Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nine Years In Paro Airport

I have completed my nine years in airport and soon I will be leaving for another place. After nine long years of attachment I feel like I am leaving my home. I met my wife in Paro, married her here and even raised my kids here. So Paro will always hold a special place in my heart. 

One year ago, I wanted to move out. That time it was purely in the interest of my career advancement. It was also in the interest of other friends who wanted to come here for the same. Somehow it never came through. This year I am really moving out and I am feeling lot more nostalgic. I am going to take loads of memories along. 

To begin with, I never thought I would someday work for Customs department. Had it not been for my wife, (who was then undergoing her teacher training in Paro College of Education) I would have landed elsewhere. So thanks to my wife, I chose to work in Paro and was able to officially join RRCO, Paro in January 2006. It was a humble beginning then. We rented an apartment below Rimpong Dzong. The apartment had a large living room, 2 bed room, 1 kitchen, 1 store and worst of all 1 toilet. With few personal effects, virtually the whole apartment was empty. But we had to accept it. My wife had lot to complain when I got home late because there were either many strangers peeping through our partially curtained windows. The most scarring part is that our apartment echoed like an empty cave. So we had a small altar set up on a table we picked from a construction site. That was basically to seek religious solace and apparently to draw off those peeping ghosts.

Now in nine years, things have changed. People say I have progressed a lot. I say yes, provided if the progress was to be measured in terms of having kids! In nine years, to the envy of some infertile people, I have become father of three beautiful daughters and a handsome son! That’s a biological progress! Some say so and I accept it with much joy. 

In nine years, I had the opportunity of working with many superiors and colleagues. Through each individual, I was able to draw special lessons. Working with late Regional Director, Dasho Zamtsho Tshering was scary but nevertheless been that much enriching. Director Choizang had his charisma as a boss. I thought he never liked me but in the end it was proven wrong. During my last personal audience with him, I have come to know about the sense of brotherhood he had towards me and in fact to all the staffs of DRC. I owe them million thanks. Dasho Yonten Namgyel is another guru whom I have a greatest regard. And I have my special regards and thanks go to my current boss, Mr. Bimal Kumar Pradhan. Working with him has been anything but like a running water. 

In nine years time, Paro airport has become lot busier. From a mere four flights a day; it has now increased to thirteen flights a day on an average. We have witnessed the entry of Bhutan airlines that nearly sent the veteran Drukair into an operational limbo. It’s all competition between the two airlines now. Whether air travel has become cheaper or not is another question. But as a Customs official, working in airport has become that much taxing. 

In nine years, many of the facilities in airport have undergone facelift. Airport has a longer runway, bigger hanger, better safety equipments and more qualified people working. In days to come, Paro airport will even have a separate terminal building for the arrival section with duty free shops that would issue electronic receipts! But here is one thing that has bothered my imagination for a good number of years. I am told that huge chunk of budget was allocated to Paro airport in preparation for the 16th SAARC summit, Centenary celebrations and the Royal Wedding. But inside terminal building there are little or no traces of that big money.

In nine years Customs office has managed to procure one x-ray machine. Four years into operation, it broke down completely despite intensive care and maintenance. Elsewhere, machines procured by BAFRA has also succumbed to the similar fate. I was mad with the kind of indifference shown by the supplier. Government doesn’t have a budget and they are reluctant to repair the machines. Distressing part of the affair is to see our performance get compromised on daily basis.

In nine years, I had good number of arguments with importers. The cause is very simple. I enforced laws for the safety of the nation and people simply found it too intrusive. I wanted to collect tax for a greater cause and they simply wanted to avoid or evade either through influence or manipulation. Today I stand amazed that there is a lesson to be learned even from those arguments. Paying is always painful irrespective of who you are. 

In nine years, I became over all in-charge of Customs for the record three times. I don’t know whether it was merited by my ability or by a vacuum created by someone’s departure. But in all the tenures, I think I gave my best. I am happy to be associated with all the shortcomings. But at the same time I am also proud to have led a team that was responsible for the seizure of gold, silver and currency worth millions of Nu. We were told about the rich reward recommended from the throne. We couldn’t be more proud than this. The royal appreciation was a reward rich enough for me and my team. With regard to the gold seizure, I never thought it would be that difficult for the court to convict a smuggler. While we remained silence, many people wanted the credit. Perhaps I could write pages after the high court passes the final judgment. 

