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In my own rhythm

 

I was on Skype earlier with one my college friends, who I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. There I was, having a nice chat with my buddy, with so much to catch up on! But before I knew it he said those predictable words, making the idea for this blog poke at me for the third time in recent weeks. It was inevitable really that it would come up, after the obviously annoying question regarding my current city & myself. And this wasn’t the first time either. A few of my associates from home and some relatives have given me the same thoughts!!!  

To get you up to speed I came to Bangkok, later moved to my current location, being Pattaya. And when you mention Pattaya, people can’t help but react with a naughty chuckle and some remark about the night life here. It is clear that to some living in Pattaya means party, party and what not! Unfortunately this city has its reputation as sin city, Asia’s biggest neon attraction and this history goes back to the Vietnam War; when the allied forces decided to set their R&R in Pattaya.  

But there is much more to discover in Pattaya then it’s so called reputations! I’ve been living here for a few months now and I have found many interesting sights, laid back communities and unexpected sights. I guess it depends on who you are and how you want to live! There’s a 21 golf course at an hour’s drive, water sports, Go-kart racing and many famous temples. There is  always some cultural event going on, festivals, local sports on going. You can easily lose your time at some local market, having a lot to offer with its surprising products. Also there are several old book shops too! And for the lovers of beautiful sceneries there are three wonderful islands close by.

Pattaya is also famous for its muay thai camp as they produced a few world famous muay thai champs! Speaking of muay thai, yesterday I had the opportunity to watch a Super Muay Thai- Kunlun fight event! My key maker neighbor offered me a bike ride to enjoy the show with him and I didn’t want to miss out.

It was really great atmosphere with local and international crowd. It was good to see local fighters as well as a few international (male & female) fighters. First we sat in the gallery and later moved by the ring beside the VIP area, so we got to see the cream of the crop of Pattaya fighting. It was a very intense fight and local reactions were really vivid. I will never forget that middle aged woman behind our row for her super duper funny reactions and exclamatory words!! She certainly kept the entertainment going for the entire event. What an ordinary looking die hard fan she turned out to be!

Today it is full moon, which always marks a special Buddhist day here. So religious ceremonies are going on day and night, at the Royal temple which is just beside my building. I also noticed people celebrating lantern festival while I was running in the beach this evening.   

How could I not mention the early morning by the beach! Health critic or not, but this shouldn’t be missed while you are here. The weather gets really chilly, almost fresh compared to the day time temp. You will get to see/buy fresh fish which fishermen brought straight from the deep sea, including fearful looking deep sea creatures. I do have a desire to go deep sea fishing with them on one of these days though!

Alright, alright, I’m not trying to write a little travel book here. I was just a bit annoyed when I started to write this blog because of the predictable reactions of my friends and relatives, but I’m totally cool and calm now.

Even a night owl like myself needs to sleep sometimes. So good night to you all and I will get back to you when I discover top-drawer Pattaya entertainment stuff again 😉     

       

  

 

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society as norm

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The other day I watched a long due controversial (?!) bangla short film. Well, I guess I wasn’t ready for it when it first came out in the cinema. But since I tried to write down my thoughts about Transgenderism I decided to watch it and from there some thoughts came into place. I wanted to check my stance and if I could be considered progressive, conservative, obstructionist, or conventional in respect to recent fuddy-duddy gender issues. Oh yes also I definitely want to write rather than ignore or hide on this topic.  

The film I watched is called, ‘Ghetu Putro Komola’  aka Pleasure boy Komola. The plot is described in Wikipedia as follows:

 

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“The story takes place 150 years ago during colonial era in a village Jalshuka, Habibganj. During that time a musical group was created called Ghetugaan where young boys dance in female clothing’s and those dancers were called “Ghetu”. Soon they became famous among people but the landlords wanted them for sexual desires and the theory of gay marriage was recognized in the society. The Ghetus were used to get hired for the flood season. The story is about a teenage boy who is hired by a colonial era landlord to entertain his sexual desires until the annual flood is over.”

