Twenty years ago when I was on the faculty of Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand I often played 9 holes of golf late in the afternoon at the Institute’s golf course. My caddy was either a very attractive young Thai woman or her lucky husband. I always felt a twinge of disappointment when I got the husband although he did have a great sense of humour and a very deadpan way of summarising my golfing prowess. When my aspirations exceeded my ability, so I might try to hit over a distant water hazard, he would scornfully suggest ‘Tok naam’ – ‘It will fall in the water’. He was generally – though not always - right.
Sadly, a decade or so after leaving AIT, a friend of mine in Bangkok told me that the husband had been shot dead in a dispute near the AIT campus. I didn’t hear what had happened to his caddy wife.
As I left the AIT hotel last Sunday an attractive, middle-aged woman met me at the elevator and, with a beautiful smile, said ‘Dr Harry jum dai mai ka?’ - ‘do you remember me?’ I had to look twice but, yes, it was the caddy. I hadn’t seen her for 20 years so you might say she left an indelible impression. I said to her ‘Khun yang suay yuu’ – ‘you are still beautiful’ – this was truth not flattery and she accepted the compliment with unembarrassed thanks and a still broader smile.
She told me – without any apparent hint of regret or sadness - that her husband’s death had left her with two young children to raise but that the AIT President had secured her a job working in the AIT convention centre after the campus golf course had stopped operating.
I gave her the money I had that exceeded my needed taxi fare to the airport and she helped me with bags to the hotel checkout amiably chatting about her work as a caddy, her good luck in securing a job, my visit to Thailand and the probability I might return. Her cheerfulness and smiles – and perhaps a certain amount of vanity that she remembered me - made my day.
Yes, the beautiful people of Thailand. It is true, they are.