A World Without Money

 

Lord Kubera (God of Wealth) was reading an article published on the failed demonetization in India. He was amused to learn that Mr Modi, the Prime Minister shook India’s economy by cancelling 500 Rs currency notes, overnight.

Quite a bold step. Lord Kubera said.

But when he spoke about the demonetization to Lord Mahadeva (The supreme God of destruction), Lord Mahadeva smiled.

“Well the real bold step could have been to scrap money all over the world.  Imagine the world with no money. But that’s not easy for the humans. Even if Modi, Putin and Trump were to agree and work  together, they wont be able to make money vanish from this world.  But I can simply make the money disappear by opening my third eye”

[Lord Mahadeva is usually known for His third eye. The eye which emits flames and burns things to ashes. Shiva’s third eye is also sometimes known as the eye of wisdom. The right and left eye represent His activities in the physical world while the third eye symbolises His spiritual wisdom and power].

Kubera pleaded Lord Mahadeva that this bold step be taken only as a pilot. The world may be restored with money once again if the pilot was found to be unsustainable. Lord Mahadeva agreed and opened his third eye. And money across the world disappeared!


I walked to a coffee shop. The girl at the counter gave a warm smile while offering me a hot cup of cappuccino. But when I pulled out my wallet, she said that I did not have to pay any money as concept of money did not exist now. She gave me two options.

One – I could work as a waiter every day for 1 hour in the café and enjoy two cups of free coffee. Option two was to help in the kitchen for three hours on a Saturday when there was a peak of customers. I agreed for the second option.

When I finished my coffee, the girl said “have a nice day Sir. But don’t forget to come to the kitchen this Saturday. There will be three more “volunteers” like you. Coffee lovers in our neighborhood are very kind and helpful to us”. I was convinced that going to the coffee shop on the Saturday was going to be fun in my otherwise dull life.

For a long time, I wanted to buy a bigger house. So I called my estate agent to check if there was any good deal. “Oh Dr Modak” he said, “there are no financial deals now as the money has disappeared. But why don’t you try your luck at the heritage bungalow of Mr Fernandes in Bandra? Its free to live as Mr and Mrs Fernandes want that in exchange they get a decent tenant to take care of them and make their life warm and lovely. That’s not too much to ask isn’t it? Their son John left them some 20 years ago by migrating to the United States and they terribly miss his company. The old couple is taking interviews and if they like you, which they most probably would, they will let you stay in the bungalow with no rent to pay!”

Oh if the money vanishes and if we remain nice to people, then the homelessness in this world will end. I mused to myself.

My wife told me that now there will be no theft crimes. You won’t have to lock your house as no one may be interested to steal your stuff. You can have as many or as few of the things you want. You will consume only when you need – and perhaps just the everyday things of your life. You will live a sustainable life – good for this planet – I thought.

The wife continued while pouring a wine in my glass.

You won’t need money to travel, eat or acquire things. Just go and get them. They aren’t only for the rich or elite anymore. We’re all rich now.

I saw that she was wearing an expensive top from Dior that she picked up for free from a mall down south Mumbai. She always wanted to get this top  but couldn’t decide whether to spend money. I didn’t want to ask her what she agreed to do in the bargain.

In the world with no money, I realized that if you run out what you have, then all will gladly share what everyone has. Essentially, we all will help each other. Today, the idea of sharing is fast disappearing – everybody wants to “own” and perhaps that’s the reason of our stressed life!

I could see that in the absence of money, people would have to barter. Bartering is a method to obtain goods or services with the exchange of other goods or services. Today currency (or money) is the physical representation of the concept “Value”. As population increased and the trade grew more complicated, money was “invented” to become a proxy to assign the value to the products and services. But money often failed to arrive at the just or fair value. We all know that money does not reflect the true value.

