I was born in Phitsanulok, one of five offspring of an Indian Sikh couple who had migrated to Thailand with their parents almost a century ago.
During the years that my father ran his business there, his ties with the Thai community became very intimate, so much so that he was very much involved in the day to day workings of both the public and private sector. He painstakingly studied the Thai language becoming fluent in speaking, reading and writing. In addition he had a very profound understanding of the Thai culture, customs and traditions.
Most of all his love and loyalty for HM the King was above all else.
My parents were ever so mindful and full of gratitude when in His Majesty’s coronation oath, on the 5th of May 1950, he vowed that, “We will reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.”
More importantly, His Majesty assured people of all nationalities and religions who live in Thailand under his umbrella of kindness and benevolence that they would not be discriminated against and would receive his protection.
My parents decided that their children born in Thailand would embrace their birthright as Thai citizens and live under the kindness and benevolence of His Majesty the King.
My very first impression of His Majesty the King was when I was nine years old. One day, my father packed us into the family car and drove from the Big Circle in Dhonburi crossing the mighty Chao Phraya River over the Memorial Bridge, a long way across town, past the Victory Monument, along the narrow tree-lined Phaholyothin Road towards Don Muang Airport.
We found a spot where we joined thousands of citizens anxiously waiting to welcome Their Majesties the King and Queen who were arriving back home after a 7-month state visit to the United States and Europe. That date, I learned years later, was January 18, 1961.
Everyone was waving flags and cheering and as Their Majesties’ motorcade drove by I could see them smiling and waving at us. I distinctly remember those events to this very day and recall that I felt very glad.
It has always been tradition that the period before and after His Majesty’s Birthday on December 5, the whole country and most especially the city of Bangkok would be decorated in lights of every hue. The most popular and beautifully decorated road was Rajdamnoen Avenue. That area was a must-see attraction for Thais and foreigners alike. People travelled from all over the country just to be awed by the sheer magnitude and beauty of the lights and decorations.
During the early 1960s we lived not very far from that area, for a few years on Khlong Thom Road in Sampheng and later on Chakrapet Road near Wang Burapha. Our parents would never miss taking the family on a drive through the brightly illuminated road during the King’s birthday week.
In the late 1960s we moved to a house on Rajavithi Road, right opposite the Chitralada Palace, home of the Royal Family.
It never failed to excite and thrill us when Their Majesties left the palace to attend to their official functions and we were there to pay our respects and cheer as they drove through the gates smiling and waving. It was a blessing every time you were fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the cheerful aura of Their Majesties the King and Queen.
We moved to Pattaya in 1975 where our family set up a clothing business. 18 years later, I set up the Pattaya Mail in 1993.
It was customary that on the auspicious occasions of the birthdays of Their Majesties the King and Queen, we published a special supplement or book to commemorate those occasions. We wanted to do it properly and with the official sanction of the Royal Palace. We also wanted the best official photographs available. So we wrote to the Bureau of the Royal Household requesting permission to publish the stories and at the same time requested them for photographs and editorials about Their Majesties. After having thoroughly checked our credentials, the Royal Secretariat very kindly gave us permission and sent us photographs and stories for our publications.
With the kind contribution of Peter Cummins, who has not only written many books on HM the King, but has also had the privilege to sail with the King, we were able to publish the special supplements and books year after year for the past 23 years.
During the past 50 years, my love and understanding of our beloved King grew stronger by the day. As a Rotarian I learned that in 1955, on the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Rotary Club of Bangkok, His Majesty the King graciously agreed to be the Honorary Patron of Rotary in Thailand. He said, “Rotarians are symbols and models of those who are consistently seeking for progress and security for humanity. Despite the many responsibilities in your various businesses and professions, you are united in your obligations and determined efforts to seek ways to solve problems which are facing us in these times of crisis.”
His Majesty’s profound words have inspired and encouraged not only Rotarians but the general public to do more to help the needy and the underprivileged in our communities.
Having lived in Pattaya for the past 41 years, I have been asked to assist many organisations both in the public and the private sector at official functions.
One of the greatest honours that I received is to be given the privilege of acting as MC at many formal events, most especially at Their Majesties’ birthday celebrations. Together with Wannapa Wannsri, head of the Education Development Department, who does her part in the Thai language and I in English, we managed the proceedings on stage, giving it the pomp and dignity befitting the occasion.
Year after year I stand at the podium speaking to the crowd extolling the life and goodness of HM the King. The information that I have to prepare is enormous, but it was never enough because the life and work of His Majesty is much greater than can be chronicled. How can you encapsulate HM the King’s 70 years of incredible achievements, sacrifices and service for the entire nation in an hour or two? Yet it always gave me a sense of immense pride and satisfaction to tell the audience about the life and times of our great King.
The more I spoke of His Majesty, the more I learned of this remarkable man and the more my love and respect for him grew.
HM the King became my father ever since my real father died 35 years ago. I listened to his every advice and tried my best to follow his teachings. As I grew older, I hoped that I could achieve just a tiny fraction of what he had done for the whole country and the Thai people everywhere.
Dear Father, you will always be in our hearts and minds. Not a day will go by without us looking to you for help and guidance. We will remember your words and heed your advice and instructions. We will ensure that the memory of your love and benevolence for all humanity will be honoured and cherished, and passed on to future generations for all time.