A Sabai Life
Three of us are walking down the road. There are rice fields on both sides of the road. It is like a deep green ocean. Wind is creating waves over the rice grain; they are hugging and dancing in joy. One can see occasional very tall teak trees standing
in solitude. Also there are tamarind trees and small huts made of wood. Sometime we go to the firm and simply seat in the hut. I can feel the quietness here in an Isaan village far from busy life of Bangkok. We can only hear the sounds of a plowing
machine and the occasional sound of a motorbike. Far in the horizon rain clouds are still and giving indication of another rainy night. Every night we hear the sound of rain on the tin roof. From that sound we can feel when the rain is heavy and
when it reduces to a drizzle. But its mystical sound floats in our sleep like a musical dream. It is now the rice firming season in Thailand. The occasional sound of a cow bell makes us aware that we have to give space to the home bound cows.
From the surface life is very simple over here. Some days I take a walk after dinner around 7 in the evening; hardly any sign of life around. I can only hear sounds of Thai music. The occasional light and sound of a vehicle from the main road
breaks the silence. But I always carry a stick in my hand for the street dogs.
There is a temple in the village. Usually either Saturday or Sunday morning we go there. Many people from the village offer food to the monks; they bring sticky rice, coconut made desserts, Thai curry and many other Isaan foods which I do not know. My mother-in-law will get up about 5 AM in the morning and prepare food for offering. Sticky rice is packed in a bamboo made basket, curry or other items are packed in cheap aluminum made containers. The temple campus is big and full of teak trees. There are small wooden huts built on one side for monks. There is a tall white bell tower decorated with dragons. Usually I and my son climb up the bell tower to see the whole temple campus. The dragons are decorated with small colored glass beads. Also there is a museum which is always closed; so I really do not have any idea about its purpose. The crematorium is on the other side of the temple. We all gather in a big hall called a “sala”. While we wait for the monks to come, my son jumps around and eats food from the offering. Here in rural Thailand people are much more patient and loving. They smile and affectionately scold him. The monks come in a single file and sit on a raised wooden platform. We keep food on the tray placed in front of them; then light candle and incense sticks in front of Buddha. My two and half year old son imitates her mother and does a wai in front of Buddha. We all laugh looking at his serious face. I really wonder looking at very young monks and their flickering eyes. They still have not achieved the serenity from meditation. Also a question is raised in my mind – “Why are they here?” Are they really looking for spiritual gain or are they satisfying a social obligation?
My father-in-law is a rice farmer. He is originally from Chiang Rai province. Once upon a time he was really a handsome man. But after a long back bending farmer’s life under the scorching sun, one can only see the shadow of that in his appearance. During rice farming season they get up at 5 AM in the morning and go to farm everyday. They come back around noon. We all seat together and eat our lunch. Sometime during this rainy season he catches fish in the rice field or from the pond. Also they collect bamboo-shooting from the bushes around the field. Many days our food is simply sticky rice, fish curry with bamboo shooting. I feel very warm sitting with them and sharing this simple food together. The hot sun and rain sweeps away the day. During weekdays my son comes back from nursery school around 4 PM and then we all play together. We walk down the firm and sit near the fish pond and watch the ripples in the water from the breathing of the fish. The day’s light fades away in the evening. We hear the sound of the gong from the village temple and know that it is time to go home.
Back in my country I led a life where every minute and second were important. There was so much value attached with time and life. Even during lunch hours in a sandwich shop I used to work. I always used to carry a busy life and a mind. Never had a thought about a deep pause. Here in Isaan, life is simple and ordinary; but this life has a different charm. It gradually washes away all the aspirations, ambition which sometime disturbs the mind. I am not sure whether I have become more lazy or not; but certainly I am sabai and at peace with myself.
I really wish I was able to slow down and enjoy all that a place in rural Thailand has t offer, but I can’t, I just can’t. I get that feeling that I should be busy doing something. I guess I am a city boy at heart.