name: that girl in pink
location: Somewhere, India
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Removing the rose colour glasses.

And the weary world traveller is back! Ok, to be honest, I don’t really qualify as a world traveller. Actually I barely qualify as traveller, unless you count alternating visits to Delhi and Goa as travel. And a three and a half hour flight to Thailand is definitely not what you’d call a major international flight. And nope, I’m not weary either, having pretty much lived in style in the Land of Smiles, as against our original plans of slumming it out and spending the money on shopping. (I say roughing it out only suits the adventurous white folk who’re eager to soak in the local culture and see a country for what it really is. For us Indians there’s nothing like a comfortable hotel room with a giant TV, tea/coffee maker and bathrooms with free shampoos, conditioners and lotions. Doesn’t matter how bad our currency conversion rate is.) So anyway, as anyone reading this may have guessed (that’s anyone who still visits here after my shamefully long leave of absence) my 6-day trip to Thailand is just an excuse for the aforementioned shamefully long leave of absence.

But because the world today is a terrible place full of war and bad reality TV shows (which if you think about it could really be the same thing…) we blog junkies have a responsibility to not be too harsh on each other and forgive and forget our erring friends.

So back to the trip to Thailand which was of course a great cultural experience! I certainly didn’t go only for the shopping and beaches or out of curiosity to see the famed go-go dancers. That would just make me an uncivilised boor! I made sure to include a half-day tour of a palace in our plans, much against the protests of my husband who’s sweet but not as culturally inclined as me, but that’s later.

First stop Pattaya, the Thai word for “Land of gross white men with young Thai girls on their arms”. Also the first time in my life I’ve ever experienced culture shock. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no puritan who judges people on their personal choices. I pride myself on being quite the opposite really. And I haven’t been living under a rock either. I knew about the sleaze in Thailand before I went there. But nothing quite prepares you for the scene you witness in Pattaya. For as far as the eye can see, all there is, is old/young/fat/skinny/poor/rich white guys roaming the streets with young Thai girls. You strain your eyes to see maybe one other couple that actually came in to the country together and speak the same language as each other but you can stop straining ‘cause you aren’t going to see any. From a McDonald’s to a local beer bar, every place was just full of these pairs, strangers who met just a few days ago and were now holding hands and sitting in silence. Neither speaks the other’s language (the lack of English speaking locals is surprisingly dismal for a country that thrives on tourism) and so the couples just sit and eat or drink or whatever in silence. Every one in a while, one of them will point at a funny looking ad or laugh over a hard to slice chicken piece and then its back to silent hand-holding.

Good manners were completely forgotten as I found myself staring at these strange couplings. I get the concept of paying for sex but I couldn’t understand why everyone here had to behave like a couple in love. This was strictly a monetary transaction with an expiry date, so what was with the lunches and the walks on the beach and the attempts at conversation? He was going to go back and next week she’d be going through the entire rigmarole with another guy. So what was the point?

The answer of course was obvious - every guy who came here came looking for more than just a night of paid for sex. He was looking for companionship and for the experience of being in a relationship, however short lived and fake he knew it was going to be. He wanted a tiny hand to hold as he walked down the pavement, someone to buy pretty things for, someone who’d stroke his hair and chide him for smoking too much.

And the girls? Each one of them hoped that one of these days, one of these guys would fall in love with her for real. And they’d get married and move to his country and live in a big white house with a picket fence. And until that time, this might be the best way to make money.

As this realisation dawned upon me, so did a sense of disgust. What kind of a loser travels so many miles just to experience a fake relationship he’s paying for? That was just sad. I mean, lose some weight and get yourself a real girlfriend already!

But even as I was thinking that, I knew it was bullshit. Just who gave me the right to judge anyone else’s actions? Sure, he was paying for this act and he knew that none of these girls would give him a second look if it weren’t for his white skin and the promise of the dollars it represented. But all said and done, that right there, that hand holding and chicken sharing, was real. The conversation, however broken and funny it was, was a real connection between two people.

As for the girls and their choice of careers, I’m not even going to get into that. I have no idea why they got into it. Was it a wicked uncle who sold them to the brothel, Hindi movie style, or was it a conscious decision? As far as I can imagine, any woman would rather be doing anything else in the world than this. It’s dangerous and it can be deadly. But on the surface, these girls look happy enough, so who am I to go rescuing them?

I guess it’s true that money can’t buy you happiness and love. But it can buy you a few days of a lovely illusion. And well, that can’t really be so bad.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m never going there again. The guys are welcome to their make believe fantasies. I’m not gonna judge it, but I’d rather not watch it.

Posted by that girl in pink  | 1:03 AM  |  33 comments