Book Review – Bangkok 8 (John Burdett)

Bangkok 8

Bangkok 8 – the title clearly gives away the setting of the plot. But is the book as exciting as the city itself?

Bangkok 8 is a mystic murder (snakes no less) mystery with its protagonist and narrator being an eastern police officer, Sonchai Jitpleecheep. Even though he follows Buddhist principles, he’s been brought up in a more cosmopolitan culture, thanks to him being the son of an erstwhile prostitute. This story is his quest for revenge for the death of his partner.

What makes Sonchai’s narration interesting is that even though he is an integral part of the infamous flesh trade of Bangkok, he despises it and chooses to view it from the sidelines. This fact gives us a very detached and objective view of the dark world and its inner mechanisms. Despite the oft held opinion, we get to know that Thai women are not forced to delve into this lucrative trade and willingly make it a career option. We also get an understanding of the Thai attitude towards sex, of how Thai women might be the most progressive among their counterparts in other countries, of how despite being in this cut throat trade, they have the utmost professionalism and camaraderie between them and that it isn’t an easy career option and requires every bit of hard work as any other career.

John Burdett shows off his knowledge about the city and its culture throughout the novel. And since he’s a westerner, we also get to view things from both eastern and western perspectives and their conflicting values and styles of working. He deftly portrays the inner workings of the city and of the police force that’s marred with corruption; and why and how this works wonderfully for them as well as for the people of the city. John successfully marries the murder mystery track with the cultural and spiritual one to give the reader a glimpse of Bangkok city beyond its attractive façade.

A good, if not a must read. Some memorable quotes:

  • The future is impenetrable, says the Buddha.
  • Hope or haste comes from the devil, slowness comes from Buddha.
  • The dharma teaches us the impermanence of all phenomena, but you cannot prepare yourself for the loss of phenomenon you love more than yourself.
  • Hit dirt with a stick and you will certainly spread it.
  • You will not make a good death is a power curse; it makes fuck you sound like a benediction.
  • I do not explain the endless cycle of life after life, each one a reaction against some imbalance from the one before, that reaction setting up yet another imbalance and so on and on. We are the pinballs of eternity.
  • Human beings are predators, we like to hunt and eat the weak so we can feel strong for a moment.
  • Magic is preindustrial. I feel sorry for the FBI and her belief that there is anything logical about human existence. It’s like choosing a ringtone, a logical labyrinth with no meaningful outcome. Logic is distraction.
  • Actually the west is the culture of emergency: twisters in Texas, earthquakes in California, wind-chill in Chicago, draught, flood, famine, epidemics, drugs, wars on everything. Of course if you didn’t believe you could control everything , their wouldn’t be an emergency, would there?
  • Everyone is dumb outside their own frame of references.
  • Gautama Buddha was the greatest salesman in history. He was selling nothing. That’s what “nirvana” means: nothing. As the cure for the great cosmic disaster most of us call life, he prescribed a rigorous course of meditation and perfect living over any number of lifetimes, with nothing as its final reward.
  • The greatest pleasure in life is to be understood, is it not?
  • The mind likes truth. It will work quite hard to make the connections, once the pieces are all on board.
  • Waiting is difficult only for those beset by the delusion of time.
  • The east has more patience, more history, more cunning, more sorcery – and gets the sun 1 hours before the west does. How could west ever win?

Movie Review – Human Trafficking (2005)

 

 

This movie portrays the heart-wrenching and sad truth about Human Trafficking and goes on to show that this heinous crime is still flourishing just because there is a huge demand for it.

The movie warns the viewer at the beginning about the sensitive scenes & surely this movie is not for the faint hearted.

Everyday hoards of children & innocent girls (called shipments) are wrongfully abducted under the pretext of getting them better jobs, finding them modelling assignments, finding their soul mate and are then traded around the world for sexual slavery. In fact, the place where the movie takes place (United States) is where the highest demand for sex trade comes from.

Tourists from all over the world flock to places like Manila, Mexico, Russia etc. to engage in sexual practices which are frowned upon in their native countries.

This is the story of an FBI special agent Kate Morozov, working under ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), who takes it upon herself to bust a huge world-wide racket involving sex-trade. ICE becomes actively involved in the case after they discover a Russian girl who jumped to death from a building where she was traded. The case gains steam after a 12 year old American tourist is abducted in front of her parents in Manila, Philippines.

She, under the able guidance of the aging & experienced ICE chief Bill Meehan, uses herself as a bait to enter the shit-hole and save the girls. In between the investigation, the plight of these innocent girls and the kind of animal-like cruel conditions they are subjected to
is shown.

This movie sure makes you question the whole moral character of us Humans, who even after knowing the truth about human-trafficking continue to indulge in things that boost this criminal activity and help a few people make millions of dollars.

The only dampeners in the movie are its long duration, sometimes slow pace and the acting prowess of the leading characters of Kate Marozov & Bill Meehan. In my opinion, someone younger & more energetic should’ve been hired as the ICE chief.

Trivia:

  • IMDB Rating – 7.7/10
  • Nominated for 2 Golden Globes.
  • When Kate goes on-line to lure the traffickers, she says that she has no college degree and that she is a kindergarten teacher. This is self-contradictory as virtually all teachers, from kindergarten through high school, are required to have a college degree for employment.
  • When Kate checks in at the airport and her passport is scanned, it shows up on the monitor her name, place of birth and eye color “albastri”, which means “blue” in Romanian/Moldavian. Kate has brown eyes.
  • Related Links: http://www.looktothestars.org/news/6089-lucy-liu-highlights-human-trafficking