Saturday, July 25, 2009

What someone else said about Thailnad!

I received a much longer article from Dolly. I suppose it could be deemed as an article from an anonymous author until she gives us the authors name. I have abridged it and will be happy to send the original to who ever wants to read it in full.

Comparing India and Thailand

A visit to Thailand takes the Indian aback because .......

Thais behave as Europeans do.Traffic is disciplined, Bangkok has evening jams as bad as those in Bombay. But these are silent jams, people do not honk. Cars remain in their place, moving forward when their turn comes.

Because there is trust ..... In India the trust is missing and, that is why, so is the discipline.

The third difference is the approach to work. Thais do things themselves, as people do in the west. But there is also, unlike India, a culture of equality of work.....a comfort with one's status in life that is not there in our culture.

The fourth difference is cleanliness. Thais are one of the cleanest races in the world. India do not have a very appreciative sense of hygiene with the sole exception of Kerala which is probably the only state in India known for its cleanliness, both personal and public, Bangkok lives outdoors and life spills out onto the street at all times of the day. Few families cook at home, and so most meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner -- are had in stalls on the streets. Despite this, roads are always clean. There is also hygiene: the vendor of fruit on the street cuts and serves it without ever touching it with his hands.

Most toilets anywhere in the country, city, town, village, airport, restaurant, will not just be clean, they will be polished and fragrant. ....The culture is not me-versus-the-world, as it is in India where, outside our homes, we leave a place dirty because someone else will clean it up and we are not coming back to it.

The fifth thing we notice is respect for the individual and for personal space. And the knowledge that the individuals space must not be intruded upon physically or mentally without apology. To see it so entrenched in Thailand is puzzling.......their civic behaviour is not the result of a process of modernisation, as it would be in India, but inherent to the culture.

This is a most difficult thing for the Indian to swallow....Thais will wait a few steps away from someone talking to another person, and approach only when the other is disengaged. This ability to see people as individuals means that there is politeness of a sort that takes the Indian aback.

On a visit a few years ago, a woman whose village shop I was in was approached by a beggar, who was tattered and bleeding. She did not give him any money, but spoke to him with the same politeness and respect that she showed me...

Once, I heard the raised voice of an irritated customer in the showroom asking the saleswoman not to play games over the discounts available. It was a woman in an Indian group, of course, and I fled -- in embarrassment at the woman's behaviour but also in shame because I knew that it could just as easily have been me: that is how we behave with sellers. No Thai behaves like that. It means that there is something within Thai culture that makes them civilised, but what?

Could it be Buddhism, the dominant feature of Thai culture? If it is, then the message Thais absorbed from that religion is very different from the one absorbed in India, the source of Buddhism.

Thai culture is spectacularly aesthetic, and, unlike India's, fully engaged with nature. Flower pots have clear water, aquatic plants and little fish. The fish, I realised, also ate up mosquito larvae.

Architecture is first rate, whether the house owner is rich, middle-class or peasant. In Bombay you could spend a million dollars (Rs4.5 crore) buying an apartment and the building would look like rubbish.

Thailand's infrastructure is 30 or 40 years ahead of India's and, if anything, I find the gap increasing each visit.Thailand's per capita income is four times higher than India's, and its income distribution is superior.

India has a great religious heritage and one of the world's finest artistic cultures, deep and wide, from Indo-Persian to Carnatic, and we are justly proud of it. But an unemotional observation of our civilisation will reveal how it is also different, and wanting. We could tell ourselves, as Naipaul has, that we had something superior once which was disturbed by foreign invasion.

But the evidence for that is thin. The parts of India that have not been touched by colonisation are actually primitive. And there is nothing noble or civilised in the way that these communities live: the life of people in these villages is as short and as brutal as those of animals.

The best of India, intellectually, culturally and civilisationally is in its towns and cities, not its villages. And when we compare our cities and our civic behaviour with those of the world we are humbled by our mediocrity.


Rampus said...

Very well written and informative. On the issue of Budhism though founded in India it never really took root there but was literally banished (driven out) to the far-east by the elite Brahman Hindus of which we as Hindus cannot be proud of. This fact does not seem to be common knowledge. If Budhism had indeed taken root in India where it was born we would not have had the evils of castism and the divisiveness that it has perpetrated to this day. How sad.

Dolly said...

u are welcome

Viji said...

no wonder they say thailand is amazing!!! it truly is viji

Mota Pota said...

I am a Thaiophile & Indophile in equal measure & could not disagree with the points this unknown author is making. However, I must add that the author's observations smack of an awe created by first impressions rather than experience of living in Thailand, because I have also experienced contrary behavior in equal measure. Thai drivers can be aggressive, the Thais do litter...a lot & many of them do cut ques & lanes. That said unlike india, this behaviour is the exception rather than the norm. I love living in Thailand but I would have liked a more balanced view of things in the article.

srinidhi said...

Very disturbing to read this about Thailand in this BBC report linked below.

Umesh this surely is more than a 'balanced view of things' you were suggesting!

Prakash Kamath said...


Nice article and I do completely agree on most aspects of the various observations made by the unknown author. However, one should realise when you are on short visits to Thailand it is like watching a beautiful woman in all her make-up and its a different case once you remove the make up. As we used to say during our college days - Beauty is a product of nature and not Max Factor. The author therefore did not get a glimpse at the 'darker' sides of Thailand. The comparison with India is, however, correct as we seem to have forgotten how to be polite, considerate of others etc.


Mota Pota said...

Nidhi Uncle,

I think you have started quite a discussion on the whole topic of India vs. Thailand & a valid one at that for all of us who are still living here & see both, the nice & not-so-nice sides of Thailand. Could you also send me the unabridged article by this unknown author?


VATSALA said...

Well written piece. I agree with the observations and some of the comments.One correction: Buddhism did take root in this country. It was the official religion of Asoka and later Mauryas.Brahminism came inas a reaction to the ascetic way of Buddhism. That did not result in the chaos we have today. The description of the Harshan empire by Huien Tsang describes an orderly state. Time wise the decay started after the Muslim invasions, though they may not be responsible!Thailand has never subjugated. Could that be the reason?