Bartering brings in waste exchange, extends useful life of the products and connects people. I remember my mother used to barter utensils in the exchange of old clothes from a lady who hailed from Rajasthan. Both used to argue on the “value” of the goods to be exchanged.  But all this “fight” used to end happily with my mother enquiring about Lady’s grandchildren after closing the “deal” and giving two Cadbury chocolates. Bartering had that touch of “friendly” conversations.  World  with no money may have more of such conversations and promote collaborative consumption. Essentially we will have a shared economy.

Indeed, in the world with no money you will now be valued by the resources you hold in quantity and quality and the services you can offer. But every resource or service may not be measurable. We may value a person by the richness in kindness and love or value the time the person will give sitting next to the bed of an ailing patient in the hospital. We don’t do that today. Shouldn’t  we?

This was the vision of Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek.) He envisioned a future where everybody worked cooperatively, and the core drive of society was not to accumulate wealth or material objects, but to accumulate knowledge. This was also the future envisioned by such pioneers as Karl Marx, Buckminster Fuller, Albert Einstein, Jaque Fresco, John Lennon, and Carl Sagan. This research continues amongst hundreds of thousands of Zeitgeist Movement Members & Resource Based Economy Advocates worldwide.

The big questions however are: Is human society operating in a manner that benefits all of the humans? Is human society operating in a manner that is ultimately sustainable for both humans and all other life? There are no easy answers as we live today just for money. I realized that we will have to virtually rewrite all of human interactions in the world with no money.

When I went to see Professor, he lit his cigar.

He was rather negative and pessimistic. He cautioned that such a system will remain in theory and will be impossible to implement. He wasn’t sure about my wife’s argument on “no money – less consumption” as humans are so competitive in nature and will hoard the resources. Currency and money are very nuanced concepts that are remarkably hard to divorce from the human spirit.

He expressed his concern about the hoarding of resources. Controlling hoarding could certainly be a challenge. There will emergence of “strong” and “weak” communities depending on the resources they hold to bargain. There will be water wars and land grabbing. Nothing will be fair and only the mighty will win. And what about the unemployment we are creating across the financial sector? What will the bankers and investors do? He extinguished his cigar and looked outside the window.

I thought Professor made valid points.

I started to come out of my dream of a “sustainable world with dignity and security”


Lord Mahadeva smiled as if he heard our conversation. On the request of Kubera, he restored the world back to where it was.


I walked to a shop to buy some coffee. The girl at the counter gave me a warm smile while offering me a hot cup of cappuccino. When I pulled out my wallet, she gave me two options. Option one was to pay in cash and option two was to pay using credit card.

When I chose the option of credit card, she asked “Do you have American Express Sir? You will get Rs 10 off”

I felt familiar. I was back to the world with money.


You may like to watch video below by Danny Hyde

 


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Cover image sourced from http://talkback.hivetv.com.au/articles/news/world-doesnt-work/imagine-a-world-without-money/

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Do you have a Family Project?

When was the last occasion you and your family spent time together?

Don’t tell me that you watched a movie at the PVR Cinemas and shared popcorns, only last week.

Or you had a gala dinner at the Barbeque Nation, a month ago on a Friday night.

Hold on. I am asking whether you did something together like a project. A family project I mean.

The project could be trivial and simple but with a cause. The idea is to be together and enjoy – and cherish the moments that you will remember later.

Given the machine life in the cities we live, we as a family seldom spend time together. We don’t think about or aspire to do something meaningful, exiting, creative and demonstrative for a cause. Life we live does not have a family fizz.

Today each member of the family is busy with something – everybody is stressed out and lives a siloed life.

And that’s the problem.

We don’t have that family bond anymore that was perhaps there a generation before. Is this one of the reasons why we see growing frustration, leading to depression and disorders like schizophrenia?

Few of my friends have recognized the need of a “family project”.

I know a friend who takes his family to the mountains around Karjat. They spend two weeks in the tribal villages twice a year. His wife is a gynecologist, son is studying agriculture engineering and daughter is into development work at the TISS.  Over the past five years, the family has supported a school, provided medical advice,  improved farming practices and helped in building a market for the honey and handicrafts. When I visit their place and the topic comes about Karjat, everyone gets excited to talk and tell me their experience, the challenges they faced and how they resolved them collectively. And when there is a slide show in the drawing room, showing me the “project”, on every slide there is fight who would tell the “story” first. I see there a resonance of emotions with all the enthusiasm.

