I Wish They Can Speak

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A Morning...An Experience...A Kingdom

Submitted: November 21, 2007

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Submitted: November 21, 2007

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“Hello Gentleman, how do you do?”

The voice came from behind. It was a surprise, and the reaction was the usual jumping of the heart and its attempt to come out of the throat.

I turned back and tried to look through the early morning winter fog. My hobby of photography has forced me to get up very early a number of times and I have had the opportunity to meet fellow photographers in some remote places trying to take the perfect frame, but here in Ayutthaya amidst the ruin, I was not expecting one.

“Here, this way, to the right. The weather is bad this season. Its no more like our good old days, there happens to be too much fog around”, the voice again boomed
The visibility was almost nil. It has been a frustrating morning so far. It was the last day of my trip and I have been trying to get some early morning photos of this magnificent place but the fog was playing spoil sport. Since last three days I have been coming down and going back, unable to take a single photograph. So I decided to stay back and see if the fog relents and gives me a moment to capture.

“Hello! Just follow our voice, we are here”

We, hmmm, this means there are more than one person. I couldn’t help but to imagine if they are as unfortunate as me or was it their first morning. I started walking towards the voice, its better to have some company to pass time rather than sitting alone and waiting.

A few steps ahead I saw them the first time. Not very clear, but their silhouette was visible. From that distance, it appeared to be a group of people all tall with chiseled body. My instinct asked me to stop. A group of people, so early in the morning can not be tourist, a group of photographer, well possible but not so likely then who can they be. Though it is a safe country, but will it be safe to take a chance. I stopped thinking about the options before me.

“Hello! You are coming the right way. Don’t worry, we are not thugs”

As if they had read my mind. It was scary but something inside told me to trust these guys. I started walking towards them. A few steps ahead and for the first time I got a glimpse of them, though a shadowy one. There they were, in all five of them, sitting together cross legged over what seems like a huge platform.

“You see, I told you we are not thugs”

“Yeah sorry, but guess was just being a bit cautious”

“Never mind Gentleman! It’s always better to be careful than to be sorry”

“Hmmph! Its better safe than be sorry”, this time it was the other one.

“Whatever! You know my English is not so good”

“Never mind! I got your point”, I quipped.

“See! I told you! Its not important to be precise while speaking. As long as you convey your message its okay”

“Yeah, yeah”

“Gentleman, so what bring you here?”

“Photography”

“Uh Ha! So you are a photographer”

“Yeah, an amateur though”

“Very good. Last year I had met a photographer from a magazine. I don’t remember his name though…what was his name”

“Forget about it. You won’t remember. You have grown old”

“Oh Yeah! Look at you…you are not growing younger too”

They seemed to have an old world charm and innocence. And it was kind of amusing to see them indulging themselves into small banter and musing.

“So what are you guys doing?”

“Uh Gentleman! We stay here. You can call us the true Ayutthayans”

“Heh!Heh! I say, you made this just now isn’t it”, the other one again.

The innocence and childishness was captivating.

“So you are not Thai but Ayutthayans”

“Well….guess…yeah….we are Thais, alright…but Ayutthayans is better….or perhaps Siamese….”

“Twins….” this time it was a collective roar of laughter.

This was getting interesting. I have been staying here in Thailand for months now but have never heard anyone telling themselves as Koh Changians or Bangkokians.

“So Gentleman! What do you plan to shoot? The temples, the statues or what?”

“I was planning to take the photo of Wat Mahathat against the rising sun. Yesterday, I have taken the photo of Wat Ratchaburana during sunset.”

“Hard luck Gentleman! Today is a bad morning”

“Yeah guess so but at least happy that I got Wat Mahathat photo yesterday! It is beautiful and grand.”

“Oh ya Gentleman! It is grand indeed. It was built by King Borom Rachathirat I in the 16th century. It was a huge temple complex. Do you know the meaning of Wat Mahathat?’

“I am afraid I don’t”

“It means, the Temple of Great Relic, as it always has a relic of Buddha. It is a very common term used for such temples across Siam…uh..I mean Thailand.”

“And have you seen the Grand Palace Complex”, this time it was the other one who was keeping silent till now.

