Monday, October 16, 2006

Thai and I

I had start off for my Bangkok assignment. With the Stewardess and flight attendant giving the instructions about in-flight safety and introduction to Thai culture, I was busy figuring out similarities in the language if any. To my surprise, there were some though not many (rather a few in what I could understand.)

The first one to strike me was 'Suvarnabhoomi ', pronounced a little differently but meaning the same as in Sanskrit / Marathi / Hindi .."the golden land". This is the name Thais have selected for the new airport being built in Bangkok. This was followed by "Rama". All I could figure out at that moment was it related to their king. I was puzzled when I saw 'Rama ' followed by "I", "II",..."IX". My colleague solved this,"Kund Prajakta, this is a family of kings in Thailand. Another one is 'Asoka '. The statue in front of your hotel is that of Rama IV and hence the road is known as RAMA IV Road. The present king is a decendent of this family and is the ninth generation so Rama IX. " Oh! this is quite similar to our very own "Ram" which is in a way synonymous to a king!

Well well well.. so that word did catch your attention... you guessed it right. It is an adjective of respect to anyone and everyone used by Thais.... it is irrespective of the gender / age /caste / creed / Thai / anyone else. Thais speak and write this and it is considered disrespectful to address anyone without being prefixed by 'kund '.

First few hours in Bangkok were enough for me to realise that this is not a place with people knowing a common language to interact with. Most know only Thai.... some understand English... and some can talk English... and a few have fluent English. The same evening was my first test / exam !! My team asked me if it was Ok for me to get back to the hotel without an escort since everyone lived in a different direction. Ahhh !! I had no option but to accept it. To make me more nervous, they told me that the safest mode to get back was the subway train!! I instantly remembered the local train of our own Mumbai. The striking similarity between the local train in Mumbai and the subway / sky train in Bangkok is that train is a very common mode of transport and is crowded at anytime of the day. With the station names written down for me, I came up.. rather down to the station. The ticket vending machine is not difficult to operate as long as you have the station name to reach and the direction. Yes yes... there are not ticket counters... it is a machine. You drop the coins / notes and select the station you want to get off at, the machine gives you the ticket (circular disk for subway and a card for sky train.), and the change, if any. Fortunately, the directions were mentioned in English and I could find the correct direction. Oh yes... I must tell you this. The trains here mostly travel only in two directions. There are stations to change the train to go in a different direction. There is nothing like Western line local / Dadar local / eastern line local... Things are quite simple there (as of now !!) . As I got in the train, I was worried about a new thing now. How will I know if I've reached the hotel? The subway train is the underground one so cant see and locate the place!! Just then I heard a sweet voice saying, " Sathani papay Sathani Lumphini ..... Next Station Lumphini ". Of the train has this announcement system which announces the next station once the train moves on. Fortunately it also translates in English. What surprised me the most was a sentence which I cant really remember.. but it translated to "Interchange station". This sentence was so long that I thought it was some special instruction regarding things on the coming station. All it meant was that the coming station was a joint station for subway and sky train.

A weekend came as a surprise to me... when I saw a gang of women folk in sarees & salwar kameez and kids screaming, " A Aai.. he bagh na... he kasa namaskar kartat. Haat jodun. ani chappal pan baher kadhtat mandirat jatana." or "O Baba.. tya guide la vichara na he sonyacha aahe" or " Aare Avi.. ithe massage changla kartat... Babanna karun ghaycha ka? tyanchya gudhgyala fayda hou shakel nahi?"

O my goodness... marathi people are on the move. It was a pleasant surprise to see so many of them in Bangkok. What astonished me was that our ladies didnot forget to bargain in the shops to get the things at almost half the price !!

Having had all the fun with the communication and of course doing some work, it was time for me to leave back home. After knowing the fact that the common man in Bangkok may not understand English, I requested a colleague of mine to fetch me a taxi. Bidding bye to all in the office, the taxt left and I was on the track to the Airport. In a while, it skipped off my mind that the taxi driver cannot understand English, I asked, "How long does it take to reach the Airport?". He looked back puzzled.
"Can we reach by 4.30 ... i.e. in an hour from now?", I asked again
"No English.... Thai........................You flight.. 4.30 ?.........ok", He said and.................... off rose the speedometer to go beyond 120 km speed!!
God what is this??? He just could not understand my words asking him to slow down! And in another 20 mins I was at the Airport, Terminal One. Oops !!! I've five more hours for the flight !


ramesh_ln said...

Long but good post...Oops..I wanted to blog about the skytrain first, but you beat me! Inviting you to checkout my first bangkok post...

Prajakta Kashalkar-Joshi said...

I'm waiting for the skytrain blog now... am sure it will be way different !