But as I said before, the “family project” can be even short and sweet.

I remember when our children were young, we decided to spend an afternoon at a hobby pottery shop at the Atria Mall in Worli. We four (my wife Kiran, daughter Devika and son Pranav) walked into the pottery shop in the mall in the afternoon and decided to make a house with clay.

We were given clay, the “tools” and some glazing materials with bright colors. It took for us neat 3 hours to visualize and make a toy house with a roof that could be lifted to store the “secrets”. We discussed, shared the tasks, added value to each other’s work. Finally, the clay house was taken to the oven to bake. And when done, we were so thrilled to see that we could create something together – a lovely toy house (actually a storage box) with bright colors!

We have preserved this work even today as a mark of us working together reminding us of all the joy and happiness. I think I understood my wife, son and daughter that afternoon much better.

I spoke about the house that we “built”, and this reminds me of the wonderful visit me and my colleagues recently made to the Eco House of Dr Anjali Parasnis.

Dr Anjali is Associate Director at TERI Western Zone office in New Mumbai.

Few years ago, Anjali, her two sons and parents took up a “Family project” of building a Eco House near Khalapur, at the foothills of the mountains of Khandala near Mumbai. The family worked with all the passion, creativity and all the perseverance on this project. We were simply amazed to witness sustainability put into practice.

Dr Anjali Parasnis’s Eco House

The Eco House is a framed structure and for portion of the walls, it makes use of abandoned  PET and beer bottles. The Jambha stone (laterite) is otherwise used that is porous.  The foyer has lovely tile work made out of broken tiles what would have been otherwise thrown as waste. The kitchen has two sinks and a dual plumbing system is used that takes the sullage through a root zone treatment and then to a recharge pit to replenish the groundwater aquifer. Rainwater is tapped and channeled through to percolation area to charge the aquifer. Broken chassis of the vehicles are used for the lintels after cutting. Natural ducts through hollow walls are provided with options of forced circulation for cooling, cutting down the air conditioning requirements. I was impressed with the garden and the “healthy” vegetables that were grown. Watering in the garden was done with drip irrigation.

But obtaining a loan for such an unconventional house was not easy. Anjali faced major difficulties. The Bank wanted not an Eco House, but a house built with concrete and the “usual” stuff.

Anjali told us that the house was built such that it would produce least amount of the waste, in the event the house was to be demolished and rebuilt! I was amazed that so much thought was given considering the life cycle.

Everybody in the family spoke about the house and had something interesting to tell. I was impressed to experience this “family project”. We had a good fortune to meet the construction contractor and two young architects from Khalapur. I could see that building Anjali’s house had transformed them – they not only could visualize the importance of sustainability but learnt how to implement the elements into a form with functionality by making a wise choice of materials. I was happy to know that Anjali and her architect friends are now documenting the project’s story.

Anjali’s parents live in this Eco House. Indeed, they were practicing science with traditions, using less resources and making least waste possible with all the humility and simplicity that nature wants one to be.  The silence around told us that this was sustainable living. I felt envious. Anjali’s mother read out a few poems in Marathi that expressed her love towards nature and her deep understanding of sustainability.

When I returned home, I took out the toy clay house from the chest of drawers. This was the toy house that we made as an afternoon family project years ago.

Our clay house showing storage

“Wish we build a real house together one day” I sighed. I was inspired by Anjali’s family project of the Eco House.

I decided to call for a Skype session for this Family project.

As usual, I thought I will advise – because I knew that was the only thing I could possibly do!


