Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Original or Chinese?

(Thanks to Donald Trump’s wife Melania Trump for giving me an occasion to publish my article that was written sometime ago. She has found her place in the headlines of all reputed news media for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech. That’s how seriously Intellectual Property Right is taken beyond our neighbors.)

China makes some of world’s best products, but who cares? We only know her as the world’s biggest copycat. A common phrase, ‘Is it original or Chinese?’ says it all. The brand ‘Chinese’ is almost the opposite of the original now. It is not absolutely true and therefore unfair. But that’s how the world interprets it. The story is no better towards our south. We are literally sandwiched between two biggest copycats.

Do we want this to happen to our country? Aren’t we happy being a happy country? Intellectual property is taken casually in Bhutan. You can sing a stolen song and become a star, but if you steal a pair of shoes you will go behind the bar. We haven’t yet begun to comprehend the value of intellectual property and understand the rights.

Material property has a price, but we fail to understand that intellectual property is priceless. A book is to an author as building is to a landlord; both are fragments of their dreams upon which they have invested sweat and sleepless nights. The landlord knows that his building can house thousands of books but the author knows his book can house thousand buildings.

From the videocassette-days, Bhutanese perfected the art of piracy. First, an entrepreneur brought in pirated Indian cassettes and ran a hiring shop. His neighbor saw it and opened his version - another cassette shop. If it was even a dustbin outside their shops they would have fought over its ownership, but it was only a business idea, which got stolen. So, no one cared. Soon the town was flooded with cassette shops. How does it sound: Pirated cassettes business idea got pirated?

The story continued with telephone booths, pan shops, snooker rooms, beauty and gaming palours, Drayang, Bangkok shops, Dhaka sale, Bangkok wholesale etc. At times the copies became bigger than the originals. Customers loved more options only if they knew something about ethics.

It’s tolerable when the idea is copied into another town or at least hundred meters away, but people have the guts to replicate just next door. Look at carwash business; it’s everywhere now. Some are ten senseless meters away from the first one. Coffee cafés, gyms, Karaoke, handicraft shops, furniture stores, etc. are emerging ideas that are duplicated daily. I call these people proud thieves!

In schools, assignments are replicated from class to class and batch to batch; some assignments are passed down across generations. The geography practical assignment our batch copied in 2002 is still reproduced today. That’s because we are assessed on our correctness and not on the originality.

Let’s go to Facebook. I created a group called B-Bay- Buying and selling second hand Stuffs. When the brand B-Bay became so popular, people started copying it and the worst was when people reproduced my group, and also its name word for word. Even if they couldn’t create anything original, I wish they had named their group differently, something like C-Gay; at least they would have something to call theirs. But the very intentions were wicked; they simply wanted to mislead people.
B-Bay Imitations
First, it’s about respect and integrity. Any person with his self-respect intact would never steal; be it an idea, a piece of writing, work of art, a brand or a product. He would rather ask, borrow or buy. And second, for a small nation to develop into a knowledge society, it should be conducive for creativity and innovation to flourish, not stolen.
One Fake BBay, and People behind it (Mostly anonymous)

What gives us so much courage to take this serious issue for granted? Obviously it is our careless and forgiving Bhutanese nature and the same forgiving Bhutanese laws protecting it. Intellectual Property Office in Thimphu has staggering 15,000 plus IP Rights registrations; sadly, almost all are from outside Bhutan. We neither protect our own intellectual property rights nor care about others’. The department that is entrusted with the task of educating and protecting intellectual property rights is hardly empowered to discipline our careless citizens.

Across the world Intellectual Property Right is a serious business, they invest as much in protecting a product as they do in producing the product. The whole concept is based on mistrust. People make fortunes illegally as much as legally. They think like a thief and build the protection.

We can choose to be different. We can educate our society into a place where protection is not even needed. If every Bhutanese develops appreciation for the intellectual property rights and intolerance against any form of piracy, eventually the few bad people will have to give up.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Rice Cooker Disease?

Before electric rice cooker was introduced in our kitchen cooking rice was an art. Not many could boast about knowing the art. Even pro mothers could land up with bad pots once in a while. I remember how my mother would be on her toes once the rinsed rice was poured into the boiling water. She would keep stirring it and from time to time she would spoon out few grains and feel them between her fingers.

Once she got the right feel, which was when the grain was soften all around except a tiny bit in the centre, she would remove the pot from the oven and drain out the thick rice soup that was half the content of the pot. Then the pot was put back on the oven with low heat. I always wondered how my mother knew how much longer to wait after that because I mostly landed up with either uncooked or burnt rice.

That short story on the art of cooking rice can be a history lesson for young Bhutanese born after 90s. Because after electric rice cooker came cooking rice literally became a child's play. All you have to do is rinse the rice, along with some water pour it in the cooker. Put your index finger to see if the water level is at the first line of your finger above the level of the rice. Close the cooker. Pull the light down to 'cook' and go to sleep till mother comes home to prepare the curry. Of course some can't even do that much.

Besides the art and history of cooking rice there also seems to be solid science involved in it, which is gradually surfacing in the form of a disease. The deadly disease is called diabetes. It's sugary but not at all a sweet disease it mess with. We understand that it is to do with excessive sugar in our blood that our pancreas can't handle. But how did this happen?

Bhutan didn't have this disease before, perhaps there were some cases that we were ignorant about but now it has become so common. Well, the answer could be in the rice cooker. A research in Singapore ( Story published in Strait Times) has shown that a plate of rice is as bad as two cans of sweetened soft drink. Ask yourself how many plates you eat in a day.

We Bhutanese always ate rice, so before you ask me why I blamed rice cooker here let me tell you that before rice cooker we boiled rice till it gave away whatever it contained and drained out the soup. Remember the history lesson. So the rice we were eating didn't contain all the sugar it came with but now we are taking in every bit of sugar it contains because there is no draining out of soup.

We started using rice cookers in 90s and in the last two decades we must have forgotten how to cook rice without rice cooker but we have produced enough diabetic parents to relearn the art of cooking rice the old way.

Courtesy: Strait Times, Singapore 

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