(don’t) Be Yourself

by Nikeeta Jagallo (India)

The last thing I expected Thailand


Checking into one of the most extravagant hotels in the city, I looked around. It wasn’t how I imagined it would be – it was better. I was in Thailand. Having landed just two hours ago, I had made a mental note to visit the spa at the corner, check out why the McDonalds here sell beef (P.S. I’m from India) and how I could sneak out without my parent’s knowledge to hit the hottest nightclub in town. Little did I know that something as simple as an evening walk would change my prospect of life itself! A couple of hours later, napped and relaxed, I made up my mind to discover the mighty land for myself. I made an appointment, checked myself in and started enjoying the massage. I was pleasantly surprised to find the masseur nattering in English and started to have a conversation with her. She was cheerful, attended to a few customers while requesting me to wait and served me a Thai snack too. She soon resumed the massage and we continued speaking. She was a native, single-mother to four boys and ran the spa along with her sister. Within a few minutes, it became evident that life in the city wasn’t all pomp and gaiety. She struggled every day, wasn’t educated so couldn’t work in an office and barely saved anything. I also asked her how so many women were working in food stalls and local places, and why they out-numbered men. She then told me that majority of the city comprised of single women – yes, women ran businesses, sold food, checked people in hotels and owned stores. The shocking truth came next – most of them survived in the city because it didn’t mock or question their identity post their sex-change surgery. Thailand was cheap, one didn’t know too many people here and it could be conveniently done too. While returning back to their home-town was an option ruled out by many, they preferred living in the city, earning their bread and living a life on their own. Most of these people previously held high-end jobs; had good families and some were even millionaires. So why the need to settle in a place that purely survives on tourism; has a shaky economy and makes life rather difficult? Simply because it accepted people as they were. This short and random interaction changed my outlook on life completely – it isn’t wealth, glamour or your position that matters, in the end, it’s all about being someplace you are accepted, just the way you are. Everything else simply pales in comparison. Live and let live.