Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Friday, December 21, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (16)

Daman’s joints creaked as he rose and patted the grass from the back of his trousers, dislodging a few dried-out wisps. Although mentally exhausted, his unfailing sense of duty helped him begin to refocus on the important issues of the day ahead, as he then remounted his bicycle to continue on his way. Prior to his arrival at the plantation, it was essential that he shook off the gloom that had enveloped him all morning: his employees deserved better than to be engulfed by the contagion of his despair. So despite a weary heart, it was with a generous smile that he greeted the security officer as he swept through the gates of the compound. The heir to the family business further signalled his apparent good cheer with a wave to some gardeners, who were tending the lawn in front of the main office building. Dismounting, he parked his bike in the sole dedicated slot, situated to one side of its entrance. A recent installation, this simple facility had been commissioned by the workforce and unveiled in a surprise ceremony on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. Right on cue, the old man from the railway station then emerged silently from the doorway. Forcing a smile he held out Daman’s briefcase, returning it to the man he had last observed guiding the aging two-wheeler along the platform, a rather sullen expression on his face. “I see that the wiles of the elderly have outsmarted the – shall we say – eager desire of youth,” Daman quipped. “Once again, you win the race, my friend,” he then beamed, to his loyal subordinate’s relief. For it seemed to the old man that his boss had rid himself of whatever cloud had earlier been sitting above him.

PT Bambang Edible Oil had virtually run itself over the past two decades, due in part to a dramatic increase in the global demand for polyunsaturated vegetable oils. The raised awareness of the health benefits they offered and their replacement in general food production of the more traditional, saturated fats guaranteed that the firm’s order book was permanently filled. And over the same period this movement towards healthier living took place, an almost non-existent turnover among his key production staff meant that Daman was now running a company at which the senior employees were, on average, highly qualified. This unrelated but coinciding factor had led to greater efficiencies in the running of the business, further boosting its profitability. Daman’s star, then, was already rising at the time he had been appointed to take over at the helm of the family concern. But above all else, what had made his successful stewardship of the company relatively easy to achieve was his father’s shrewd decision to resist the lure of unnecessary growth, once he had reached the stage where he was satisfied with what had been built. As a result, the business had always remained under private control – never overreaching itself through excessive debt, or suffering interference from unwanted external forces. Today’s production meeting, like so many before, was in consequence a straightforward recital of the latest chapter in PT Bambang’s continuing success story. Reports of maintained turnover, efficiency and margin were delivered earnestly and with considerable pride by his loyal heads of inventory, production and sales. “We have now successfully implemented the just-in-time delivery system,” said one. “The annual maintenance shut-down went off without a hitch.” Another. “The order book remains full, with turnover predicted to remain steady for at least the next six months.” And so on. Indeed, Daman could have scripted the minutes and found it difficult, as the meeting drew to its familiar conclusion, to prevent his mind from drifting off to the lonely place it had earlier occupied.

In closing he congratulated each of them on their dedication and achievement, adding emphasis to key points with the subtle flick of his head with which, over the years, they had all become accustomed. But as his most senior staff members then filed out of the boardroom, his mood once more darkened while he sat in further contemplation, his mind returning to that most awful of days – and a confrontation that led him seriously to challenge his father’s wisdom, for the only time in his life. An exceedingly rare moment, when he had even considered completely disobeying the rock to which all his values clung, despite the dire consequences he knew would result. The day he was forcibly dragged into this very room by the man, who was shaking with a fury that had never before revealed itself, and one that Daman prayed would never surface again.

posted by Kirk at 11:27 pm  

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