After watching the film some abstruse thoughts bothered me, which I will explain below:

  • The plot might sound common enough but there’s more to it.
  • It certainly makes you feel disturbed towards secular society.
  • Being poor is hard but you can’t blame everything on that.
  • How can those kids grow up after severe abuse  ?
  • What were those parents thinking as they sold their kid for child sex?
  • How the the hell does society tolerate those pedophile like that landlord in the film?
  • Curious to know that impact of the film on my natives.

Anyhow, I don’t know what else to say about the film. I thank the writer and producer for bringing out the severe truth from the past. I believe public reaction was eloquent and took them a while to digest!

333Consequently, here is the unfinished talk about transsexuals as I mentioned in my previous blog. I spoke with two trans aka ladyboy in Pattaya. One is my neighbor-shop owner, Tai.  Koy is another one whom I randomly talked to while grocery shopping. I was curious to know their growing ups and their current lifestyle. Surprising as it may be it turns out they didn’t have much insights to add. In another ward they kind of surprised me.

I will share the findings of my conversations in the listed overview you find below:

  • Tai was born as trans and Koy first discovered her real self at the age of seven.
  • Their family was fine with their new discovery.
  • They didn’t find much difficulty growing up.
  • Their social surroundings didn’t bother much about them and did accept them.
  • They didn’t go to college for higher education.
  • Tai spend lots of money on eye, nose job as well as an operation on her body.
  • Tai is happy in life and doesn’t have a steady relationship.
  • Tai looks after her little sister and mother from the money she earns from the shop.
  • Koy is from the Philippines and is currently living in Bangkok. She also spent a large amount of cash to become herself properly.
  • Koy works in a travel agency and Bangkok’s LGBT night club area is her favorite spot. She is looking for a long term relationship.
  • Koy doesn’t have much of a future plan as she spends all her wage over the weekends. She’s happy that way.   
  • Both of them get annoyed by the tourists’ eye rolls and sometimes face questions about their gender.
  • They are happy as they are.
  • Both of them were shocked to hear about other trans lifestyle in some part of Asia.
  • They agreed to talk with their community to raise awareness and funds for other less fortunate transexuals in various countries.
  • In both cases their gender is marked as female in their passports . So they don’t use heavy makeups or usual dress when they use airport.     

To be honest with you, growing up trans certainly sounds like it must be difficult for many people. But over here in Thailand is certainly different. As I spoke with a local senior citizen regarding this topic he told me he fears that in a few years there won’t be any girls left, only ladyboys!? I really don’t know what to make out of this remark.

The matter of the fact is, that ladyboys are the highest paid entertainers here. And even though I do have the utmost respect for this society, there is too much of it here. It’s way too commercialized and polluted. I get fiercely annoyed by the ladyboys over here as they like to pester passersby. But since I started to greet them regularly their teasing has no longer been directed at me, thankfully.

The point I am making is not about whether it is right or wrong to feel what they feel and express it the way they do. The society here has largely been shaped by them and must be what they sought after. The thing I am trying to emphasize here is that it is a rough world for Transgender people in many parts of Asia. There is a lot of hatred for them and quite often they are deprived of the most common rights. My thoughts always go out to those who need the support most! These people don’t need any special care or support, in my opinion! Just the most basic thing: equality! Is it too much to ask from the society..?

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A separate gender …

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‘Run, will you run? Don’t stand there to let them grab you and make a fool of yourself’ those were the remarks by my school mates. It was at a very early stage when I first encountered them...

I’m talking about them, you know, “Them”..? Some weird social foundation has been set that forbids to pronounce their name out loud which always left me with questions. People always laugh about them, tease them, hate them or despise them for being in the society. I never understood why society was so intolerant towards them.

Yes, I’m talking about Transgender people or locally known as Hijra, lady boy! Social outcasts, forbidden in secular society and labelled a separate breed of human, fed by utter hatemongering! Even so, one of them became a hero !

Humans as a species, refrain from accepting anything or anyone outside their comfort zone; foreign to what they define as ‘Normal’.  We tend to stick to the obvious and don’t voice out our opinions even if we do not agree with the majority!