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Sustainability Flash Mob and the Magic of Bolero

[Dear Readers. This post shows some interesting videos. And you must find time to watch these videos to get best out of this post. Hope you enjoy the concept of Sustainability flash mob and the magic of Bolero]

A flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression. Flash mobs may appear spontaneous. And ideally, they should, but in reality, they are not. Flash mobs are generally pre-planned and organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails.

View video below in case you are not familiar with the flash mobs

To some, flash mobs are not welcomed. The city of Brunswick, Germany has stopped flash mobs by strictly enforcing the already existing law of requiring a permit to use any public space for an event. In the United Kingdom, a number of flash mobs have been stopped over concerns for public health and safety. The British Transport Police have urged flash mob organizers to “refrain from holding such events at railway stations.

Flash mobs have become immensely popular in India, especially on the university campuses, railway stations and the malls. Flash mobs are also organized in the offices – perhaps to destress. Most of the Indian flash mobs focus on dancing on the Bollywood music. Flash mobs that end up with a surprise marriage proposals are also getting common.

Flash mobs in Europe are more sober so to say and appear more natural and spontaneous. They build gradually, involving the people who are watching.   See the video below dancing Zorba the Greek. The flash mob begins with only one dancer and then grows into a large crowd participating spontaneously. Perhaps, the beat and simplicity of Zorba makes the difference.

Several flash mobs in Europe are driven by orchestras where music is played by the  artists, sometimes accompanied with folk or traditional dances. These flash mobs are rather soothing, and make the occasion as a family get-together with children standing by and enjoying.

Professor wanted to develop a flash mob on sustainability.

“Flash mobs for Sustainability! Is there such an interest Professor?” I asked as he was driving with me to see the Mayor of Mumbai City. I wasn’t sure.

“Oh Yes, Dr Modak, there are flash mobs that address issues related sustainability. Yale Divinity School Sustainability organized a surprise flash mob to promote its event “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” and introduced more reusable mugs to the community, significantly reducing the daily waste created by disposable cups.

UWS Comm Arts Students and A-Live Entertainment presented a flash mob for Climate Change. Hundreds of young people took part on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, dancing as a creative protest at the Power Shift 2009 youth climate summit. Three demands were made: Green Jobs for generation, a Power Shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and 50% by 2020 carbon pollution reduction targets for Australia.

A huge Eco-Flash Mob gathered at a shopping mall in Quebec to promote recycling. Part of the performance was to plant an empty bottle near a bin while people were waiting for a good recycler.

With a mission to make sustainability sexy, the fashion czar Modavanti teamed up with Aushim Raswant of 3vNYC to create New York’s first flash mob fashion show. Bystanders eating lunch or taking a break in each park were delightfully confused when Modavanti’s posse took over each space, bringing a giant green carpet, fashion friendly music, and a crew of twelve models to each site. Like any fashion show, the models walked the make shift runway, smiling and posing, and giving the public a taste of sexy sustainable fashion.

I was impressed.

“It’s a good idea Professor that we encourage India’s youth to hold flash mobs to sensitize people and communicate sustainability instead of just limiting to dancing on Bollywood music” I said.

“Oh,  don’t get me wrong. We have had some interesting flash mobs in India that are socially oriented too. But we need more, and we need to be creative” said the Professor as we parked the car in the porch of Mumbai Mayors bungalow.

When we reached Mayors office, we were asked to wait for a while as the Mayor was busy with someone.

“So, what’s your plan Professor?”

Professor didn’t speak and instead gazed outside the window.

Later he explained his plan to the Mayor. He wanted to launch a campaign of flash mobs in Mumbai that would play a soothing and warm music and inspire the Mumbaikars. While the music will be played with a gradual increase in the tempo and building of the orchestra, images/silent video clips of the sustainability heroes of Mumbai will scroll on a large screen. People will watch these images/videos to see these heroes doing waste recycling, conserving and reusing water, using solar energy and protecting biodiversity. People will learn and get inspired while the orchestra is playing the music. Some of the sustainability heroes may well be present in the mob and they will walk to the center as the orchestra plays the climax or the closing piece.

