Friday, March 12, 2010

Khun Khao

In my foray away from home, and to carry on a tradition bestowed upon me by my late mother, I like to keep abreast of current affairs. So it is with interest that I’ve followed the media coverage of the new elephant calf born to Porntip at Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney. When it was reported that the calf had died in utero, I felt great empathy for its mother. With over 2000 stillbirths a year in Australia, I expect there were thousands out there who felt the same.

When the calf was born alive a couple of days ago, I was reduced to goosebumps.

This morning I woke with elephants on my mind. What to do? I shared the story with Moo, the manager at the guesthouse here, and commented that the zoo were inviting submissions to name the little blighter. ‘Resilient’ I suggested to him; did he know the word? No. When I showed him the translation on my English/Thai dictionary on my laptop it was clear I was way off track - ‘oh, no … not right name for baby'.

Not one to be discouraged however, I repeated the story to SaSaKorm, the delightful Thai woman out the front who takes bookings for tours. In broken English, I asked whether there were Thai rituals associated with naming people or animals and she told me that it is often custom to seek naming advice from a monk. So off I headed to Wat Suan Dok, a temple on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. It was there I was fortunate enough to speak with the Venerable Dech, one of the resident English-speaking monks. For the third time this morning, I repeated the story. He rubbed his head and thought for a moment. ‘Khun Khao. Khun Khao good name (pronounced Koon, as in cook … Cow) it mean ‘like a mountain’. ‘Mountain strong. Calm. Nature kind, elephant happy, sound of bird and wind, have peace’ he explained. I smiled, placed by hands together in prayerfulness and respect, and thanked the Honourable Dech for his time.

Naturally, I’ve transmitted the auspicious guidance, by email, to Taronga Park Zoo.

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