Like transvestites, lesbians, gays, etc, hijras are another entity that are condoned by most. And as such they live a half-life without acceptance and without self-respect. Hijras are treated as objects of ridicule or sometimes looked at with fear.

They usually earn a living by performing in auspicious occasions at people’s houses. in some parts of the country they work as pimps. Also, prostitution among trans has been on rise.  Death also proves to be a difficult situation in the trans community, as up till now they haven’t been given any proper burial rights. As they did not belong to either male or female gender, burial ceremony becomes cumbersome!

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But recently a groundbreaking decision was made in this regard; cabinet passed a law declaring them as a separate gender. And now they have the full right to obtain a passport, they can vote, receive education, get a regular job and such.

I was never scared of them as a kid, despite of their strange outlooks  and approach. I wanted to know the What & Why. But I had to swallow the curiosity as a young boy; as no one could give an explanation to my questions. Or was I too young to understand the gender differences…? I don’t think I was.

A couple of days ago I read an exceptional blog, which made me put my thoughts into words! Not only did it encourage me to write about the cast aside but it also raised my spirit on this particular topic. A theme like this one has to come out more often. As an underdog blogger like myself, I believe we ought to exercise on this moot point.

It’s worth mentioning that over here in Thailand, there is a completely different outlook on the Trans community. They are locally know as lady boy and have very different stories! Thailand is paradise for them as they’re more accepted than anywhere else and can get a job quite easily. Apparently parents feel lucky to have lady boy in their family. Its very much commercialized as they play a big role in sex tourism. The beginning of Lady boy culture goes back as far as the Vietnam war!     

But I always wonder about why and how they become trans. Are they born like that or what..? How do they cope when they discover their true self?  Subsequently the  ‘Growing up trans’ blog opened an entire different sight!

I have been introduced with Kyle, John and Ariel. After a good few read of the blog and the watchful documentary ‘Growing up trans’, I find myself in deep thoughts. There is a lot of confusion centering the term “trans” itself. While some are born this way, others (who may be impotent) emasculate themselves! Meaning they cut off their genitals or grow through a surgery/ceremony, which according to them emancipates them.

But back home, where modern therapy or counseling are not available and parents may not be aware of their kid’s situation, what happens there?? What if they are middle class or poor family?

judgementIn most cases, they are sent away from their homes right after birth, and receive no formal education. As such, they earn a living by harassing people in various ways and collecting money from them. Then we complain about the rough behavior of ‘trans’ and their constant pestering.Do we take notice  at all of the hardships they go through in their lifetime? Can we begin to understand what life must be like for them?

 

If not properly educated, how can we expect them to earn a decent income any other way? Have we ever offered them jobs or made any other effort to help them? This group is one that is rejected firstly by their parents who give birth to them, and then by the entire society!!

And speaking of Kyle, John and Ariel; at least they were born in a society where they will be treated with some degree of care and understating. Although they also had to go through rough stage of depression and bullying!  Is it true that Chemical/Hormonal, Genetic and Environmental reasons are the main factor behind a Trans birth? I understand that they find themselves different than their own self in their puberty stage. But isn’t it way too early to go through all those hormone replacement therapy? Is that too much to wait few more years before the final decision/ operation/therapy?

Do pharmaceutical companies play any role on hormone replacement therapy? Is this becoming a money making business too ?  I really wonder about the rates of this phenomenon. Did we have these issues back in the previous centuries and how do they compare to the rates in recent times?  Or is this a modern day disease? I don’t mean disease like a virus or a bacteria but I mean a state that causes sufferings for kids.

Kids are the future of the nation. Growing up should be a fun adventure, flowing into a different vibe in puberty. A big thumbs up to those great parents who stand by their kids in their very difficult journey! My thoughts are with the younger generation, grow well! At the end of the day, we all are human and we all deserve some basic respect and decency.

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(to be continued)

Love is a four legged word

 

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When I first met them, I felt love straight away. Koby was bit anxious at the beginning and didn’t accept my presence easily. But Smoky looked at me, our eyes met each other’s and we became friends instantly. Even though we had only met once before and the visit was brief we did build a bond. So when I decided to go back to Kanchanaburi, I was really looking forward to spend some quality time with them.