Large screen showcasing Cities Sustainability Heroes

The mayor was simply impressed with this “design” of the “sustainability flash mob” and extended full support to get necessary permissions.  Mayor liked the idea of campaign and suggested that we hold flash mobs over a month and at different locations of the city.

“The music that the Orchestra will play an important role” Professor said this while lighting his cigar when we returned and reached his study.

Professor said that he will speak to A R Rehman to come up with something Indian and blended. But since Rehman was busy and travelling, he will use Bolero to start with.

What is Bolero? I asked.

Bolero is a one-movement orchestral piece by the French composer Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). Originally composed as a ballet commissioned by Russian actress and dancer Ida Rubinstein, the piece, which premiered in 1928, is Ravel’s most famous musical composition.

Apparently, while on vacation at St Jean-de-Luz, Ravel went to the piano and played a melody with one finger to his friend Gustave Samazeuilh, saying “Don’t you think this theme has an insistent quality? I’m going to try and repeat it a number of times without any development, gradually increasing the orchestra as best I can.”

Maurice Ravel

And Bolero became Ravel’s most famous composition, much to the surprise of the composer, who had predicted that most orchestras would refuse to play it. Bolero is now played in flash mobs. According to a possibly apocryphal story from the premiere performance, a woman was heard shouting that Ravel was mad. When told about this, Ravel is said to have remarked that she had understood the piece.

The melody of Bolero is passed among different instruments. After an opening rhythm on the snare drum (a rhythm that continues unabated throughout the work), the piece opens with a solo flute followed by solo clarinet, solo bassoon (high in its range), solo E-flat clarinet, solo oboe d’amore, muted trumpet and flute, solo tenor saxophone (an unusual inclusion in an orchestra, that brought flavor of jazz), solo soprano saxophone, French horn and celesta, quartet composed of clarinet and three double-reeds, solo trombone and finally  high woodwinds (growing more strident in tone) as the climax. The sequence almost emulates how crowd joins to watch the flash mob.

The first piece of flute is going to be very important Professor said. And I have found out that the great flutist Jeanne Baxtresser is passing through Mumbai. He said with pride.

“Wow” I knew about Jeanne. Noted for her “absolute perfection, refined style…and a ravishing sonority” this remarkable flutist has held the position of principal flute with the New York Philharmonic for 15 years. She also continues to pursue a career as concert soloist, chamber player, recording artist, author, and teacher.

Jeanne Baxtresser

The first flash mob was planned at the VT station featuring Jeanne. Professor invited some of Mumbai’s  sustainability heroes to attend. Video clips and images were collated to make a screen show of their good work.

We were at the VT station at 4 pm. I saw that Professor was a bit tense. He was  making a few phone calls.

The Bolero started with snail drumming and just like the video you see below (and I will urge you to please view this clip), a woman appeared from behind the pillars.

Oh, but she wasn’t Jeanne Baxtresser

What happened? Some last moment glitch? No wonder I saw Professor tensed.

This strange woman was however right on the spot and played the flute with all the emotions immaculately. And she had all the grace and maturity needed to “drive” the Bolero as other instruments and artists followed.

The flash mob with combination of Bolero and exposition of the sustainability heroes made the desired impact. The crowd surged towards the sustainability heroes after the last piece of climax was played. They all wanted to be like them, emulate them and live life sensibly and sustainably.

We came out of the VT station.

As a token of appreciation, Professor was buying large sized dark chocolates with almonds for the musicians of the Bolero orchestra.

“Give me 19 chocolates”, He told the shopkeeper

“How come 19 Professor? We are twenty; eighteen  musicians and two of us” I said

Professor smiled “You know Jeanne got sick and couldn’t make it today. But the Gods were kind, and on my request sent an Angel to fill in her place”

I just couldn’t believe in what he was saying.

“Didn’t you notice that strange and wonderful woman who played the opening piece of flute of Bolero, flew away in the sky- right after the concert”  He said this so casually.

I looked at the sky and saw someone in the cloud, Was she the angel he was referring to?

