I’ve had my fair share of ‘homie’ directed at me and it makes me feel good to have my ethnicity misunderstood again. I like being of an ambiguous race that makes me a true citizen of the world. However, this homey I’m talking about is a bit different. I’m starting to daydream and long for things I never thought I would – this includes owning, adopting, purchasing, fantasising about things I haven’t thought of as a priority before.
I have changed my geographical locations every two years on average, and have managed to fit in a tonne of travel in between those times. I have also managed to live half off a suitcase, being only half unpacked in the two years I have been in this ‘new’ location. And when things got a bit stressful, I’d lose myself into a deep internet rabbit hole of exotic locations I could make my next home in.
Over the past few months, though, I find myself daydreaming of a proper kitchen where the walls aren’t white and you can indulge in a fancy bread tin without worrying where you’d store it. I find myself wanting a shelf to store all of my negligible personal belongings (most of these belongings are in the form of books, letters and postcards). I long for a nice table where I can assemble wind or solar powered robots or do my 3000 piece puzzle. Mostly, I find myself looking at animal shelter websites and going through their portfolio of pets up for adoption.
Is this what adulthood is supposed to be? Have I finally attained that magical phase in my life?
If you’ve come here for a makeup tutorial, I’m afraid you’re going to be very disappointed – not just at my serious inability at the art, but also at this post’s lack of anything useful. I’m talking more in terms of our ability, as humans, to blend into whatever situation/geographic location/circumstance we are thrown into.
I’m coming up to two years in Thailand and I walk the roads that once cause me anxiety like its something I’ve always done. I am able to hail a cab and direct the driver without breaking a sweat. I walk past monitor lizards like they are neighbourhood strays. I add P’ (polite prefix that means brother or sister) in front of people’s name and end my sentences with a ka, even when I’m travelling out of Thailand. I have blended in so much that I don’t even break a sweat at 37 degrees heat, I know the corners of the skytrain to squeeze into during rush hour, and I carry flip flops and an umbrella in my bag because duh, how could you not?
Humans have an ability to adapt to anything, and to do it without even realising it. When I went home for a short break home a few weeks ago, I casually mentioned something funny P’Thor did or that the mister’s favourite student is Boeing. It took me a while figure out that the looks of confusion and the extra jovial laughter was because they still think of Thailand, its quirks and culture, as strange.
I didn’t even bat an eye-lid when I found out that Boeing’s younger sister is called Airbus. I just nodded. It’s now a completely normal name to me. In my new world, evening markets are a norm, mom and pop ramen shops are around every corner, just next to a 7/11. Cats say me-o, trains make a ‘poon poon’ sound, and saying ka does not make you an imitator of crows! I am at ease with people in various stages of transition, and am never confused about what pronoun to use for whom.
A few weeks ago I had a run in with an middle-aged American man. I haven’t had any confrontation with anyone here since I moved hear nearly 2 years ago. While there’s always a bit of subtle racism going on in this country, I’ve never felt like I don’t belong here. It is why this incident stood out in my mind.
My partner and I were having a lazy Sunday afternoon stroll down one of the many charming streets in Bangkok, and we could hear Darth Vader huffing and puffing behind us. He took offence to us strolling and wanted to overtake us but didn’t want to waste his breath on an ‘excuse me’. He decided to spend it grumbling instead.
Being the overly sensitive person that I am, I told my partner to give way so Mr Grumpy could walk ahead. When I did that, he loudly threw a few choice expletives at us. I don’t know if he assumed I was Thai and therefore didn’t speak English or if I was another clueless native, but he didn’t seem to care that he was being a complete jerk.
When I reacted with a ‘wow, calm down old man!’, he screamed a few more expletives at us and then said something about Donald Trump and free speech. He did all this without so much as looking at us. He just kept walking ahead of us slow enough for us to hear his opinions.
Funny thing is, we both live in a military run country with a very strong monarchy. The rules of Lèse-majesté are enforced here. Foreigners have to do a 90 day report to immigration in which we mention our place of residence and the details of our social media accounts, doesn’t matter which country you are from. However, Donald Trump winning the American elections somehow means that his ‘no-holds-barred’ rules apply even in this part of the world (at least in the minds of the MAGA clan).
While pondering this as we continued to stroll (ain’t nobody going to ruin our Sunday!), we saw him standing at the shade of a tree, out of breath, red, flustered, I saluted him. He called me a bitch after I walked ahead of where he was. Being the feisty person that I am, I went back and asked him what he said. I thought he would have a heart attack. Suffice it to say, he wasn’t so brave when I asked him to uphold his freedom of speech in front of my face.
Its the debate with no clear answer- do you confront people like this? Or do you just shrug it of? Or will shrugging it off give them more reason to spread their mindset? Or will it be the confrontation that changes them from being moderate to extreme right wing. At the end of the day, in my head, a white man insulted me and thought it was okay to do it because of Donald Trump’s weird version of freedom of speech. In his head, a brown lady (debateable!) got all up in his face.
Anyway, we did manage to get the great views we were hoping to get on our long walk (more on that in the next N-N-1), but we also did run across this ironic graffiti ‘art’ just next to it.
A lot of people warned us against going to this island as there was nothing to see or do. It is a quick day-trip for locals to spend the day at a beach without it hurting the bank and without it being a free show of the dreadful farang infestion (their words, not mine!). However, Koh Sichang blew our minds.
Yes, it is a small fisherman’s village and in that lies all the magic. It is small, tight knit and laid back. And while there is development in terms of restaurants and roads, it still is a place stuck in a magical time bubble. It is beautiful.
