The TCF Debacle!

People have been asking me as to why I resigned from The Corbett Foundation (TCF)?

Some queries have been genuine; a small number laced with affectation; several embedded with the usual gloating maliciousness and more than a few comments validating my decision. Then, there have been requests for information and explanation from foreign nationals on the Cc list. Sadly, not one note of enquiry, till date, from those Indian men and women I had looked upon as worthy torch-bearers for the cause. Odd! Considering there are quite a few who on occasions have personally expressed their concerns about the very grounds that eventually prompted me to hand in my notice.

So, is a pack silently baying for my blood?

Anyway, it is not necessary to furnish all the reports that I submitted, except the following – excerpts from my last email to the Vice-Chairman (!) of The Corbett Foundation:

Mrs. Rina Khatau,

This ‘Open Letter’ is addressed to you, as you seem to run and control everything.

I guess you never thought that I would get back again, but I was waiting for my anger to subside; discuss matters… also with many on the Cc list.

I know there are those who may not think it right; find it out of place or even disagree with me and am sure there will be a pack baying for my blood, but the truth needs to be told. Martin Luther King said, “The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die”. The KERC report was probably my death-knell because once I submitted it the silence from you was a loud indication of my future as Director of TCF.

This ‘open letter’ would probably never have happened – if it were not for the constant shoddy and petty behaviour exhibited by you (especially the day I submitted my resignation), and my uncompromising passion and concern about good governance and wildlife. I doubt if you ever expected to be confronted by someone who refused to become part of the sycophantic clique that you maintain. I also feel that you are countermining all real and genuine wildlife conservation attempts that TCF ought to be taking. One cannot deny the good work done by TCF with Mr. Khatau at the helm. One cannot even deny the synergy infused by him…but where is that Mr. Khatau today? Somebody once said that Mr. Khatau “attracts the finest of professionals to help him take his vision to greater levels and you repel all and he lets this happen.”

I was told by people that I must address all official communication to you and not to Mr. Khatau; always say ‘Madam’ and genuflect; everything would be fine then. The number of suggestions/advice I received and the strategies I was told to adopt, amazed me…sadly, they all smacked of personal agendas and exhibited an ailment I don’t suffer from even at the cost of being jobless!

The short period I spent with TCF was like going back in time to ancient Egypt – it was also a regime based on the keeping of slaves. Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians talked about the eye of the soul, the Ka, the little bird like creature that lives in the hearts of all. Fortunately, blessings of my ancestors have never allowed me to be enslaved or my Ka to shut its eye. I guess that makes me an oddity in today’s world of social networking and mutual back-scratching. Better to be an oddball than sell one’s self-respect.

Madam, you are one of the most disliked persons within your resort-cum-TCF empire that is surely and steadily crumbling.  You create a pall of gloom where-ever you go; constantly demeaning those who work for you. Instead of giving the people example and direction in their lives, you just crush their spirits. The only sound that you like to hear is your own voice.

Let me now attempt to address your last communication. Attempt, because one can only but try to make sense out of your irrational ranting.

# the constant harping of the ‘job description’ and ‘scope of work’ is rather out-of-place and exhibits the lack of any cohesive thinking. When you appoint a ‘Director’ level individual, do you really expect him to be an imbecile? Of course, the scope of work and job description is known…provided you let your Director work! Anyway, most TCF appointment letters (to those who get them) and job descriptions are practically the same – a stock issue. The fact you mention ‘point no. 15 re Mr. Gyan Sarin’ indicates the irrelevance of your statement. Why give this point at all?

# a lesson in ‘common courtesy’ from you is almost farcical! For someone who can storm into the Golghar and yell at guests (who have paid for their stay) to pack-up and go to bed; interrupt the meal of a young qualified Programme Officer of TCF and tell him to eat elsewhere; treat those working for you as menials and publically ridicule them; display illogical behaviour and make absurd comments during meetings…should not be preaching what is not practised.

If you find me to be a ‘person of standing and education’, do you really think I would not know the meaning and importance of ‘privacy and appointments’? Let me enlighten you to the fact that I had come to your residence, that evening, because your husband had asked me to do so. This was during a meeting on the ‘Deck’ same morning and he had wanted to have a look at some documents. It was also mortifying to see him just sit there, and make no attempt to rectify the situation. You could have tackled it by being polite and courteous! But then, tehzeeb does not necessarily come with wealth. It is a gift of the Gharana and has to be nurtured with finesse.

# it is very droll to find your comments about my interference with matters related to the Resort. Let me refresh your memory re our first meeting in Kachchh. One of the many things that you wanted me to do was to ‘merge’ the activities of TCF with the resort – a Trust with a hospitality business?! You had wanted me to hob-nob with the resort guests; introduce myself, the Foundation and tell stories about my grandfather and other such daft ideas. You had even tried to sell me and this scheme to the Director of Royal Expeditions during the Sanctuary organised meeting in Delhi.

You had also sought the use of my ‘keen sense of observation’ and help propel TCF and the resort forward. So, in good faith and no malice, when we met at Sushant Lok I gave you my observations and pointed-out the most obvious ‘deadwood’ to you. I must have struck a raw nerve because your demeanour went through a transformation and I got the ‘not your job description/jurisdiction’ outburst.

It is pathetic to be told that ‘interference by you in matters related to Infinity Resorts will not be tolerated’ when actually it has unvaryingly been the other way around, with the resort being allowed to persistently and blatantly interfere with the working of the Foundation. There was no separation and the spill-over was counterproductive. It is when I drew the dividing line between the Resort and Foundation, put my foot down, refused to suffer fools, took stock of matters, made my presence felt, asked questions and demanded answers, did not let others take me and TCF for granted, refused to be part of the mediocre, hypocritical non-productive obsequious group of people, knowingly rocked the boat – I became a threat to many a vested interest!