I thought that Professors design of the sustainability flash mob was so tempting, reflecting his sincerity and creativity, that even the Angle from the sky couldn’t resist coming down.

Or was it the magic of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero?

I leave it to you to decide.

 

The Sticker with an Angel

I am posting this article based on from my personal experiences. This story is a bit unusual. It is  cast in three scenes with a setting in Bangkok.

Its about Champo and Achara. Of course the names have been changed.


Scene 1

I was involved for a year for a project on the industrial estate of Samut  Prakarn in Bangkok. I used to make two weeks mission every three months.

I met Champo and Achara during my project. We became extremely good friends and we still are.

Achara was a pretty office secretary, knew accounts, spoke French – and was a great book lover. Champo was a mechanical engineer by training and worked as  the PR person for the project, doing outreach of Cleaner Production and Industrial Efficiency project to the industries. He was dam good in his job.

Champo’s family came from Myanmar and settled in Bangkok over two generations. The family was rich with considerable political clout in Yangon. In Burmese, Champo means someone who is friendly.

Champo must be around 30 years. A very jovial person. He was a frequent visitor to the Massage parlors in Bangkok. And he was extremely knowledgeable when it came to the gory details of this nightly industry.

I learnt lot from Champo about Bangkok’s notorious massages, especially at the soapy parlors. All soapy massages in Thailand have either a fishbowl or sideline girls and in few parlors the “modelling girls”. A fishbowl is a big room which has a glass wall. You’re on one side of the glass and the “soapy girls” sit on the other side. Every soapy girl has a badge attached to her clothing with a number, this is the number you give the mamasan (manager of the girls) when you select your girl. Being a regular visitor, Champo knew which number to ask from the fishbowl.

A fishbowl in the Massage Parlor 

Sideline girls sit on a chair or sofa. You can approach these girls and talk to them unlike the girls in the Fishbowl. Sideline girls are very much like freelancing Thai hookers, they have no set hours and can come and go as they please. Usually they charge more.

And there are Modeling girls who feature in the fashion magazines and are really expensive to book.

Champo must be spending huge money– as he used to visit the parlors practically thrice a week and go for sideliners and the modelling girls. I guess his rich dad sent him money every month as much as what he got as a salary.

Champo used to talk about his night life only to me and when Achara was not around. I was interested to get from him his interesting stories and experiences in dealing with the massage girls. I used to recommend that he should consider writing a guidebook and make money!

I told Champo that it is the eighth wonder of the world that he is not yet hit by STDs and HIV given the potential risk of being with the sex workers. He used to ignore my warnings and instead give a sweet smile.


Scene 2

I stopped my missions as the Samut Prakarn project got over. Achara had left the job earlier and it seemed that she got into a book publishing company. Champo got a job in managing a chain of supermarkets – the Central. PR was his USP and that came handy while picking up this job.

We however remained in touch via emails and FB. I did make trips in between on other projects but we could never get together.

In 2008, I did a short visit to Bangkok and met Achara. She had joined as a manager at the Dasa Bookstore. That was the kind of job she was craving for.

But before I proceed, I must tell you a bit about this amazing place.

Dasa Bookstore was opened in 2004, It sells and exchanges all types of second-hand books. The store stocks more than 20,000 books and is  known for its high English classics and inspiring biographies.  The ground floor holds the more contemporary and lifestyle orientated books with the likes of general fiction, travel, art, and cookbooks. The second-floor houses mainly novels of all sorts – thriller, tragedies, and westerns. Above all this, stacks upon stacks of English and European literature classics are heaped on the third and final floor.

Dasa Book Store

I saw Achara  on the ground floor in the floor managers cabin on a Monday evening. She asked for a coffee with some chocolate donuts. We had great conversations and remembered all the good times we had together.

“Do you meet Champo?” I asked

“Oh. We are in touch. He comes to the Queen Bee that is just next doors on Tuesdays” Achara said.

