A rant from the heart, letting off steam and still not getting anywhere…one of those days
By Fareeha Qayoom
ell, today was a bad day. In fact, it was a pretty bad day. Come to think of it, it was a pretty frustratingly bad day. Nothing went right. Probably I went to sleep on the wrong side of the bed last night. I got up late. I was supposed to get up at five. So I missed out on the early bird syndrome.
I finally woke up enough to get out of bed around 5:45 am. Then, it was the usual scream and shout. Naw, I don’t like screams and shouts in the morning. It was Shela, my elder sister trying to wake me and the dead since 5:00 am. Unfortunately, the sun had already started rising. So, there was no point hurrying. I had already missed the boat. So, like a good little soldier – I spent 20 minutes at the computer instead. In the meantime, the kids (my eldest sister’s) were up and getting ready for school. I pottered around for a bit and then went into the kitchen to make my lunch. Unfortunately, not enough stuff in the fridge. It was 7:00 am already. Hmmm. So, I started watching the early morning TV instead. Everyone was talking about the new taxes and the reform general sales tax (RGST), blah, blah, blah.
Well, funnily enough, it was the government guys who were lamenting the most – the hypocrites. Call it Value Added Tax (VAT), RGST or GST – whatever you want to call it, it’s an indirect form of tax and it’s basically a tax on your consumption and it all means the same thing – say, the tax is 15 percent for example, you add a 15 percent tax on each stage of supply chain so for example, if you buy a t-shirt or a shirt at HKB (made in Pakistan), you end up paying a tax from when the farmer sells his cotton to the ginner, which the ginner processes and sells to the spinner, the spinner spins it, and sells it to the knitter or weaver who makes fabric and in turn sells it to a wholesaler, retailer, manufacturer, designer or a brand. All these guys in turn do their thing, add their label on top and sell it to you over the counter – they all in turn charge you the accumulated tax on top of their costs and margins and voila – a t-shirt or a shirt that should have retailed for only PKR 150-200, or 250-300 max, ends up costing you around PKR 1000 after RGST.
Well, you the poor consumer obviously can’t afford to buy it because of poor economy and little income because there is so much you need to buy and there is so much tax you need to pay on each buy and there’s only so much you can buy, so the whole thing backfires. In the meantime, the smart guys (sellers) maintain two books, under invoice and pocket half the cash they make from the transactions, they win. You lose. And yes, the Government loses too – the Einstein that came up with this smart plan. The smart guys, in the meantime, bank the loot in Swiss banking accounts and let the European economy benefit from their ill gotten gains and eat off the interest while the poor folk in Pakistan starve to death because there is no foreign or local direct investment to bankroll their economy. I mean, if you don’t know how to loot, you can’t make money in this country, you might as well take for the hills, (oh no, the hills are not safe either- there are terrorists hiding there!). We all end up with an egg in our faces because it’s downright embarrassing living in this country. I mean, who can live here except us? You just have to read a couple of articles by the international media to know it too.
Remember, it was only 7:30 am. I went and got ready for work. Adnan, my brother for some reason was on his own clock. We were supposed to leave by 8:00. We left at 8:15-20 am. Right there and then Shela remembered there was not enough stuff in the fridge. I had to get petrol, drop Adnan off at work and go to my own and now this, so we took Shela shopping for groceries, picked up petrol, dropped by at Gourmet to pick up my breakfast and lunch (Shela had conveniently forgotten to mention that she had made me breakfast, Adnan had his.) I didn’t. Sigh.
I dropped Adnan off at his workplace around 8:50 am. I had ten minutes to get to mine and I still had 20 minutes of driving left to do…I made it by 9:10. The reason I had to get there at exactly 9:00 was because we have a subscription to this stupid website that likes to charge premium subscription rates for their silly numbers and only two people can access it at one time with a single password. My slot is 9:00 – 10:00 am. So I went to work like crazy downloading these reams and reams of silly numbers in one hour flat. After the one hour was gone, I spent one hour reading masses of emails – the gist of it was that a set of samples were on their way from Canada and nothing could get done until the samples reached us which was probably due Friday or Saturday. So maybe I need to teach these guys a professional course in concise writing too? I mean, sending me these masses of emails was a pretty useless exercise, all he had to do was drop me a one liner explaining this….
