The case of the rubber dinghy…

I have not posted for the last 1 month (24 Dec was when I posted last) and I have finally thought of something to write.

In 2007 I had gone on a short tour of Bangkok, Thailand. It was one of my first trips in Asia and it was really exciting times for me. I had always heard of Thailand’s famous tourist spots and why it was popular among single men especially. I had no carnal intentions though and yet I wanted to explore this beautiful country and see what it had to offer me.

The first couple of days I had been around town and visited pretty much every Buddhist temple the place had to offer. I loved the way the people of the country were courteous – any store, inn, restaurant you go to, you would be greeted with folded hands with a ‘Khop Khun Kha/Kop Khun Krap’ by the people there – and I also loved the fact that an entire nation dressed up in Yellow on Mondays to celebrate the day the King of Thailand was born. Apparently, yellow was the auspicious color for Mondays and everyone wore it to honor and bless their king with good fortune. On Saturdays, half of the population wore blue T-shirts and this was for the Queen. I did not expect a nation to love their Royals so much and that too in a democratic country (Ahem! It is at least democratic on paper, barring things that are happening currently).

On the third evening, at around 7ish in the evening I stepped out of the Hotel by myself (without my friends) and decided to walk around the busy streets and probably pick up some trinkets. As I walked a few feet away from my Hotel, a harmless looking guy walked up to me and greeted me with a ‘Hello Sir’. The guy was diminutive, dressed in an old suit that was definitely not made to his size and looked totally harmless. He had a half bald head and big eyes and for some reason reminded me of an eager turtle, looking out of his shell. Here is the conversation we had-

Suited Turtle Man: Hello Sir!

Me: Hello

Suited Turtle Man: Are you tourist?

Me: Yes. But I don’t want to buy anything (and tried to walk away briskly)

Suited Turtle Man: Sir, no no. I show you nice aquarium. Very nice fish.  All very beautiful. You come see.

Me: I am sorry not interested (I thought he was going to take me into a nearby alley and mug me)

Suited Turtle Man: Sir, you no afraid. You like the fish. You come see. I no charge you. All free. You come. (and dragged my hand)

Me: Hey, I don’t want to go.(but then I did follow him out of curiosity and also because I barely had a few hundred bhats in my pocket, cannot get mugged for much anyway).

A few steps after, with continuous exchange of “leave me alone, man” and “no sir,  you come”….

Suited Turtle Man: I also give you rubber dinghy free. You no need to buy.

Me: Why do I need a rubber dinghy? Do I need to get into the water? I am not even dressed for it.

Suited Turtle Man: (He stopped short in his tracks) You no rubber dinghy, no good. You must get rubber dinghy.

Me: Hang on, what are you talking about?

Suited Turtle Man: (then pulled out a printed paper from the inside of his ‘Sherlock Holmes’ coat) See, fish all very beautiful. You pay the fish, don’t pay me. But I give you free rubber dinghy. Because I like you. You look like gentleman.

His generosity was outstanding. Here was a man who barely knew me and yet he thought I was a gentleman and was impressed with me enough to give me something for free. In another place, another time, this would be something that would move me. But, I saw what the printed paper described about my adventure “ride” to come.

The paper he showed me was filled with scantily clad girls obviously offering sexual services. I realized that the Aquarium that he was referring to was the famous ‘Thai Fish Tanks’, where girls are lined up in glass rooms for the clientele to pick them. The fishes were the girls themselves. I was laughing at myself at my poor “vocabulary” as little did I expect the word ‘Aquarium’ from a pimp.

And you would now know why he wanted to give me a free ‘rubber dinghy’. It was safe to ‘swim’ with the fishes with it, I guess.

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