“Then let us give him a surprise. I will come to Dasa by 7 pm tomorrow and we will walk up to Queen Bee”

She readily agreed.


Scene 3

Queen Bee is a bar on Sukhumvit Soi 26 and just a 4 min walk from the Dasa Book store. It looks like most of the bars you can find tucked in the soi (lane) in Bangkok. But what makes it different is the music, and in particular, the Open Mic Tuesday night. During Open Mic, anyone could get on the stage, sing or play an instrument. No wonder why Champo visited Queen Bee on a Tuesday.

Queen Bee

I met Achara at the Das. She lifted a box that was neatly packed.

“This box is for Champo“. She explained.

We walked to Queen Bee and I helped Achara to carry the box.

Champo was sitting on a bar stool and listening to the Open Mic performer. He was simply shocked to see me with Achara.

“Oh my dear friend – long time no see”. He got up and hugged me emotionally.

I saw his face had some signs of age that were catching up. There were wrinkles on his face, few stands of white hair were noticeable and there were dark spots under his eyes. The job at the supermarket chain must be taxing, I thought.

We asked for beer Singha. He held my hand and talked a lot about his work life and his family. Champo was not still married and lived alone.

When Achara went to the loo, I winked and asked Champo about his massage parlor visits

“Oh, I haven’t stopped.  I now go to new places. This industry is rapidly changing”. Champo had new information to share.

While he was explaining, I noticed the girl sitting alone at the bar.

These are the kind of girls Champo must be spending time with. I didn’t know what to say.

When Achara returned, Champo asked her

Did you get my box?

Achara showed the box that we had kept under the table.

“Hey Prasad, I have to go. Let us catch up again before you fly out. We will ask Achara to coordinate and fix a nice place, may be over a healthy lunch?”

Champo seemed to be in a hurry and had an appointment. But after listening to him on his continued visit to the massage parlors, I found that I wasn’t particularly interested to meet him again.

He must be going to the Darling Turkish Bath on Soi 12 – I said to myself.

As Champo left Queen Bee, Achara looked at me and spoke

“Prasad, I must share with you a news. Champo and I are getting married. We will have a marriage ceremony just around Christmas. His family will join from Yangon. You must come with your family”

I just couldn’t believe.

Are you crazy Achara?  I couldn’t control my voice.

I then spoke about Champo’s affinity towards girls and the massage parlors, concluding that he is not the man for a decent, innocent and talented person like Achara.

It was hard for me to reveal the truth.

Achara heard me patiently and then said

“Oh, in that case you probably don’t know much about Champo and what he does. For the last several years, Champo has been actively engaged in helping and reforming the sex workers. He pays the charge when he visits a massage parlor but does not ask for a massage or sex from the girl. Instead, he gets into a conversation, helps the girl to open out, relax and help find an alternate profession to live.

Being with Champo has been a relieving experience to these exploited women. Many cry and many just stay rested on his shoulders. He has now formed an association in Bangkok and Chiang Mai to rescue the girls and help them to live a respectable and secured life.This is how he has been spending most of his money and for a good cause”

I was simply amazed to know this hidden or “other side” of Champo. I remembered Nestor Patou (Jack Lemmon)  doing the same for Irma La Douce (Shirley McClean). That was in the movie Irma La Douce.

Achara continued

As a friendly gesture, Champo started gifting the girls a book to read. I choose the books for him from Dasa. I find the most appropriate and easy to read a book that can inspire the girls. I bring him a box of such books to distribute whenever we meet.

The Sticker with an Angle

And, as a gesture to remember, Champo puts a sticker on the book he gifts – the sticker with an angel. A sticker of affection and confidence.

(I understood. In Thai “Achara” means an angel who is very pretty – so no wonder Champo chose such a sticker!)

Achara left the Queen Bee after this explanation. I stayed on – stunned and sitting in daze.

The lonely girl at the bar with a large purse came to pay

While looking for a wad of Thai notes, she took out a book from her purse.

The book had Champo’s sticker with an angel!


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