Interview: Pairoj Saleerat, A Writer on a Diplomatic Mission

Features Issue 33 Aug, 2010
Text by Baishali Bomjan / Photo: ECS Media

Born in Bangkok and a graduate in Liberal Arts from the Fine Arts University, Bangkok, Pairoj Saleerat who was Consular and Informations Affaires officer at the Thai Embassy until June has done it all. From working as a tourist guide in Thailand, to stepping the diplomatic ladder at the Thai Embassy throughout Asia to writing articles for esteemed Thai magazines and now to writing a script for a TV serial (to be shot in Nepal) for the popular Thai Channel 3; there are no bounds to what this gentleman can do.

I met Saleerat, a soft-spoken man at a gathering in Hotel Shangri-la. During our interesting conversation, which spanned from how he enjoyed reading ECS to anthropology (his major), his appreciation and abundant knowledge of the Nepali culture, people and heritage to writing articles and scripts, I soon realized that we had caught this man in the nick of time. He was leaving Nepal in July 2004.  Here’s a peek into the real Pairoj Saleerat.

BB: Where did you get your formal education and what has that taught you about life?
Pairoj: I completed my Bachelors Degree in Liberal arts with archaeology, anthropology, humanities and applied language which included English, Spanish, and French as my subjects from the Fine Arts University in Bangkok. After that I went on to do short course trainings as a part of the Youth Exchange programmes in over six countries through out South Asia. Having traveled to so many countries I soon realized how each country was unique in terms of their culture, mentality and heritage. I then started to observe, research and compare these differences and similarities to better understand the human race.

BB: What was your first job?
Pairoj: My first job was that of a tourist guide working in Thailand some 20 years back. At that time I was working mostly with Europeans. It was a learning experience and I must say I learnt a lot about the European people and their way of life.

BB: What brought about the move to a diplomatic career?
Pairoj: The insistence on my parent’s part to take up a government job (that meant security, stability and honor for people then) was why I sat for the entrance examination. Although other candidates, with political science and sociology background were more likely to have actually passed these examinations, I got selected for the interview. And what got me though this interview, were probably my answers to their questions? The answers came naturally to me because of my understanding of the human race; the flexibility I showed while trying to negotiate or debate issues with poise probably was an important factor during the selections.

BB: Tell us more about your career path from there onwards?
Pairoj: My first government job was as a Third Secretary at the Thai Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. It was a little disappointing initially, because I had always wanted to go to Europe or the US, as they were more hi-tech and sophisticated. But later something interesting happened. I went to this ancient city of Lord Buddha, Taxila, where I saw huge statues of Buddha made by Greek artistes and everything changed from there on. I was then transferred and promoted to the Second Secretary in Mexico, an amazing place with a blend of the Maya, Aztec, Native Indian culture and the Spanish colonials. The next posting was in Romania at the same level where I got to see a lot of the original Europeans.  I was amazed to see how the standard of living in this country was still very poor and out of date from that of the western European countries. Moreover there was much racial discrimination there and anyone with a yellow skin would be teased and made fun of. From there I came to Nepal in 2001 as the First Secretary at the Thai Embassy.

BB: Had you been to Nepal earlier?
Pairoj: People back home in Thailand would always refer to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal as the “land of the gods”. To see what they really meant I came twice in the year 2000 as a tourist and I must say that they were correct. Nepal is a very blessed place.

BB: What do you like about Nepal?
Pairoj:   When we talk about Nepal, we only talk about the highest mountains, its natural beauty, its unique architecture, and heritage. But living in Nepal for over three years now, I’ve realized that the charm of Nepal lies not only on the factors mentioned before but also on the fact that people here have still managed to preserve the ancient way of living, which I believe foreigners truly appreciate of this beautiful kingdom. Moreover, the fact that so many different ethnic groups manage to live in harmony is noteworthy.

BB: What is your work at the Thai Embassy in Nepal?
Pairoj: As the Consular and Informations Affairs Officer, my work is to consider giving visas to Nepali people and to protect the interests of all Thai people coming to Nepal. My work does require a lot of scrutiny but I have  never differentiated between people, and have fulfilled my duties based on humanity.

BB: What are the similarities and differences between the ways of living in Nepal and Thailand?
Pairoj:The mentalities of the people are the same. Both are extremely caring, loving and hospitable with no double standards. It is only in Bangkok where the pace of life has sped up and modernization and materialism has crept in, but in the rest of Thailand, especially in the villages, the way of life is exactly the same.

BB: How and why did you start writing  for reputed Thai magazines like “Honeymoon Travels” and “Di Chan” ?
Pairoj: I was sitting on my big balcony one day in Islamabad drinking tea. I realized that I could do something worthwhile instead of just wasting time so I collected my feelings and started to compose them. I sent some of my works to Honeymoon Travels and once they accepted my work, there was no looking back. I then got introduced to the editor of Di Chan by the editor of Honeymoon Travels when they had come to Nepal. I took them around town to various places after which both wanted me to write for their magazines. It was a great feeling since now people would know me through my writing and imagination.

BB: How did writing a script for a TV serial for Thai Channel 3 come about?
Pairoj: A group of my friends had come over to Nepal with some Thai actresses. We spent a lot of time together in Bhaktapur, Patan, Swayambhunath and Pashupatinath. They were awed by the unique architecture and the mystic as well as religious aspect of the places. The producer without any hesitation and with complete trust asked me to write a script in Thai for a TV serial in which he wanted a bit of everything; a little romance, tragedy, religion, myth, culture and a part of Nepal’s history. My inspiration to write this script came from the magnificent architecture of this place.

BB: What is the basic storyline of the script and when will it be ready?
Pairoj: I sent the complete script to Thailand only today. The story is based on a princess who has lost her power and has been cast off from the throne by some bad people and she dies. Her mother then prays to the lord asking him that her daughter be born again with supreme power and that everyone must bow before her. The princess is then reborn as the Kumari in the present life. It’s going to be called “Dwarika Mantra” instead of “Kumari” because I don’t want to harm the beliefs and respect Nepali people have for her.

BB: When do you start shooting?

Pairoj: Once the script is finalized and approved, we will come to Nepal most probably in August- September to do a bit of research and then we’ll have the entire crew come over to Nepal.

BB: How do you  keep a balance between your diplomatic life and that of a writer?

Pairoj: Well it’s two sides of the same coin. You just have to know when to turn them. Although when I’m at work I have to dress well and have to mingle mostly with the elite crowd, at the core we are all just simply human beings. Each one of us, whether rich or poor have to go through the ‘circle of life’ with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, but we have to know how to manage them.

BB: What will you do after going back home to Thailand?
Pairoj: After my term is complete with the Thai Embassy in Nepal, I’ll be working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok.