AThai from head to toe -My top ten reasons of being Thai from head-to-toe. A Tongue-tied with Thai tongue article from La-Coffee-Melodie-Suite archive for By Pradichaya.
So, what does it take to be 'Thai'? Well, you can start off by being born of two Thai parents, being raised in The Kingdom of Thailand, and having the Thai 'feeling' in every single cell of your entire body.
Thailand is a country of rich culture and tradition. Like millions of Thai people, I was born under the reign of our beloved King Bhumipholaduljadej the Great. I attended Rajini Academy for Refined Young Ladies, a name which may sound pretentious and even obnoxious to some of you, but I can tell you there's nothing negative about it! The school was built back in the reign of King Chulalongkorn the Great for his daughters. (If you have heard of or seen the famous Rodgers&Hammerstein musical, "The King and I," King Chulalongkorn was the very same Prince Chulalongkorn who was a character in the play. "The King and I" will come up at a later point in my writings, for as a Thai person who is fascinated with the subject of European- as well as Thai- history, there is a lot to be said about the fiction upon which the story 'The King and I' is based.) As far as bringing me up and enriching me with all The Thainess that is about me, I consider Rajini Academy to be my second home.
I was born as the first child to my parents. My father comes from a very educated and well-respected family in Pitsanulok. His father was half-Chinese and a scholar, both a criminal court judge and a dean of the Law School, and his mother was a high school principal. My own father was a lawyer, graduating from Thammasat University. He chose to abandon his law career, however, in order to build a business with my mother. He later became the president of the Legal department of their corporation.
My mother was the second child of five children, the first daughter in her family. Her father - a pure Thai - grew up in Ranoad, Songkla province. When he was eleven he was sent to school in Bangkok and lived with the head monk at Prayoonrawongsawad Temple where he assisted the monks by tending to all their needs. Writing in his book "The Country Boy" - a book he wrote during the few months he visited me in the US in the early 1980's- he said,"Looking at mother waving to me from the dock while the boat was leaving was heart- wrenching. That was the last time I saw my mother alive, and I regret that all these days." He was a member of the first class of Law degree graduates from Thammasat University. (How coincidental is that - both my grandfathers were lawyers, and my dad attended the same college as my mom's dad!)
In comparing my two grandfathers, my paternal grandfather was a thinker and a philosopher, while my maternal grandfather was a thinker and a do-er. He was a very practical and evolved man of his time.
My mother's mother was a well-bred 'Poo Dee," part Thai, part Mon (an ancient country that was swallowed by, what was back then, Burma) and part Chinese. Back in the old days- my grandmother's days- the daughters of noblemen and high-ranking men would be sent to live at the palace to be raised, under the patronage of princesses, where they would be taught proper manner and etiquette, while also being schooled in all the crafts. At the age of five, my grandmother was one of these - for a whole weekend. She screamed and kicked to get her way until the Princess issued the order to send her back to her parents, "Immediately! She's not quite ready to be brought up by us." She then attended Rajini Academy as a day student. My two younger aunts attended Rajini, as well, but my mother attended several Catholic schools. Nevertheless, despite my mom's (bad) attitude toward a Thai-poodee-schooled kid, she sent me to Rajini.
All four of my grandparents lived under the reign of five Kings of the Chakri dynasty.
I will talk more about Rajini some other day!
1. King Bhumiphon Adulyadej - Buddhism - Thailand: The King - The Religion - The Nation.
2. "Sawaddee ka or krubb," always accompanied by a smile with both hands put together at one's chest, the head lowered to meet the top of the hands.
3. I go out of my way to roll the 'r' for the letter 'rrrraw rrrreua' and flip the tip of my tongue for the letter 'law ling', and I know my Thai alphabet.
4. "Maipenrai" means "I forgive you for your unthoughtful action. I have learned from it, and I hope you have, too."
5. Like most Thais, I perform a post-meal ritual of putting my hands together in the wai manner, while feeling grateful to those who have worked hard to produce the food for us.
6. Eating is a very important part of my Thai life. It is about family - immediate and extended- and how we all come together at meal time.
7. Head is the highest part and feet are the lowest part of the body, and they get the respect according to their rank. No feet pointing and no head touching.
8. Floor level is not a proper place for a Buddha statue, amulet, pendant, photo or painting. When I see the Buddha as a part of a floor lamp, or as a statue being displayed at ground level - whether it be in a restaurant, department store, or even a museum (obviously not in Thailand)- I resist the urge to approach those individuals responsible to ask them that, if the shoe were on the other foot, how would they feel if the subject of their worship were to take the place of mine; but instead, I "Phud"(breath in) and "Thoh" (breath out), and "maipenrai" the ignorance.
9. Thais do not sit higher than their elders. We do not step across them if they are sitting or laying on the floor. Neither do we step on or >cross over books, since books are knowledge. I also "wai kru" those who have provided me with my knowledge everytime before I perform.
10. The Golden Rule is reflected not only in the way I conduct myself, but also in my Thai cooking.