Sunday, 16 May 2010

strange acquaintances- April 12th

April 12th

I sit inside the 1976 monument on the stairs, hoping to find some calm from which to write down my thoughts and observations about what is going on in this hot Monday at Ratchadamnoen. An old woman walks into the small amphitheater at the center of the monument. She is veiled, dressed in a wide purple tunic, a white veil with blue borders. From the holes in the dress comes out dark skin, with deep wrinkles that the sun gift to the people who live close to the sea. She walks to the center of the small stage, surrounded with brown flower pots on grey marble pavement. She opens a mat, looks around to the people sitting on the higher ground eating snacks or just sitting there in silence to find some peace in the middle of the crowd. Beside her a young man walks through the photos at the monument, staring at students of his age, in white oxford-shirt filling the royal avenue. She then lays out the mat on the ground, facing west, the direction of the Mecca, and by chance also of the royal palace, about a kilometer away. An older man arrives from the west side of the monument, walking there from a food stool. He stands close to her and silently takes off his white shirt leaving his skin to glitter in the afternoon sun. No difference between the color of the skin on the body and on his face, sign of his outdoor work. He quietly puts a piece of plastic on the ground, the same people use here to sit at protest, made up of uncut food labels and over it a red foulard. He then pulls out of a plastic bag that the woman carried a red shirt with the face of Thaksin on the right side, stamped stencil style in white, his face is sad. The man puts the shirt on and stands, eyes into the infinite, before starting to pray, up and down on his knees in this small oasis of silence. After him the older woman takes his place and silently makes her prayers. He sits on the steps, besides her, passing frenetically his rosary through his hands. His eyes are wet. Finished the rosary he sits there for a moment, nervously rubbing his hands. Then he stands up and walks away nodding at me as he passes by, I lose track of him into the crowd. The woman takes off with care her sarong and quietly starts folding their stuff. First the Thai Rath Thai newspaper, then the mat, carefully folded by the expert hands. Then she stands up, checks the bottom of her vest, picks up a bottle of water left there and walks away, the same direction of the old man again smiling at me as she passes by. The small round stage remains empty for a second before a small roundish kid steps in, looking for small fishes inside the lotus pots. Conflict creates strange allies. Thaksin and the red shirts are master at this, making their actual strength and potentially its future weakness. Who could have imagine an old Muslim man from the south praying inside the 1976 monument wearing a t-shit with Thaksin’s face 5 years ago?

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