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"I was in my Indian clothes and yet I was representing Thailand.. to fold my hands in the Thai traditional manner to say 'sawasdee kha'.."
- Rasee Govindani

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Proud to be both.. and to be one
by Rasee Govindani, 18, Bangkok, Thailand
Sep 1, 1999

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There was a "Bai Sri" ceremony at my university today. I didn't have the slightest idea what it was until I went to the international office to pick up my script. I was to "MC" the event and I was completely clueless as to what would be happening. The only thing I DID know was that we were celebrating the 15th anniversary of the international program of Bangkok University.

When I read through the script, I realized that the "Bai Sri" ceremony was a traditional Thai welcoming ceremony that is more tradition than religion. It started back when the villages of Thailand were scattered all over the Golden Peninsula so when one wanted to travel to another village, it would take a really long time and by the time they reached their destinations, the newcomers would be exhausted and frightened. Thais believed that they had lost their "khwan" or higher spirit along the way.

The "Bai Sri" usually involves a try loaded with food, water, flowers and a bunch of white strings. These white strings were tied around the visitors' wrists to basically call back the "khwan" and to tell them to make themselves at home.

We had the ceremony to welcome all our international students and it was delight to watch. All the students walked in in their national costumes after Thai dancers and on their knees, got the strings tied around their wrists.

We had games and music and food, but I think the best thing was the ceremony itself. It has such an incredibly beautiful meaning, and because Bangkok is MY home, I felt so proud to be there, welcoming these strangers to our "family." That's what BU(Bangkok University) feels like to me now. It's my home, my family.

I was exhausted by the end of the day because I had been on my feet so long and had not eaten anything. The national costume awards went to an Indian girl in an Aqua sari, a Japanese boy in a kimono with his wooden slippers, fan, and a cute little bag, and a Burmese boy who wore his sarong. I knew these people and they were my friends so the feelings that overwhelmed me included love, pride, and pure joy. I was sharing something so important to me with these people.

I'm Indian by race and Thai legally. I feel torn apart sometimes because I can't find a comfortable spot between these two cultures. Today, I was in my Indian clothes and yet I was, in some way, representing Thailand to the world. It made me happy. I was proud to walk around in my dress and even prouder to fold my hands in the Thai traditional manner to say "sawasdee kha."

Culture. Race. Tradition. All thrown in my face today. And I'm still smiling.

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