Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Praying to robots - Bangkok, Thailand

Walking along the sidewalk, out of the corner of my eye I absentmindedly detect the life at the edge of the road. Hairdresser, 7/11, street stall, beauty salon. The Thai warm evening is flowing around me, with its odors, activities, confusion and people. It's the background noise, the setting at the margins, it brushes against me, tickling my senses, it stirs my pleasure yet goes unnoticed.

A woman is praying behind a window, still and relaxed in a devoted wai. She joins her palms and shuts her eyes, while some kind of mantra is revolving in her mind. I scan the place, in search of a sacred site, expecting to spot a bunch of flowers, a golden-red temple, some Buddha statues. The sequence of my movements is unfolding in the background, there's not an active thought controlling it: it's an instinct, a reflex, a set of images, impressed in my memory, to be confirmed. Every object, perfume, color, sound is finding its place in a dimensional harmony. If everything matches my trance goes on, with steady pace and wandering eye.

Suddenly I get active hold of all of my senses, it's something that I've seen, that I was not expecting. I can't be wrong, there's no mistake, the woman is facing a corner of the shop, in front of her there's only a table and on the table the thing that froze me on the spot: arranged in ranks, by columns and rows, some robot-toys of colorful plastic. A platoon of Gundams or monsters of Vega, standing at attention, facing the woman who prays.

When you think that you've finally got used to it, that you're in sync with the world that is surrounding you, convinced that at least you can make sense of it, even if you don't truly get its essence, you find yourself standing in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at a woman with her palms joined in prayer, facing an army of your childhood heroes. 

And you get a vague feeling that you're back to where you started.

Photo by Fabio Pulito

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