A guide to senior-citizen tripping in Thailand.
Benjamin Button’s condition might have been a figment of someones imagination, but I think there’s some truth to the theory that old people become children after a certain age. I can say this because I’ve seen them start to unlearn at some point.
Their bodies might become slow, but the mind is as curious as ever, slowly turning into new born children who want to see, feel and experience without prejudice. They want to tell you their stories but also want to listen to yours. No wonder most of us like chilling with our grans more than our parents.
There’s no doubt that a generation and communication gap exists. Because I still get emotionally blackmailed with impending death and demands like “I want to see you married before I die” or “I want to see your children, only then can I die in peace”. The cure for this, I’ve realised, is classic misdirection.
If they ask you sneaky questions like, “Kidhar gayi thi haan?” (Translated - Where were you horny young teen?)
Tell them “Main apne dus boyfriends ke saath drugs kar rahi thi.” (Translated – With my numerous boyfriends doing drugs, duh!)
The trick is to shock the hell out of them. If your grandma is like mine she’ll get over the initial disbelief at your shamelessness and laugh at having a boneheaded granddaughter. Since then mortifying the grandmother has become my favourite pastime and it is addictive. So when my sister and I planned a trip to Thailand with Didu, we had to make sure she experienced the best of what that country had to offer. I thought we could scandalize her but she kind of surprised us instead. She showed us just how badass old school can be and how it is leagues away from being a square. This was our itinerary.
The gorgeous ladyboys of Pattaya
Mesmerised by the ladyboys of Pattaya
My sister’s school was full of Thai kids who changed their gender and orientations with the seasons. Gender is fluid in Thailand and the way society accepts it, is amazing and inspiring. We told Didu before taking her for a ladyboy cabaret, Alcazar, in Pattaya, that all the performers in the show were men dressed up as women. She was excited and associated it to the only gender ambiguous people she knew, eunuchs. She watched the grand display unfurl with electrifying wonder. The artistes flounced around in sexy, snazzy outfits, seamlessly changing scenes and stories. What she saw was in clear contrast to what she had been expecting. She found it difficult to digest just how beautiful the performers were and the fact that they weren’t really women. It was true. Their femininity made me feel silly about my own reluctance to be ladylike. The only time we saw distress on her face was when in one comic sequence, this plump ladyboy shoved her fake tits into an unsuspecting face in the audience.
People watching on Koh Larn island
Shameless in Koh Larn
Koh Larn is a small diving Island off the coast of Pattaya. Here we hired bikes and rode her around finally stopping at Nual, one of the quieter beaches on the Island. She chilled all day and laughed at old women in bikinis.
“Or pachha dakh”, she exclaimed in Bengali (look at her butt) while laughing tears and pointing at one exceptionally big woman.
“Stop embarrassing us”, we hissed at her. “Don’t you have any shame?”
“What! Why should I feel ashamed when they don’t”, she said sipping on her coconut water.
Women on display at walking street
Wary on Walking Street
I felt nails digging into my arm. We were on Walking Street now and anyone who knows Thailand knows that this place is the epicenter of the country’s sex tourism. It is a street lined with go-go bars for every kind of fixation. Women in barely enough clothing call out to men and ladyboys in their nasal pseudo seductive voices, invite them in with bold offers on “drinks”.
An offer to remember
Didu has stopped the flow of blood in my arm by holding on to it as tightly as she can. The other hand has my sister Eshna’s arm clasped the same way. I yank my hand away and start wandering off to find a good spot to have a beer and people-watch. “Aai! Come back here this instant”, she screams, lips pursed in her typical expression of annoyance.
She doesn’t allow us to sit anywhere and keeps glaring angrily at a lot of people who are smiling at her. She really thought that someone was going to kidnap and traffic one of us. It was amusing how she didn’t realise that SHE was the anomaly in that environment. There was no other old sari-clad lady walking down that street.
We were forced to drop her to the hotel and then go back to the nice blues bar we had seen. When we got back at 3am, she was still sitting there. Awake. Waiting for us.
Fearless in Thailand
Fearless in Sriracha
Also known for its flaming hot chilli sauce, Sriracha has the most disturbing tiger zoo. While I was shocked to see the disgusting condition of tigers, Didu just stood there staring at a painting of a tiger feeding piglets.
“How is this possible?” she asks incredulously. Apparently this was not just a painting and there were shows where one could see both live - tigers sucking pigs and vice versa.
There was another enclosure where you could take a picture with a huge tiger. We started herding her into the enclosure. As soon as she realised what was going on, she pushed back. “No way”, she said. But she couldn’t resist us for long, the physically weak creature that she was. She put up a bold face and inched towards the tiger. She slowly sat next to the big cat, five times larger than her and smiled for the picture. We took our own sweet time to take the picture. I think she wanted to shout, tell us do it faster but didn’t want to raise her voice considering her precarious position.
Sister and grandma share a laugh
She didn’t just do good, she did awesome. Thailand came at her full throttle and she swung back like a badass. It threw at her sex toys on every street and old men fondling underage girls. The latter had her throwing a fit and walking away.
When I look back I feel this trip was more a lesson for us, than her. The loneliness that hits during old age is deep. Think about what you’d appreciate at the same age and make an effort to draw the child out of your grandparents. While it doesn’t work for everyone, you may be pleasantly surprised by who it does work for.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Karishma Goenka
Photographs by Karishma Goenka