Only 100kms from Bangkok aka 2 hours by an air-conditioned bus from the Ekkamai bus station and a 40 minute ferry and you are far, far, FAR away from the madding crowd. Pure bliss.
The ferry is at the Sri Racha pier, the name sounds familiar cause they are also a hot sauce we all love (there is a chilli factory in town that we didn’t, unfortuntaley, get to explore). You get off the bus at Robinson’s – you’ll know when half the passengers get off here. A short 50 baht tuk tuk ride away and you’re at a park that also acts as a pier.
Depending on what time of day you come, you get to climb up or down to a boat. It’s quite adventurous navigating the tide.
And then you reach Koh Sichang. While I can wax ad nauseum about how amazing it was, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. If I am guilty of not taking to Thailand the way most people do, I am slowly changing my ways.
The first edition of 2-2-1 saw a collaboration between Norm from Classical Gasbag and myself. The idea was to capture the differences in culture, geography, traditions across various time zones. Luckily, the two of us weren’t the only ones who liked the idea. We’ve had a few volunteers for the project and while logistics will always be a nightmare, you will see more posts in the months to come.
Just to reiterate, the point of this collaboration is not to have a well-curated collection of flawless photos but to capture emotions, flaws and the flow of real life at a set time across borders and across the limits of time.
When it is 7 p.m. in Bangkok, Thailand it is 8 a.m. in Lafayette, Indiana, USA. From where I live it is only a few miles to downtown Lafayette and even fewer miles into the country. I considered going downtown to take a picture, but didn’t want to interfere with all of the people who were trying to get to work on time. I know that the traffic here is nowhere as congested as it is in Bangkok or any other major city in the world, but a rush hour is relative to what you are used to. So I opted to drive a few miles south and west of Lafayette to take a photo of a rural scene.
I originally planned on stopping in a little town named Romney to take a picture of an empty, abandoned old school house, and I did. But I was there too early; and since we are trying to take pictures simultaneously, I drove out into the country. In passing through Romney I realized that about 95% of the traffic there was by people like me. That is, they were all passing through. It seems that Romney is only a destination for people who live there. I wonder if it has always been that way?
Anyway, here is my picture of a farmhouse and outbuildings in the 8 a.m. morning sun. I hope that you like it.
This week, we are joined by Sayantan from Know-All’s Box, a blog I follow not just for its lovely photography but also for the enthralling tales he spins one static photograph at a time.
We decided upon 5:30 pm Indian Standard Time, Friday evening. That time, I am usually in office. So, I had a geographical limitation. I had to take the photograph within walking distance of my office, and I did not have the service of my trusted DSLR to take the shot. So, apologies for the really poor photograph. However, I will try to redeem the situation by pointing out some of the things which I have tried to capture in the shot, and their significance to my hometown, Kolkata.
You will find 3 gentlemen standing in front of something which is overflowing with small packs hanging from invisible strings, while a yellow coloured car which is probably more in place in a city like Havana, passes by in a blur. And in the background there is a building which has the words “Forum Courtyard” written on it.
And in these 3 elements, I find the contradiction which probably defines the city today.
The contraption with the overhanging tarpaulin sheet, I actually one of the thousands roadside tea-stall which one can across the city. Kolkatans have learned to love their tea, thanks to the city’s vicinity to the famous Darjeeling, which is in the same state, West Bengal. Usually, you will find such stalls in the vicinity of offices and malls, as people working in these places love to take frequent breaks from work to have tea usually accompanied with cigarettes. You will also find them selling the odd omelette, instant noodles, cakes and chips, to feed the perpetually hungry bengalis. You can witness many storms being brewed over a tea induced adda, the favourite “timepass”of bengalis! All the Starbucks and Costa Coffees of the world cannot compete with the charm of the road-side tea stall.
The yellow coloured car is the good old Ambassador Cabs which you can find only in this city of India. Modelled after the British Morris Oxford, it is a car fast disappearing from the city, as people opt for the technologically superior Japanese, Amercan and German cars. The yellow coloured cabs are also fast disappearing, as the Ubers of the world push the old world cabs out of the market.
And looming in the background is the first mall of the city, Forum which opened back in 2003. You will find the latest and finest brands of the world selling inside. I dont really need to explain much about the mall, because malls across the world are essentially the same.
What’s interesting to me is the stark difference of the mall with respect to the average tea-stall and the rickety Ambassador Cab and the glitzy mall.
And then there’s me!
I was excited about the time and date chosen because it was a national holiday and I knew I would be out and about, doing something exciting. That’s not usually my style on holidays, preferring to melt into the couch on my time off but mum was in town and it was Songkran – Thailand’s New Year.
During the course of the day, however, I started to realise just how well we curate our experiences in order to appear the most ‘cool’, ‘exotic’, and ‘unreal’. I took a billion photos, keeping in mind the angle, the light and the story that would go with it. When the time finally arrived, I was doing something I hadn’t planned for the day. I was on a boat.
We were just strolling around a riverside mall – mum and aunt were tired and just wanted to grab a bite to eat. We had just missed the sunset, another great photo-op. Disappointed that life didn’t align itself in the way I wanted it to, I stopped looking at the time.
Just as we were heading home on the boat, the lights of the mall and the various food stalls came on like many twinkling stars in the sky. I asked my mum what time it was, she said it was 7pm.
Sometimes, you just don’t need to manufacture a good time. It just happens.
If you want to participate in this series, leave a comment and we will get back to you.