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Thursday, December 11, 2008


Making it all worthwhile

One of the things I enjoy about India is the colourful saris worn by women of all ages. Even in Dehli, Western dress is much less common. By comparison, in Bangkok, traditional Thai dress is rarely seen. Young women these days favour tight jeans or short shorts.

One day in Mussoorie while dining in a restaurant that serves Tibetan, Chinese and Thai food as well as Indian I noticed two teenage girls enter wearing short shorts. It occurred to me that these were the first I'd seen in India. One girl looked like she could be Chinese, the other perhaps from one of India's north-eastern states where people look a little like Thais. They sat at the table next to ours.

As we ate I was picking up bits of their conversation—not words but the tone. It didn't sound like Hindi, more like Thai. I listened more closely then to see if I could pick out any individual words but no, nothing I recognised. Thai women normally end sentences with the word 'ka' and I wasn't hearing it. But in casual conversation among friends it might be dropped.

A slightly older woman came in and joined them and I thought she really did look Thai. I listened some more and started to hear words I could recognise. Enough to know they were definitely speaking Thai. I decided to talk to them, after all Thai people are known for their friendliness.

As we were about to leave, I said 'Kor toht khap. Khun bpen khon Thai mai khap?' (Excuse me. Are you Thai?) I wish I could share with you the amazed look on their faces. Here they were in India and a Westerner starts talking to them in their native language. We chatted for five or ten minutes mostly in Thai, sometimes in English. The woman was the mother of one of the girls who goes to school in Mussoorie. It was the daughter's birthday and the mother had come to spend it with her. She kept commenting on how well I spoke Thai. Thank you. That little conversation made all the study worthwhile.

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