marcel barang

Siriworn 2001

In English, Reading matters on 27/08/2010 at 10:49 am

 

Children of Southeast Asia

Father tells Mother
As everybody tells everybody always
We are people of the East
We should lock all doors and windows
to prevent the light from the West
from stealing into our homes
because that’s how the Devil spreads Evil
I don’t know what it is they’re talking about
It isn’t something a child like me should concern himself with
And when the news comes out of planes knocking out buildings in America
on 11 September 2001
it seems that Father is very pleased
and then, enraged, takes it out on the government
…We shouldn’t cooperate with America
fighting Bin Laden in Afghanistan
The crispy fried chicken in front of me
is lots more interesting than what grownups talk about
How lucky our country has super outlets like this
I like Uncle Ken standing by the door with his smile and white goatee
Just to see him you know he must be a kind man
But here there are too many people
even though in this Bangkok of ours
there are hundreds of similar outlets to choose from
Sometimes I’m fed up Sometimes
Father and Mother must think differently from me
But there are many times all the same
when we move to a McDo instead
and it’s no different
Often we must queue up for ages
as when buying tickets for a Hollywood movie
It makes me all the more fed up
and miss Mother’s cooking
whose taste by now I can’t remember
We people of the East…
Father is at it again
The government shouldn’t cooperate with America
It’s a good thing those skyscrapers were nixed…
Mother supports Father fiercely
I look outside through the windowpane
On the elevated highway by the trade centre
cars zip by right before my nose
but like on a TV screen with the sound turned off
So I think of our brand new limo
Mother says Father ordered from Europe
I don’t know how far Europe is
and I’m fed up with what grownups are talking about
I’d rather listen to a tale or some other nice story
But I’m just a little Thai boy of eight
Too small to express disagreement with big-big grown­ups

Father keeps talking of the same thing on and on
But I haven’t heard Mother complain even once
I don’t see what’s interesting about what grownups talk about
I don’t know what capitalism is
I don’t get it
Who is the anti-imperialist of the twenty-first century?
And I don’t know why grownups like to swear at farang
Even though my big brother is studying in France
As if they were no-good children
making trouble for their friends at school
Or is it that they have white skins and hair another colour than ours?
But when my big sister dyes her hair a hundred hues
and sometimes looks like a farang singer
I don’t see anyone say anything
I really don’t get it
And worse than that
everybody only talks about planes knocking out build­ings
Father says it’s a good thing for America to be taught a lesson for once
Why are they so pleased
about thousands of people dead in America?
I don’t like what the grownups think at all
Today the donuts and milkshakes I like
aren’t as yummy as they used to be
But I’m just a little Khmer girl of eight
born near Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
(we’ve moved to the capital now)
So I shouldn’t displease my parents
with the silly things in my head

I can’t remember
if it was Father or Mother who took me here first
The waitress brings us burgers
– mine is always the biggest –
with French-fries and corn pie to boot
How lucky I am I was born in Rangoon
unlike the little Karen and the little Mon
These kids have no way of knowing how super a McDo is
There’s only one thing I don’t get
when the grownups say
We are people of the East
We should lock all doors and windows
to prevent the light from the West
from stealing into our homes
because that’s how the Devil spreads Evil
I’m just a little Burmese boy of eight
How could I understand what people of my father’s generation are talking about?
But I like it here
At least there’s no one in a sarong to trespass inside
I’ve heard many people talk about World Trade Center, Pentagon, sabotage, terrorists
It makes me think of my brother –
my brother with his gun in the hills on the border with Thailand

We are people of the East
We should lock all doors and windows…
Father is at it again
…to prevent the light from the West
from stealing into our homes…
The lopsided TV screen suspended above our heads
has only news of planes knocking out buildings in Amer­ica
in New York City and Washington DC
I don’t know George Double You Bush
I don’t know Bin Laden
For me there’s nothing as interesting
as the burger in front of me
…because that’s how the Devil spreads Evil
We should finish what we’ve ordered
and then talk about this at home
I take a big bite of the burger
look outside through the windowpane
Far out there are only smoky grey buildings
as if someone had lit a fire to burn the town for fun
That smoke looks like the one on the TV screen when the buildings collapse
Father tells Mother
That’s good
The Devil should be taught a lesson sometime
I think of the highest building in the world in our country
and then I say
What if someone flies a plane into our building as in America?
Allah will protect us, Mother tells me
But when I ask
Why doesn’t Allah protect America?
Father and Mother get angry with me
I really don’t understand
I’m just a little Malaysian girl of eight
born in Kuala Lumpur
I’m too young to know the world as well as grownups do

I don’t know whom Father is talking with
on his mobile
his other hand still holding his burger
That’s good
The Devil should be taught a lesson sometime
I don’t know whom Father means
But this is not something I’m interested in
…We are people of the East
so we should unite
and do things our way
and then some day
the people of the West will praise us
Mother looks at Father with admiration
as he takes the last bite of burger
I’m just a little Vietnamese boy of eight
born in the same village as our Uncle Ho
(but we’ve moved to Hanoi now)
I’m too young to know life
So I ask
Why should the West praise us?
Is it like me when I want to be praised by grownups?
But there’s too much noise in here
So nobody can hear what I ask

  1. Très touchant. La perspective du regard de l’enfant me semble fort bien rendue.

    Very touching. The child’s point of view reads very well depicted to me.

  2. Form: Conceptually poignant but becomes heavy with repetition of format that, at least in its English version, lacks any musical melody to maintain it.

    Content: As an American, I am surprised and saddened to hear, even in Asian minds and hearts, that lack of empathy which is all too common here at home and elsewhere in the West.

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