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BANGKOK WHERE EVERYBODY WORKS BUT FATHER,
BROTHER HUSBAND SON AND GRANDPA! June Sandys IJC FI AM everybody works but the men of Slam. Therefore Trhat struck me most forcibly upon returning home after a. year's residence In that country was to find that the m<en or my native land \rcre tolling, most of them. In one way or another, actually working hard. I was filled with vnspep.ka.ble admira tion, nay. even with thankfulness. For, let ii be remembered, there la work to be done In Slam as elsewhere, and what with the Idleness of the Siamese liucband, there devolves upon the wife rot only the rearing of her family and the supervision of its affairs, but also the making of every tleal that goes to %ts support. Unlike the widowed or deserted mother in this country, she does not look forward to the days when her sons will make life easier for her, for if thero is to be any lifting of her, burdens it will be through the efforts of her daughters. Such conditions having existed for centuries, the Siamese woman has de veloped Into a genuine worker. She transmits her energy to her daughters, never to her eons. It is not hi* pride that restrains the Siamese from labor, nor his wealth, for in that be is lacking. It is due to his inexpressible laziness. He Is good natured as one- •would wish and kind In his way, but it is not his way to con stitute himself a helpmeet. From my wfeidow overlooking one •f the chief cana.l?, or klongs, of Bang kok, in the earfcy morning I have often watched the sniall boats coming, into the heart of tb*i city with their loads of bananas, *ug;arcane. cocoanuts, veg f\ah\ff, cakes end the like; a,t th« paddles were the women, while the men lay at their ease, smoking or chewing betel, the East Indian substi tute for tobacco. And no friction re sults from this- order of things. In Bangkok "women own rice mills, manage them, perform the work in them. They are shrewd, clever busi ness women, and a young Chinaman, arriving in Siam to take up his resi dence there, can better himself In no way more advantageously than by marrying a native woman. She will help him to a fortune, her keenness and experience being Invaluable as ;in Bangkok bureaus for statistical purposes are conducted with euch lax ity, as are all departments of the Gov ernment in fact, that it is impossible to arrive at anything better than approxl niatlons in most matters. It is general* ly admitted, however, that Chinese con- Etitute nearly half of the population. Also it is beyond dispute that the dogs of the city are some 200,000 strong. A city of dogs, Bangkok has been, called, and. Indeed, It is no misnomer. To all intents* and purpose* the pariah dog, for such he is invariably, is mon arch of all he surveys. Mangy, de crepit, always repugnant, he goes un molested by dispensation of pound or by sudden death. The howls and other ungodly noises thmt Issue from the throats of these. «K>gs, especially in the rtill hours, con-* stitute for the \u25a0Westerner a trial. Ami, oh, the brickbats that have failed through the night futilely: For never does one reach its mark. The dog moves leisurely out of the way just in time. The Siameee iF a Buddhist and one of the easiest trays for him to "make merit" Js to fe«?d these homeless dogs. Therefore the dogs live. Also for Buddhistic reasons they are never killed and never Interfered with by the natives. Once In taking a trip through the city in a rickshaw I came upon som* fifteen or twenty dogs playing tag in the street. My. progress in that direc tion came suddenly to an* end. Impa tiently I ordered the coolie to proceed. He grinned. I was. furious. Presently the futility of the thing became appar ent to me. I watched them. They were playing cross-tag, just such cross-tag as I had played when I was a child, and with the entbuiasm of children. No power on earth, not Buddha nor Con fucius could have persuaded them to open the way for me. We turned back and went by another road.. I can account for this perfect calm and exasperating composure of dogs in fc'iam only "inasmuch, as they are a product of the East and have sue cumbed to Eastern influence. Perhaps some form of the desire to "make merit" is strong In a dog when he re moves a flea from the tip of his tall before moving out of the, way. of an approaching vehicle. I have often beard it said in Bangkok that the Siamese *work» at play, al though they play at work." Merry, light-hearted, fond of pleasure, the Siamese expends all the .energy he has In preparing for festivities of any sort, - it" matters not to him. When he has procession*. Illuminations and feast-* Ing to look forward to he works, call . ing • it, play. Should he realize that It was work he would leave It and re sume his play. He is a big child and full of foolishness. He has a perennial longing for amusement and novelty." ; He makes \u25a0 occasions for festivity." During tb<» .time of my residence in ; the ; capital ft \u25a0 s«efne<3 to , me that r the r» /verberation's'of -one galaYday"*': tumult;: had ; hardly ceased '\u25a0 before '-. there came to my ears tha first rumors of the next" one. \u0084 "• The first festival I "witnessed ;t in Bangkok was brought about by an ex- \u25a0 . tremely /momentousT "occurrence. -• The 'Queen's mammoth- Siamese "ruby,- lost' some three" days before,' had been : found! Not thirty -minutes, 'after- tho precious stone had"; slipped from its \u25a0 \u25a0 - . ' - - - * .t- \u25a0' . place of honor on ; the Queen's ; breast air Bangkok's ears were tingling with the news of It.