Turning Their Back On The Fatherland
Some of the submissions on how Thais don’t care much for Indians strike me as odd. I’ve long imagined that Thailand incorporates a culture that comes from China (the Motherland) and India (the Fatherland), as Thailand sits square in the middle of the geographical crossroads of these two larger countries.
Certainly the tones in the language, some of the food (rice & rice noodles), the concept of face, and some of the handicrafts (silk) all come from China. However several attributes that are considered to be Thai, do come from India. These are the following:
·Language – Written Thai and the Thai alphabet is derived from Sanskrit in addition to Pali.
·Religion – Buddhism originates from Northeast India and even though it is no longer dominant there, it has remained rooted throughout SE Asia and of course, Thailand.
·The wai – this is roughly related to when people greet in India with a ‘Namaste’.
·Social hierarchy- India had a ruling family and an elaborate system of hierarchy and a division of work. Some have speculated that the Thai social system of Sakdina is an offshoot of the caste system in India
·The food – both curry and chili in the food comes from India, though indirectly – through trading with Portugal.
·Squat toilets may well have originated in India, as well as bum guns.
·Thais used to eat with their right hand – as Indians do – until fairly recently when the fork & spoon was introduced in the 20th century as part of an effort to modernize the country.
Indeed it remains a bit of a mystery why many Thais are unaware of the strong heritage they have with India, and it is surprising that many have a distaste for their brothers from the sub-continent. I have heard the old expression / joke:
“If you are traveling alone in a dark forest and come across a snake and a khaek (Thai word for guest, applied to Indians or Arabs) at the same time, which should you hit first?” Answer: Hit the khaek because it is far more dangerous!
Perhaps it is because Indians used to be money lenders and Thais owing money would rather avoid them or just hit them with a stick (thereby making them the Stickman by rights!)
Perhaps it’s because of all the cheap Indians who come over and over-negotiate and are ultra-stingy with the locals. Perhaps it is the Arabs, who do the same thing, but confuse the Thais who label them as Indians. Perhaps it’s the strong body odor and smell of curry and onions, combined with the rapid fire English and over-rolled R’s that stream off these strange speakers?
I remember that I had to send some of my employees to a business trip to China and had asked them what they think about traveling there. One Engineering Supervisor squinted, thought about it, and said it was like going back to the Motherland. I asked him about how he felt about going to Chennai to see one of the joint venture factories there and he responded that he has no feeling about traveling to India and is worried because the food is mhen (Thai for smelly). I also remember traveling on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Singapore and the flight took a really long time to get out of the gate and onto the runway. The pilot made an announcement that the plane was leaving late because there was an Air India flight that blocked the exit from one of the gates, and the pilot had to wait for them to be pushed out of the way. I found it odd that the pilot didn’t hesitate to blame them by name.
Personally, I think it’s because the Indians never blended in well into Thai society. It’s true that there are a notable few Thai-Indians (mainly a few actresses) but the numbers are very small compared with the number of Thai-Chinese families living in the country. Many Thai-Indians who have lived here for a few generations speak good Thai but often speak in Hindi or their mother tongue more frequently. Maybe the Thais feel unwanted by the Thai-Indians. Just like there are stories of the father leaving after the child is born – often the children don’t think much about their father after that. In the same vein perhaps this is why the Thais turn their back on their fatherland? Could they have felt left out and neglected?
I can say this relationship is unrequited as if you asked the average Indian what they thought of Thailand I’m sure you would get a blank stare. I’m sure if you asked the joke about being alone in a dark forest and coming across a snake and a Thai at the same time then they would have no idea what you were talking about.
Thais are much more racist than Westerners and I think they like to play the blame game – and they see Indians as an easy target. I have questioned the odd Thai from time to time on why they have an issue with Indians and they usually cite one or other of the reasons you outline. I have always felt the major reason Thais had issue with Indians was the body odour issue – but that is only some Indians and to suggest all have an issue is ridiculous.