In nine years, I had the opportunity of traveling to various countries. I met different people. I feel blessed to have met them all. Although many officials have the tendency of travelling only when the DSA accorded is more, I took the opportunity as and when given. Coming February I am again nominated to travel to New Delhi as a team leader. I am happy to know about the DSA of INR 850 per day. So far I have travelled to Japan, Korea, Malaysia and to India. Each travel has been an exciting and elevating. In near future I wish to travel once to China to see the Great Wall of China.

In nine years, I sat for few interviews. In one of the interview, I felt disheartened to know about the thing of preselected candidates. In another interview I did not even make through the first round. The last was when I attended for a GoI scholarship interview. I came out with flying colors! I topped the interview! I went to India and did Masters in Economics. I scored more than 82%. I came back to airport and forgot everything. Along with it I lost my 6 months seniority. However, I had equally memorable days. I was given a stipend of INR 7000 a month. With this I lived like a king in Gujarat. 

In nine years, I have become a blogger. Some people mistook me for an ardent social activist. I blogged about the controversial tobacco law and I got reprimanded. I came to realize that blogging can be an expensive passion to be pursued when it gets at political sentiments. 

In nine years, I have realized that working for Customs is being like a master tactician. Even if you are not you are forced to become one. In airport every day is a new day and new days brought in newer challenges. Newer challenges called for newer tactics. Despite having given the best in me I always felt that I was falling short somewhere. In discharge of my duty as Customs official; it was often my common senses that made the difference. Laws, rules and manuals I felt were there as a general framework. 

In nine years, I learnt that without so called “PR” (Personal Relation) you cannot get anything done. This is something unbecoming of Bhutan in the 21st century. Especially for a Customs official like me, maintaining “PR” meant attracting so many watchful eyes. I get the feeling that somehow people’s efficiency at this age is gauged through the “PR” yardstick. And in a place like airport “PR” is something you require in abundance. Otherwise you risk becoming low performer. 

In nine years, I was able to own one alto car. Believe it or not, as per ACC’s declarable asset definition that is the only qualified asset at my disposal. Our Government chose to name “bolero” as the “utility car” but to me and my family, our alto is our utility car. In nine years I could finally own an iphone. I still owe half the money though. 

I can go on and on. But to be brief, past nine years has been anything but a blessing.


  1. Hope the new place would bring you the new achievement and new experiences...thaanks

  2. Such great achievements and accomplishments you have had these past 9 years Kuenzang! I'm very happy for you and your families.

    Wish you all the best for your new placement and hope you can get much more in years to come! Take care and Tashi Delek la! Hope you can get a chance to visit Singapore too one day! ^^

  3. Dear Sancha Sir.\,

    Thank you for finding time to read my blog

    Dear Rima,

    Thank you for your beautiful words...
    Hope to see you and your family in Singapore someday....

  4. So much takeway lessons from this beautiful post. Nine years is a long time and you have achieved and learnt a lot. I can see that you are a deligent civil servant. Thank you for the insight into the airport and other lessons. I have so much to learn from this post.

    I wish you all the best in your new placement and your future endeavour. (BTW I'm curious as to your new placement :P).

  5. oved the frank and straightforward writing sir..........///// hoping to see you soon!

  6. Congratulations Customs Kunzeng for a meritorious service at Paro airport. Are u headed for a land border crossing assignment now? It will be a new though related experience also. If it is in my country you will be faced with new modes of `Customs Clearance` and goods `smuggling techniques`. So your enforcement skills and tools would also have to be re enforced based on the new challenges. Cheers

  7. Sir, I had you nominated for inspiring blogger award...please do visit my blog.

  8. I am only reading it now. :P You are good. There were many places i actually smiled while reading, like the one toilet issue. :P The alto car and iphone.. but yes you have covered a lot of serious issues. May things be better in future. And i hope to meet you and your family someday. All the best


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