It’s a five and half hour van journey to get there, including a transit point. It was crucial for met to get the earliest van so I would avoid the rush hour traffic.

Sadly, circumstances did not allow me to catch that early ride. Ironically, I was bitten by a dog a while ago, forcing me to get a series of rabies vaccinations. On that particular morning I had an 8 o’clock appointment in the local hospital for the second round, preventing me to go see my friendly canine friends.

So I reminded myself of the importance to get the shots and that it was my lack of money forcing me to go to the government hospital on the other side of town. So before all the fun could begin, I focused on getting my vaccinations and told myself I would deal with traffic later.

I was laughing at my fate though, while waiting outside for the vaccination room to open. Wondering why that innocent looking local tail-wagger bit my leg like that! Anyway, as I waited I watched the nurse’s makeup ceremony and how she tuned into her favorite radio station before she actually started processing the appointment schedule. After a quick injection in each of my arms (do have to compliment her swift work) I was out of the door… gone!

Long story short, I caught the van I needed and soon reached my final destination. I met Koby & Smokey again! They looked at me, smiled, sniffed and jumped towards me; almost pushing me to the ground! Koby is a Labradoodle and smokey is a Labrador.

Contrary to the first meeting, when they approached me with some caution, this time they immediately behaved like true companions. They walked with me wherever I went, listened to me more, sat on my lap and kept offering me their paw… Especially Koby, the wild one, was enthusiastic with the paw offerings. I don’t know how to put the feeling into words! I really don’t know, but it was heartwarming. It is something you got to feel and cherish.

It reminded me of my younger version, when I used to visit my grandparents’ house in the countryside. My grandma used to have a pack of dogs and she adored them. My daily routine was playing with the pack and taking them along on my adventures. I remember sleeping in the tree house, guarded by our mix breed of dogs that were sleeping at the bottom of the tree. My grandma’s favorite dog was Dinosaur which was a sarail hound. My grandma didn’t even touch a drop of water for days when Dinosaur died, so deep was her grief. Oh… That was such a sad moment of my life too. The whole pack was quiet for days!

When eventually the time comes

And the lights in his eyes dim

A new star will shine in Heaven

In remembrance of him.

Dogs are referred to as human’s best friend, right? Second is horse and so is the Dolphin. I don’t agree in that numerical order. But I very much like the idea of having them all. Obviously I like to see the dolphin free in the ocean rather than having as a pet. I’ve never seen wild horses, that must be a beautiful sight.

 I have loved dogs though, all my life! So I still can’t figure it out why that innocent looking dog bit me. I went back to see her and strangely enough I have kind of become friends with her now. She’s bit shy… or maybe it’s her guilty conscious hahah!

Another thing that really made me curious is why Smokey and Koby kept staring at the walls. It was as if they were seeing things. You know animals have different instincts and legends say they see things humans don’t.

I went for a walk with them in the woods and they were showing me around their favorite spots. As I said before I used to have dogs but I was proud of myself that I didn’t forget the language.

It was raining heavily one night and I woke up shivering of sudden cold. Koby and Smokey immediately noticed and jumped over me to give me their warmth. Even just to see them in the middle of the night beside me, made me utterly happy.And smokey didn’t forget to wake me up early by pushing his cold nose into my ears.

You know, time can be cruel sometimes, especially the farewell times. I knew it was coming the next morning and I hated it all the way. I think they understood that too as they saw me packing my bag. As my host friend went for work early, I had to lock the house and keep the dogs inside. I carefully made their breakfast, sat with them while I was having my own. I had some warm chit chats with them and told them to behave. I shared some of my upcoming plans with them. You know, like a normal day.

Leaving them inside and locking the door was the hardest part. I felt so vulnerable as well as helpless leaving them behind. The way they were whining broke my heart to pieces. I hope to see them again soon. And if situation permits me, i would  like to have a pooch on my own home someday.   

You’ll gaze up at the midnight sky

And you will hear him say –

“I’m so glad you were my human

We’ll meet again someday!”