Ashgabat, 10 June 2013 (nCa) — When we boarded the train on 4 June 2013 for our journey from Turkmenabat to Atamurat, and some for a more adventurous ride to Garlyk, a gift bag was hanging on the hook above each bunk.
The bag contained a golf cap, a t-shirt, a pen, a diary, a towel, a packet of herbal tea, and a tastefully produced booklet giving basic information about Garlyk and the map of the planned TAT Rail (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway line).
Turkmenistan routinely gives gift to guests on important occasions. The thing that distinguished this gift bag from all the rest was that it was absolutely blank; nothing was printed on it.
Usually the name and the logo of the organization or ministry that is arranging the event are printed on the gift bag and on the items inside. For general events, the official symbol of Turkmenistan is printed on the gift items.
However, this time not only the gift bag was free of any printing but the items inside except the t-shirt and the herbal tea were also free of any proprietorial symbol or text.
The herbal tea obviously had its factory marking and other information required by laws for such products.
The white t-shirt simply had LEBAP embroidered in front, in discerningly small letters in green.
What was the purpose, and what was the effect?
The reason for leaving the gift items blank could be that two separate events were taking place the same day – opening of Garlyk town and start of construction of TAT Railway line – and several ministries and departments were involved in both of these events. Giving credit to each participating entity would have made the gift items rather crowded.
There may have been other reasons we don’t know of.
However, the effect was simply marvelous.
By leaving all the gift items blank, and by embroidering simply the name of the LEBAP province on the t-shirt, the government, by design or default, created a brimming sense of ownership and pride among the people.
The railway workers and other people we came in touch with during the trip were beaming with delight. “This is our gift,” an elder in flowing beard said. “This is the gift of Lebap.”
The conductor guard, who pointed us to our coupe, said “Welcome to Lebap.”
The blank gifts were therefore loaded with a power message: Unanimity.
Not everyone works for the railways and not everyone took part in the construction of Garlyk town but every resident of Lebap province felt included simply because some gift items did not proclaim: This is mine.