One of those questions sometimes asked at a dinner party is, “if you could spend an hour with anyone, who would it be?”
Choices, choices: over six billion of them in fact.
When I was at school my answer was downright pretentious — Dalai Lama, Neil Young or John Fowles. Just the thought of rubbing shoulders with these giants and taking away a Kodak moment to cherish for the rest of my life thrilled me. During my year at art college my answer was Damien Hirst — imagining spending an hour in his studio, and his mind, had me dizzy with excitement and curiosity. In my university years I would probably have scorned such contemporary lightweights, opting to have had an hour to spend with the ghosts of Socrates, Dostoyevsky or Churchill, all of whom would have done wonders for my student- cred as well as my dissertation (but if I were honest, my reply would probably have been Brad Pitt). And in my early working years, fantasies of bumping into Bill Gates and wowing him with my wit and repartee to the point that he would have immediately decided to offer himself as mentor to my protégée (and of course, financier), kept me going through the business doldrums.
Not too long ago I was, once again, asked this question. My reply was immediate: His Majesty the King of Thailand.
I was quite taken aback by my response until I took some time to think about this instinctive reply. After all, what’s the point of meeting religious figures when I have yet to be receptive to any religious teachings or belief? It would make a mockery of the millions who are much more deserving than I. Authors, singers and their words have enriched my life, but one can read their lecture notes, visit their web sites and go to their book signings so easily these days; what secrets and linguistic treasures would I be able to take away with me from a brief hour’s conversation? Damien Hirst is a nutter, and while I thoroughly enjoy his art, I think that the workings of his mind would take more than an hour to unravel. Of course, since I do not believe in ghosts, I can hardly go knocking on authors’ graves begging for an audience, and my husband wouldn’t look too kindly on my ogling Brad Pitt for a minute, let alone an hour. As for Bill Gates, he has many more important things to do in life, donating his billions to humanity, than to sit around chatting or throwing money to the likes of me.
So it is His Majesty the King of Thailand whom I would be honoured to spend one hour with, should the opportunity arise.
While I am also half British, and also have a monarch on the other side of the world whom I respect, my – and every Thai person’s — relationship with King Bhumipol Adulyadej is much more personal. For us, he is our father. While most of US have never met him, and probably never will, he is so omnipresent in our lives it borders on the religious. Most of US would think nothing of laying down our lives for our King…for he is Thailand. He is our inspiration, our moral guidance, our example, and our comfort. He unites us when we are divided, offers US strength when we weaken and is a guiding light during times of darkness.
Unlike other people I have mentioned above, I wouldn’t want to meet the king to take anything from him, but instead, to thank him. I would tell him how important he has been to my life and I would echo other voices in telling him that he is beloved and that I am so very fortunate to have been born under his reign.
If you have read my editorials before you may be surprised by my sappy sentiments, but this editorial is written by my Thai half, not my sensible, no-frills western side. As a Thai citizen I love His Majesty the King and wish to thank him for 60 years as our nation’s father.
Long Live The King!
Citylife this month:
Wait…let me wipe the mist from my eyes.
Apart from being the month of celebrations for King Bhumipol Adulyadej’s 60th year on the throne, June is also, of course, the kick¬off of the Football World Cup. So this is a most timely month to get some testosterone back between our pages and there is no one better to do so than our new deputy editor, James Austin Farrell, who joined us this month. We will be bringing some much-needed ladness to Citylife after a year of deputy editorlessness. So please feel free to email him with your thoughts, ideas and suggestions anytime at [email protected].