activities, that they find their solaces in chit chats and rumours. When I was given a tunnel to work upon, I was so enthusiastically taken by the chore that I was assigned. Of course I was, because I was going to work some 4 m below the river bed and as a young employee I just found that task interesting. 

Now here's the thing about being from brown man's Ivy League College! In my first year, I got assigned with some five sites. Yes, five. One was road, one tunnel, one was prefabricated building, one was RCC building and one was drain. These works required me to stay late at office. During mornings I would go to site and evenings I was at the office. I was young and energetic then, I wanted to make difference, and I wanted to learn a lot. I always believed then that my future was in Hydropower, that we were first generation of Hydropower engineers because during those days, the maximum numbers of Graduate engineers were recruited for both the projects. In that whole year, I only took three and half days of leave, and I worked hard. 

The first time I entered a tunnel, I felt so much suffocated, that I imagined in my head that those arches would fail and would fall any moment. But with time, I would learn that it took time for something to fall - that the rocks told their stories and some of them were not even rocks. Nature, is interesting at times. 

My first year went by, with works and few quarrels with subordinates and bosses. Little would I know, what I was heading to - and few months later, we would encounter adverse geological condition. With muds in our shoes and fear in our hearts, we stood there while noises from buckling steel shrieked our ears, yet we would pass that juncture. 

At times, when people talk about pay and belittle those who work for projects, I always get little annoyed, because the amount of work one does there isn't even half of what they are paid for. Risking lives by traveling to sites for hours, to and fro, and working at geological conditions whereby even geologists aren't sure about what comes next, isn't quantifiable by any payroll or pay cheques. But the ultimate heroes are the ones who stand at the face of the tunnel, drill those rocks, insert ANFO explosives and later checks whether any temporary supports are required or not? These are labourers who have come far away from their homes, who only get a limited number of days as holidays and who only see their loved ones for those limited number of days. We were sahibs there, we didn't have to sacrifice much compared to what they did. 

Someday, when those turbines will dance along the streamlines of those turbulent water jets, someday when it electrifies and brings light and fortune for the nation, and when the clouds of debts will clear off - then will the nation appreciate what have been being constructed there - modern engineering marvels. Till then, we all deserve to grab some pop corns and watch the activists protest, politicians debate, reporters shame and blame the hydropower projects.

As per my notion, I think most of the Hydropower projects are proposed in Bhutan, because our terrains are suitable and we are lesser in population. Resettlement of humans or rehabilitation of humans, being easier in Bhutan than in states of India. 

1 comment :

  1. A great piece of reflection there. Loved it till the end. Can't wait to read what's coming next, Dawa.