Let your good heart lead you home

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Gritty but comforting …

I was trying to hail a cab. Traffic was blooming restlessly around me and luck was not being too magnanimous. Taxis were zipping by but none seemed too interested to stop. ‘You want taxi?’ It was the traffic warden from the swanky hotel situated on my foreground. Being bred on the occasionally unforgiving streets of the Klang Valley where hardly anything or anyone yields, I was naturally apprehensive. Does he want a fee for doing this, given I was clearly not a resident of the posh hotel that salaried him? I mean I was drenched in sweat, decked in dirt-soiled cargo shorts and I was obviously walking towards him from a direction that was away from the hotel. Nevertheless, I mentally waved a white flag at my ideals and nodded. He proceeded to use his hand-held ‘Taxi’ sign to hail down the first cab, had a furious discussion in Thai and frustratingly waved the taxi on. I was baffled. ‘No meter’, he said. He proceeded to wave down three more cabs before nodding to me to get into one. As I was preparing to board I turned to him, expecting him to collect his fee. He just smiled and gestured me into the cab. It was an unimaginable moment of grace from someone, in a buzzing city that was exploding with neon life. He did not have to, but he did. It was unexpected and frankly, as silly as it sounds, unbelievable. Such was the dizzy heights of my cynicism. For a moment, I reconnected with the human race. And I was glad to report that we were alright.

Bangkok, as a city, has always agreed with me as a person.

There are many obvious things to dislike about Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, from the  dangerously intimate proximity of its architectural structures doing its best impression of a pressure cooker, skylines littered with messy power lines that seek to charge its bustling heart and the unwholesome extensions of its maligned body providing sexual gratification for socially awkward patrons raised in lands with stronger currencies.

As someone who was born and raised in the city, I grew up with certain expectations on how a city is supposed to operate and how its inhabitants are supposed to behave. Every subsequent city, town or country you explore for the rest of your life is often measured against those initial set of expectations. From items you see on travels that you deem too expensive or unbelievably affordable, to people you meet who are almost uncomfortably friendly or unimaginably discourteous, everything is sized against those fundamental expectations we have built up during our lifetime. In most of my travels, rarely does a place hold up to those fundamental expectations.

Well, except Bangkok.

Each trip back opens up undiscovered facets of its multifarious personality that just makes me fall just a little more in love with it. This recent trip about a month ago, I discovered a sardonically hilarious tailor who makes lovely suits and shirts for decent prices that can be couriered back to you, an unadorned store in sec 16 of Chatuchak that sells brilliantly designed t-shirts of noteworthy indie bands and a tourist-light floating market that caters some of the most affordable and delectable food items to mostly locals. There’s a lot to both love and hate.

But like the one we start out with, we do not have the luxury of choosing what to call home. It just is, and this is

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Your worst is your best

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The human condition

People are good in bad times

That statement zipped pass me so quickly during my routine listen-in on a football podcast that I almost missed it. The statement was made in relation to the recent Chapecoense tragedy or more specifically, the outpouring of goodwill following it from related quarters to the football club.

I nodded. It made a lot of sense, for a moment. People do generally know how to react accordingly during awful moments. One only needs to harken back to the airline disasters in these parts in recent memory. The most inspiring acts of humanity were done during some of the darkest moments of modern history. The accompanying thought that came racing up along the initial statement is – That means people are fundamentally good.

But yet, humans have traditionally set almost-delusional low standards for itself to achieve. As a species, in which one of its shiniest trophies is civilisation, humans are often far too quick to pat itself on its back for doing the minimum. Even elephants have been known to mourn the death of a herd member or rush to the aid of its young and helpless. Last I checked we weren’t exactly pitching our role models against Elephantidae standards.

People who are not bad during good times.

That’s what we should be striving towards really. If I were to diagnosed the human condition within this context I would say that we are fundamentally hedonistic in some way, with occasional blotches of convenient amnesia. In other words, we basically forget quick but more importantly, we forget quicker when we are happy. Perhaps misery is just a check and balance that’s been built into the ecosystem of civilisation to reboot our personalities to bearable levels every once in a while, less we end up butchering each other.