Sutras from Siam

The Tuk-tuk Tigress

“Aum Mani Padme Hum” softly breathed the man, as he rocked back and forth, careful to not make too much noise. In the first faint light of a misty morning, the dew glistened on the flowers outside the window, and in the distance, the crowing of the cock was almost lost in the urgent sounds of songthaews coughing into life and moving away.

Something moved against him in the darkness in the room. He turned, and smiled at the sleeping figure cuddled up next to where he sat. He reached out and tickled the little girl’s tummy. She squealed and wriggled. “Wake up,” he said gently, “it is time for me to leave, and you need to eat and go for your run.” She hugged and kissed her father, and tottered sleepily away. “Maaaaa? Where’s my milk?” Her father lit a joss stick, finished his prayer, and left for another day’s work at Banthangyod.


As the sun detached itself from the horizon with a pop, she pulled on her keds and ran down the stairs. “Be careful, little May-May,” called the storeowner’s wife from across the street. “There’s been an accident up at the corner; stay away from all the people, and go straight to the school!” May nodded and jogged off. A minute later, as she entered the fields to take the short-cut track to the school, she raced along at full pelt, the morning breeze in her face, jumping over stones and potholes, dodging logs and all other real and imagined obstacles.


“Go have your milk and cereal first, May, and then sit with your coach and plan the day” said Kamala to her when she arrived. Happily the young girl continued through the day, and in the afternoon she and her partner made plans for the make-believe matches they would play in an hour. “I’ll be Peter Gade. Who will you be?” May thought long, then her eyes lit up, “I’ll be Taufik!”


“Yes, you will be a good Taufik” laughed her partner, “goofy and lazy one minute, brilliant genius the next. Full speed one minute, sputtering out of gas the next. Just like a tuk-tuk!” she giggled and ran away, May chasing her with her shoes. They were still squealing and giggling when Kamala told them to begin practice. “My little cubs” mused Kamala, “how will they shape up in a few years?”


At home that evening, her mother discussed the future with her father. “She should concentrate on her studies, and play on weekends. How will playing help her in her future? There is no money in it. I think it’s better if she gave up this badminton practice altogether. I just worry so about her future.”


Her husband reflected with closed eyes, then spoke: “I will do whatever it takes to allow her to continue practice, even if it means taking on two full-time jobs. I have faith in our little May. Her boss believes she will one day be among the best in the world, and I think we should give her every chance to realize her dreams. The coaches believe our little girl has a very rare gift. The school will make arrangements for studies on the side.”


His wife looked long at him, and said, “I adore you, dear husband. I thank Buddha for my riches beyond money – you and our family, and for your wisdom and strength.”


The little girl was oblivious to all the soul-searching she caused. But she felt the love, and the absolute commitment and support she received from her family. And it allowed her to freely pursue her own dream and destiny. Her greatest ally in this journey was her fearlessness.

So the years ticked over and she grew more strong and skilled. And she remained fearless as ever. The kingdom of Siam now recognized her as the best player of badminton they had, in many, many decades. And there was no one more proud on this Earth than her father, because he was grateful that she had validated their faith, and her own talent.


May was playing less like a tuk-tuk. Inthanon had come to grips with the fact that she was the Tigress of Siam.


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