POSTCARD#401: Bangkok: Happy New Year to all blogging friends everywhere in the world! The year 2021 has potential for being a much better year than 2020. Hopefully by this time next year Covid infections in the world will have peaked and the vaccines are successful in creating optimum herd immunity… hopefully.
Christmas day was an ordinary day for us, no reason for Santa to fly in on his reindeer sleigh, because Thailand is a Buddhist country. People go to work, schools are open, it’s a day like any other day. Except that our 16 year-old Thai niece we call M, had her hair colour changed to a subtle shade of white-blond and wore a red dress to attend her SAT class in central Bangkok.
Otherwise we had a quiet time contemplating these ‘tidings of comfort and joy,’ without all the ho-ho-ho! Happy to have M, she of the white-blonde hair, who comes from Chiang Mai but now with us in Bangkok since July. Not able to go back to her home for visits because of Covid. She is here to improve on her GED and SAT scores. Also looking carefully at University entrance requirements.
It has been a fairly peaceful year for us, mostly in lockdown, unlike the frequent-flying thing that was going on before Covid. I’d be travelling between Delhi and Chiang Mai to visit M so that she’d not forget me! I remember when she was 12, on a particular day that I recall clearly, M runs out the door to spend the day with her friends, then comes back quickly and over to where I’m sitting: Toong Ting? I am going now. Bye-bye! And she runs out again. I sit there for a while being Toong Ting, her pet name for me, part of her baby talk that remains because it’s thought to be cute when applied in a grandfatherly way.
Then I went away to Delhi and came back again, the same year, and she was definitely taller; longer and elongating like a plant in the darkness searching for the light, sprawled on the back seat of the car in an adolescent bundle of legs and arms, wearing a diver’s watch, colorful T-shirt. Long black hair that forms a curtain revealing a small oriental face sometimes seen when adjusting the thread of earphones cable then disappears again – sorry, she’s not available at the moment, plugged into two phones, watching youtube videos while checking for messages at the same time… our questions addressed to her remain unanswered.
She is still quietly being her own self but surprisingly communicative at times – becoming a person. The whole thing dependent on the time needed to grow, of course. When we are in the Nontaburi house, she sleeps until noon then phones a food delivery from her room and appears downstairs to get it from the motorbike guy, goes back to her room to eat it there… some of us might think this is a bit, well, antisocial? But here in Thailand, nobody gets upset… it’s the Buddhist way, if you’re a kid?
M seems to be happy, at ease and does everything she’s good at, really well; her school work, socializing with new friends and not coming home too late, passing exams with good scores… all of it is done properly, commendable and very suitable for a teenage daughter/niece.
Jiab is noticeably engaged in taking care of M and goes to great lengths to accommodate her needs, cooks the food, does the laundry, drives her to school or, when we are in the apartment downtown, to the BTS station (Bangkok Transport System). It’s an elevated rail track over the streets and rooftops, called the Skytrain and her stop: Phaya Thai Station is only 5 minutes from Ari Station, where we are – get off at the third stop.
That location is linked to the airport route and near the popular shopping center of Bangkok where it’s all young people, and being looked at is the primary concern, while looking at others who look nice, can be a discussion point. M does stand out in the crowd, of course, with her hair colour when almost everyone else has Asian black hair She is extraordinary in that regard, has a pretty face like a child and is slim. Always in good-looking clothes, and so on, also politically aware, asks intelligent questions, remembers things and reminds me about the names of things when I forget.
So we have been very fortunate having M with us, and I’m going to write some more about her soon.
2021 Looking forward.
Smaller than a grain of rice, smaller than a grain of barley, smaller than a mustard seed, smaller than a grain of millet, smaller even than the kernel of a grain of millet is the Self. This is the Self-dwelling in my heart, greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than all the worlds. [Chandogya Upanishad 14.3, 8th-10th century BCE]