# the number of suggestions, recommendations, updates, proposals, policy modules, reminders, staff reports, field reports and programme reports that were sent from me and never acknowledged is something that you must mull-over. Of course, they were all addressed to the Chairman! I was even sending you project proposals (as per your request) in August 2008 – four months before I took over officially. Never heard from you! If and when you did reply was primarily to shoot down everything constructive and refuse to accept facts.

# ‘run amok in the field’ and ‘doing this because I am a woman’ – both are ludicrous remarks and should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve, except that you are a woman with delusions of grandeur and a misplaced sense of superiority attempting to cover your shortcomings and lack of any understanding of issues that plague not only the resort but TCF.

# ‘getting up at 4am ……etc’ – the usual ‘not within your scope of work’ blah! I don’t really expect you to understand what I am saying. When was the last time, you woke-up at the said hour to check the well-being of those who are in the kitchen to prepare breakfast for your guests or the lads shivering and patrolling the Kosi? When was the last time you met someone whose livestock was killed by a big cat, who then, walked miles to call TCF for that Interim Relief – and nobody picks-up the phone because it is a Sunday? In such cases, a voice responding to these calls is like a virtual hug of assurance that generates an indisputable reliability factor about the Foundation and its people. Ground realities cannot be dismissed. Sensitivity is the key word here.

# for wildlife and TCF, the ‘critical period’ is an on-going process in today’s scenario and all work is ‘real’. Trying to take ‘TCF to a higher plane’ is what I was doing against all odds. And yes, I do take things ‘personally’ when it comes to my credibility, my beliefs, my ethics, my work and my absolute concern about the delicate and precarious nature of my country’s vanishing forests and wildlife! I don’t have to be with TCF to prove this to anybody. I much rather work on my own… Things are bad enough…

What else did I take personally? Here’s a wee glimpse:

  • The use of donated jeep meant for TCF work becoming the exclusive property of your children and other such vehicles for resort personal work.
  • The use of TCF vehicles as taxi service plying between Gurgaon and Dhikuli by the resort without even checking with me. Even the security man would not give me the keys of the Foundation vehicle if it was ‘reserved’ for resort personnel. So much standing the TCF Director had and who cares if ‘real work’ suffered.
  • Not allowed to go in the field to follow-up on pending ‘kill reports’ and made to wait agonisingly for some guest in cowboy hat to strut-up and be taken to the site. When did the Interim Relief Scheme become a tourist attraction?
  • Your children everywhere with no respect or care for anything or anybody. Forget the resort episodes of your dogs crapping all over in the restaurant area; business centre computer constantly being misused – galling to find them barging into the TCF office; sitting on the Dy. Director’s chair; fiddling with files and papers; running-off with my walkie-talkie set – basically taking things for granted knowing that nobody had the courage to stop them, till they met me.
  • Mahaseer being continuously traumatised….what kind of conservation calls for the species being subjected to such cruelty just to gratify mankind’s momentary thrill of a ‘catch’?
  • Research people, especially young women not considered for a position because they could “fall in love” with TCF becoming a “marriage bureau”!
  • TCF and its staff treated like second-rate citizens by the resort.
  • Being laughed at by people in Ramnagar; the post office where they refused to accept TCF was not a front for the resort.
  • The best possible person applying but everything on hold. Trying to get the finest for pittance.
  • Accompanying the TCF Chairman to a meeting with the Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve protesting against and trying to find solutions that would stop other resorts from creating a nuisance re loud music, DJ parties and firecrackers. Only to find Infinity Resort doing the same and your children having a firework session just outside the reception.
  • Unbelievable sessions of fumigation…no wonder the jungle fowl were dying.
  • Not one ‘wildlife stalwart’ interested in the undercover audio-tape of said poachers in the Udham Singh Nagar area.
  • Being told that nobody can “bell the cat” as the money was not theirs.

The list can go on.

I loved working and being part of TCF but not under such dismal work conditions.

Madam, you must understand the meaning and concept of humility and strive to treat people better, especially those on whose shoulders you constantly sit, travel and enjoy the benefits of their hard work.

Incidentally, you know nothing about HRD, wildlife conservation or running a resort for that matter.

Let me end by using your favourite style of communication – BTW – and there is no need to revert back (as hence-forth you are in a filter screen), but your habit of constantly clicking ‘reply’ to mails and blindly Cc’ing them to so many have led to a wealth of information coming my way – about people, various tour operators, the World Bank, TOFT, former property owners, families, affairs, episodes, wildlife, India et al. All these are saved including that gem of a mail about ‘children and Gujaratis’! And, finally, I can’t help myself quoting from a brilliant burlesque, “It shall be our little secret!” – Till such time.

4 Responses to “The TCF Debacle!”

  1. October 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Brilliant. Wish I had done the same when I resigned. But would I have found in myself such eloquence, when I was practically withering in rage?

  2. 2 yogey
    January 13, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I was directed to this site by a friend. I was for sometime associated with the Khataus and it seems nothing has changed since then

  3. 3 A. former TCFer
    October 15, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Ditto, ditto and more dittos – Bravo. When an individual has not even one iota of respect for India, nor Her infinately nicer people, except for her great husband, whom we all respect and admire, why do they impose themselves upon this congenial, welcoming, diverse, beautiful, all absorbing, ancient Nation of ours. It would be better to remain closeted in the police state they hail from. Would like to commune with you one day to compare notes.

    • 4 bichhubooti
      October 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks for the comment…former TCFer….who ever you are! The sudden spurt of traffic re this post and your hush-hush approach has my attention. Don’t understand the comment with just the “Why?” and unable to respond. It may be interesting to compare notes. However, mails to you are bouncing back!

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