The Power Of Kway Teow?

Thais are such talented people. They make some of the tastiest food on the planet. They create such beautiful sculptures, paintings and handcrafts. They make award-winning films like Salween. They make commercials that crack people up. They also make wonderful tear-jerking or even spellbinding pieces like this one.

The above video really went viral, clocking almost 3.5 million views at the time I was writing this. Everybody was full of praises and I can’t deny that I was moved by the poignant scenes and touching plot. Li Cheng, a Singaporean friend of mine who had lived for more than 10 years in Bangkok, also loved it, but at the end of her comment, she added “If only real life was like this”.

It was late November in 1995. I was in Chiangmai and just received news that my friend’s brother had passed away. He died of AIDS, but he was not the womanising sort. Some years ago, his wife abandoned him and their daughter and went to live with a rich old man in Chiangrai. The old man bought her a car and a piece of land. She knew very well that she was not his only mia noi (minor wife), but she didn’t mind. She would rather live comfortably like a whore than suffer with her husband and daughter.

Years went by, my friend’s brother was shocked one day to see his wife at the door. She had come back because the old man had passed away and his many wives were fighting and literally killing one another for the biggest share of his assets. On account of the fact that she was coming back with a car, a large sum of money and a title deed, my friend’s brother welcomed her. Life for the family of three became relatively comfortable until a year later when my friend’s brother’s wife became gravely ill.

Asia - Thailand / A Thai Perspective

The old man had died of AIDS and it was now her turn. She had a relatively quick but decidedly painful death. About 7 months later, my friend’s brother was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. He survived and suffered a bit longer, but succumbed before his daughter’s 14th birthday.

I didn’t just buy the orphan a bag of kway teow. I bought her a school bag, some stationery and helped her celebrate her 14th birthday. She went to live with my friend who was living alone and earning enough to pay for most of cost of raising her. We figured that she would soon be able to inherit her mother’s property and be better off than most of her peers. I helped my friend out, contributing a hundred bucks every month. I was just doing what I could to prevent the poor teenage girl from ending up like her mother.

The girl was very thankful to me. Every time I visited my friend, she would wai me respectfully and serve me a drink. I was single then, but I knew what it felt like to be a proud father. Then, on one visit to Chiangmai, I was shocked to see her come home with a gang of bikers. Two of the girls in the gang had to help her into the house as she was dead drunk!

When she was more sober, my friend talked to her, giving advice in the gentlest terms. No scolding. No punishment. It was as if the girl was sitting with her legs outside the window, threatening to jump or holding a loaded gun. I tried to talk some sense into her as well, suppressing my annoyance and disappointment, but my frown and pained facial expressions ruined everything. She returned a stare that seemed to say : “I swear I’ll kill you for looking at me that way.”

Kway Teow Nam Tok

Before I knew it, she had run away from home. My friend just shook her head and opened a bottle of whisky. I had a bit more difficulty getting over it. How nice if these kids could all grow up into contributing members of society if we just feed them some kway teow nam.

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© Chan Joon Yee


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