- Could: It have ; fallen' • Into the canal as shestepped from the royal barge that morning? Could.it be: In the, palace garden hidden among ' the shrubbery? Or lost " in the' dust of '\u25a0 the highway? r ."-.. . ' But now it had been* found.: I did not learn when nor where.- Its recovery was the g-rcat ;thing.7 And "with Mine accord followed the fiesta. It came as surely 'as day follows the night. .Its . omission would have; been an open of fense; to the Queen, a. thing unprece- f dented.' •\u25a0}_ .. "..,.•". .'.'.-, •.'". ".:\u25a0•' Such brilliancy of Illumination!,Such bravery,? of display!" Such good nature and .happiness! Such - shouting ' and." .deafening; uproar!; -, .;. One of , the "most productive "sources^ j.of^pleasure to : the. Siamese is a creraa-. tion. Cremation usually; occurs; several months after the* death lias occurred. A building ,is erected for" the monies and decorated as lavishly as \u25a0 \u25a0 circumstances^: permit) J.The: ceremonies extend over several .-days. - <Each day religious rites _are*bbservcd and there follow^- theatrical shows, wrestling \u25a0\u25a0••'\u25a0''\u25a0..-' : '. " " : matches \ and j pyrotechnic ;^display^ -^ If the deceased i is of noblo" birth /the King, honors : the occasion by? setting 1 flr« ; to 'the/ 1 fuse.' The invited; guests add fuel to; the flames. Tlie charred , bones "are placed in* an^ urn and retained; among the famiiy:relics. . * ';' ll ' a 'Chinese start 3 out l on a .com-. mercial. venture he secures It against failure — thereby also "making, merit" —by building a temple. So fllmslly are" these structures, built that there are always ,' innumerable ones •in need -of repair, but as the "merit" Is greater If the structure be entirely new the old "ones are allowed. to crumble Into dust. A curious feature of all buildings In Slam is the ornamentation of their ever recurring gables with a. writhing ser pent . Its tall quivers up from the peak and at the lower corners of the triangle are; the heads, all alike with their bristling . combs. . This serpent is a creature (their ancient mythology, whose friendship must be courted con tinually. ; The Siamese have one distinctly na tional sport in which they exhibit great skill. That is kite-flying. Theirs is something more than the simple diver sion which we know among children. To them, as well as to foreigners who chance to witness It. it is an intensely Interesting and often exciting game. The season for the sport begins with the • coming of the northeast monsoon and lasts sometimes six weeks, "some times not more than three. The" field used Is the Premane ground, before the palace, the King, and royal family be \u25a0 lngamong the m.ost interested specta- tors. The game assumes the; nature of a; contest .between^ kites", of . the same class or- kites ; of <. different classes. In which latter 1 case ;the smaller kite is given 'a handicap. The kite* flier does not run with his kit© to see- It mount behind 'him" lnj the air; ho. stands on a piece of J ground ; not' ten feet; square O^ag^i^ißacis^&n^as.Gaa and so perfect Is his skill in manipu lating the lines that the kite shoots up into the air as if by some powerful me chanical device. As the kites rise through* the air they make a very bright and beautiful showing . because of their colored tas sels and decorations. There are three forms of fighting kites, called wow kula. wow elum and wow cpow. The first is the most curi ously shaped. I saw one that meas ured ten feet in height. The ordinary height, however. Is five or six feet. These kite frames are built of well seasoned bamboo, over which rice paper is stretched. The completed kite la soaked in water and. ln drying stiffens. Having mounted the required dis tance in' the s air. the'eontest of the kites begins, and the strictest Imagin able rules of play are' observed. Tha aim is to bring to earth or at least to cripple the opposing -kite. In order thatithe fighting kite shall not, by it« greater weight, have an advantage over a "small kite, the latter has attached to its line at frequent Intervals bunches of thorny' bark. • such •as may ba stripped from the leaves of palms. With these its manipulator often puts . his opponent's great fighting kite out of commission in the first round of the -game: y are erected -on the Preraana ground and high stakes are wagered.' the gambling waxing fierce and noisy as the game proceeds. The greatest pleasure that the Siamese contestant In s this sport experiences Is the com mendation of the nobility, which la surely his if his skill is marked. Why the Men Do Not Work This cringing- to the nobility is ona of the chief causes of indolence among the Siamese. As early as at the age of fifteen the. boy. if he has not already entered the temple, attaches himself to the train of a nobleman, performs \u25a0no service. 'is paid nothing at all and dresses well, thanks to mother. Later on" the pleasure of supporting him falls to his wife. to . the , priesthood on the . other hand Is productive of tue flame result. Generally a' tew months or at most a few years completes that ser .vice. "While at the temple he has had six or 'eight small boys running, about begging rice for him. "and his own duties are nominal. " Consequently h« acquires the habit ; of\ indolence, and upon/ leaving the temple he avoids tha activities of. life. , ;TheSl-imese. is brilliant, logical, ar t!st1 ,?' well-mannered and sensitive. But; he doesn't like. to. work, and he doesn't work. He leaves that to^ tha buffal . oe ?« .^«- Chinese, his ; wife, .his mother, his sisters : and his daughters.