“Yes, I have been there”

“Not much is present today. During the Golden Period of Ayutthaya, it was the seat of socio-politics of this country. There was this huge Chedi made of pure gold in the middle which was completely burnt by the invading Burmese army. Most of what you see…..”

“….not most, everything….”

“….Yeah everything what you see now was destroyed in the invasion. It was a bad day”

“Let’s not speak about it. Yeah Gentleman, so how you find the Grand Palace”

“Its really impressive. Those three Chedis which house the remains of King Borommatrailokanat, King Borommarachathirat III and King Ramathibodi II have almost become a symbol of Thailand”

“Is it? Wow! But they are not Chedis Gentleman…they are Prangs. You see the rounder corn-cob shaped structures are called Prangs…they are Cambodian influence we adapted, the sharp pointed one atop a bell shape are Chedis but Ceylonese in influence and the one atop a square shape are our own style”

“Ceylonese? Uh you mean to say Sri Lankan, I guess”, I was really amused to find that they still call Sri Lanka as Ceylon.

“Sri Lanka? Uh Okay. Yes, Sri Lanka”, he appeared to be a bit confused with it.

“Anyways”, the other one continued, “there we had a great golden Buddha Statue. It was built using 172Kg of Gold….”

“172 Kg of GOLD!!!”, I was really surprised.

“Yes. It was built by King Rama Thibodi II, the tenth King of Ayutthaya. Those were truly the Golden Days”

“But what happened after that. The Kingdom was flourishing for 400 years and then all of a sudden….”

“It was not all of a sudden Gentleman. It started in 1715 when we fought with Nguyen Lords of Vietnam for control over Angkor. We had taken control of Angkor and Khmer Kingdom way back in the days of Ramathibodi and were regarded as the strongest power in this area of IndoChina. But due to lack of manpower, the king had started a Mandala system where different self governing provinces pledged allegiance to our King. But during the middle of 1700s the dynasty has become week. We had the alliance of the King of China, but they were also going through the same period of internal struggle during this period.”

“You mean Shan Dynasty”, I asked. I was confused regarding who ruled China at that time, Shan or Ming Dynasty.

“Yes Gentleman. Very Good. It was Shan Dynasty indeed”

“Finally with the rise of Alaungpaya dynasty in Burma the final downfall began. They subdued the Chinese and invaded Ayutthaya many times. We fought bravely but their final assault in 1765 was too severe for us to defend. They came in two groups and there was a long siege. We were easily outnumbered especially because our border states has shifted alliance and were supporting them. We were fighting for our King, for our dignity and pride but the siege was long enough to dent our resolve.”

“And finally one day, they shot a canon from across the river which hit the Grand Palace and wounded the King fatally. That was it! We were in chaos and they came in hordes. They burnt, destroyed, killed, looted everything one their way. There was fire everywhere. People didn’t know where to hide. Even the children were not spared. It was hell……”

“And then……”, I was mesmerized by their narration, by the pain in their voice. I almost felt the event as I was there witnessing the mayhem with my own eyes.

“And finally they came for us. They used hammer, sword, clubs and nearly whatever they had against us”.

“Us? You mean you or your people”

A smile spread across their face.

“Gentleman….”, slowly the fog was cleared, the sun started shining and I did see them for the first time in glowing daylight…..

“Sir, sorry to disturb you, but sleeping is not allowed here sir. This is a protected area”.

I woke up. For a few moment I was confused. I didn’t know what was happening around. Rubbing my eyes I looked ahead. There stood a middle aged man with a broom and bucket in hand, perhaps the cleaner.

“Uh! Sorry! I just dozed off”

“No problem sir. I have seen you coming every morning. You a photographer sir”

“Uh..well…yes..kind of”

“Very good sir. Do u take more photos?”

“Nope. I guess I will be going back”. The sun was high in the sky and the fog was gone and so was the moment I was planning to shot the frame.

I picked up my tripod and camera bag and started walking. The time I reached the gate of Wat Ratchaburana, I turned around to see them one last time. And there they sat together, with missing arm, leg and head – in a circle being a mute witness to a Kingdom and era which was once the most important in the history of this part of the world.

It was a dream but while I walked back to my hotel room, I was just thinking…

“I wish they can speak”………..

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