When I lived in Banda Hilir, as kids we played kuku hantu, also known as kuku sambung or kuku panjang, They resembled the long nails of the Thai dancers. We picked the nails off bamboo plants that made the hedges of the mosque compound (Masjid Banda Hilir). I was a good child dancer with the kuku hantu and later on I became a Mak Yong dancer for my university (USM). I loved Mak Yong for recreation but I can't remember the dance movements now. I can remember the finger work and head shakes, they are quite similar to what Ramli performs for his Indian traditional dances. Haven't you seen Ramli?
I live approximately an hour or two from the Thai border. I have lived here for the past 30 years but I don't speak any Thai. My sister had a Thai schoolfriend named Pak Wadi Siri Mongkul (close to that). She was from the Thai Embassy in Kota Bharu in the late 1960s. I can't remember her face anymore, just her name. Her being a Thai national excited me a lot as a child. Every time my father drove our car past the Thai Embassy especially on my way home after school, I would ask him to slow down and I would look out the window to see if I could see a Thai dancer! I often wondered what Thailand was like. Kuku hantu fascinates me and they still do.
Some time at Tunku Kurshiah College (TKC) in Seremban and at other venues, I observed Thai dances and they had these kuku hantu fixed to their fingernails. When they danced, they stick up one leg and try to balance on the other leg, the head shakes and the body stiffens and the eyes roll left and right. It is quite a sight to see the Thai dances.
When I was at Sydney International House, I was talking to a few Thai girls. Our conversation was slow because neither I understood them nor they understood me. Then (Prof) Rahmatullah Khan came along and spoke Thai to them and immediately the conversation became lively. I had to back out because I didn't know any Thai. But just watching them converse in Thai and laughing was indeed amazing.
I visited Thailand for the first time with my elder sister some time in 1982/3. We went with the USM Medical School group in a bus. I wasn't married then. We had a tour guide who spoke Thai. We passed by a place that sold fried chicken on a dulang. Then we reached the beach in Songkhla. We put up for the night at Hatyai. It was a clean town with a lot of shops selling beautiful fabrics but in glass display cabinets. I never knew Thailand sells beautiful printed soft cotton fabrics, apart from Thai silk. I remember buying one fabric for myself to make my first baju kebaya labuh. It was such a thrill to own a beautifully sewn baju kebaya labuh made from Thai cotton fabric that I can still remember it today. I wore it with high heels to work. I must have charmed the men then. The sweet memory of that visit to Thailand lingers on.
I had a Thai friend named Witchai when I was doing my MSc at UC Riverside in California. I was in biochemistry while Witchai was in agriculture. I remember asking Witchai to write my name in Thai script. I might still have that piece of paper with me. I am unable to contact Witchai because I didn't take his address. He should be about age 60. He was tall and big frame that I didn't take him as a typical Thai man. I had thought he was American or European.
At Bannockburn Village at UC Riverside, I had a neighbour who was a Thai girl and we shared the same housing complex, kitchenette and toilet. She cooked daily and used only a small metal pot. I don't know how she could ever cook using only a small metal pot but she did turn out superb dinners for her friends. She made kangkong goreng and sambal belacan.
Today I sat and watch Thai TV at home after not doing so for many years. I usually sit down with my diary and scribe whatever I listened to or heard or sounds like. Today I didn't write but just sat and listened to the newsreader. I think I must have tuned in to a religious channel (Muslim). She had a black floral tudung on and spoke in the Kelantanese dialect. She read the accident statistics for the majjor Thai cities of Yala (pronounced Jala), Songkhla, Bangkok, Nathon Si Tammasat(??). The ads were distracting. They sang a song for their king, Bumipol Maharaja.
Today I watched NBT Thai TV channel. I watched a programme called Language for Future. The 2 men running the show spoke 3 languages - Kelantanese Malay, Thai and American English. The 3 participants had to speak all 3 languages or translate Thai into the other 2 languages. At the end of the programme, the main host said "We should learn to speak English as that will help us speak to the other ASEAN countries". It tickled me but I think that's true. We haven't done this 3-language programme on Malaysian TV. I think we should.