I spent another hour trying to read the latest news on the cotton and textiles, while the server and the computer played tricks on me…in the end frustrated with the whole thing, I took a walk down the stairs trying to locate some stationary from the HR and find out the status of my computer system – guess what, the computer system still had not been ordered yet because the two gatekeepers in charge of the problem were protecting their turfs or something like that…hmmm. Well, whatever, I could make do with this 1920 machine in the meantime.
The walk had helped. So I went back and started reading the really stupid stuff again I had downloaded during those first 50 minutes. Unfortunately, the numbers confuse me and there were masses of this stuff. Trying to stare at it wasn’t doing much for me even though I had read it through twice – there were only two facts that made sense to me – synthetic yarns were as expensive as cotton right now and two, it was basically India’s fault. And China’s. So I tried to gather intelligence the old fashioned way. Yes, Googled for it – bottom line, it was China and India’s fault. Figures. I kind of knew that already. I mean, I had masses and masses of numbers to prove it, the only problem, how to put it in less than 500 words!
All I could come up with was a few sentences – talk about a report clarifying the problem in less than ten sentences, “dear boss’s buyer, Pakistan needs an up charge on already negotiated deals because it’s all China and India’s fault – the cotton is really expensive right now and climbing, honest – I am not making this up. Hey, you have the numbers to prove it too – by the way, do you really want me to send you these stupid numbers that your government, media and research tanks put together anyway? – They say the same thing, only in a more complicated way?” Signed the poor dumb mug chosen to write this stupid report every week; as if the stuff could change, a week on week. The facts would remain the same. It would still be India and China’s fault every week till the cotton bubble bursts…why do you need a professional writer to write this stuff anyway? Any bean counter can do so if numbers is your game – I am a writer – give me a break!
Time for a lunch break and a cup of tea…
After lunch, my boss called me in for a bit of overhauling and talking to. So I took it like a man, sorry, woman, on the chin. No hard feelings. After that clarifying talk, I walked up the stairs and stared at those numbers again. I mean, those numbers were still just numbers and didn’t help me connect any new dots!
Oh yes, a couple of my so-called good friends called me to wish me happy birthday seven days after the event. Talk about dizzy! It was another friend’s birthday today…they obviously were in the twilight zone too…so I gently steered them in the right direction. At least, they could be in time for his birthday.
I called a few more business contacts – one banker, a buying agent for a retailer to verify some more details and a contact in a denim factory. I also called my journalist contacts at the News. The senior business editor didn’t take my call and senior business reporter referred me to his boss, the senior editor. It was turning out to be bummer of an afternoon too.
It was almost five. I decided to do it my way. Cruised past my favorite cotton site, took down a couple of really simple articles that explained the same thing – U.S. Cotton Market Monthly Economic Letter – November 10, 2010 and Framing the Pricing Discussion.
Tomorrow was another day. I could do the report absolutely; this time from another angle. May be I could say it was Bangladesh’s fault? – yeah, I was seriously losing it; time to call it a day. I was just packing up when Adnan called me and told me to stay put, because he had some stuff to take care of and he was running late.
So I typed up my notes for the report for tomorrow – finally, it was 6:45 pm and Adnan was ready. I left. And got caught up in a traffic jam for half an hour over the canal; there was one SUV that I wanted to mow down personally – it created a third lane in the traffic and forged its own way through – figures, (Politicians and government officials – they think they are above the law). It belonged to a MNA. I even thought of taking its photo while it did its own thing; but sanity prevailed. (I mean, what would be the point of publishing his SUV’s photo on the net while he forged his own path in a two lane road? – he’s above the law!) Finally, I picked up Adnan. We got stuck in another traffic jam. I mean it was just not my day. The universe was giving me a hint. We got home at 8:30 pm (Usually, its 30 minute drive with masses of traffic too from Adnan’s workplace to our place.).
I spent an hour staring at walls. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went and watched some more TV – this time, the taped variety, fresh episode of “The Good Wife.” Kind of made you think too and now, I am writing this rant…after this, hopefully, I can get back to some serious work. Only its almost 3:00 pm. Took a long time to unwind from this freakish day too…sigh. After all, my 500 word report has to start from somewhere. I am fresh out of ideas. Maybe I can start my report by saying…
Dear buyer, It was India, China and Pakistan’s “couldn’t-care-less, show-me-the-money!” type government’s fault…that Pakistani vendors are in this boat today…they are thinking of joining the foreign legion. Do you have vacancies? If you have, beam them up Scotty… ■