Hello folks! Here I am again for the long overdue segment of our Double Espresso Coffee Talk for Krong Karm (“Repercussion”). Though I’ve been away for so long, don’t worry if you’re thinking that you’ve missed Asa’s part. The truth is that I realized that if I don’t do Asee’s before Asa’s part, I might end up not doing his part at all. So now here we are.
Before you think that Asee’s part isn’t important, given what I said, I would like to tell you now that he is as integral in the story as his other brothers. He may have less screen time compared to the other Bae boys due to how his story ends(major spoilers ahead) but Yoi’s Karma is just as deeply intertwined with Asee’s, as it is with Asa’s, Achai’s or even Atong’s.
To begin, Asee’s name (“See”) actually means “Four” in Thai. I don’t know if it’s true for Chinese-Thai people but I’ve been told by some of my Chinese friends that 4 isn’t an auspicious number. This is because it is shaped like an axe, and to some, it can mean death. We don’t know for sure if this has any significance in the plot, but logically, Asee was named as such because he came after Asa (“Sa”) whose name means “Three”. Whether Ma and Tia just weren’t superstitious or failed to take that belief into consideration, we don’t know – but that same carefreeness (or to some, carelessness) reflects greatly on Asee’s fate, as will be discussed below.
To reiterate, Asee was born as a fourth son in a Thai-Chinese family. In another lakorn featuring a Thai-Chinese Family, namely Botan Gleep Sudtai, the third son was already seen as a surplusage by his father and so he was the least favorite – also when the said third son was born, their family had to struggle so the father attributed their hardship to the third son. Such is not the case with Asee in Krong Karm. Although Asee was born the last of the lot, compared to his brothers, he was born at a time when the family’s financial condition has improved immensely as their business has already taken root and has started to grow upon his birth, hence he lived a more privileged life compared to his older brothers.
Looking at the brothers’ first scenes – we see Achai and Atong having contrasting settings, with Achai being shown in a sleazy bar in Takhli, having a blast, while Atong is shown as virtuous monk in the temple when he gets visited by their mother.
From his first scene alone, we immediately see how chill this fourth brother’s life can be. This is in total contrast to Asa’s first scene, where he is shown working in the rice mill, with his head covered by a towel. (Talk about low health and safety standards in the work place!) Going back to Asee, his carefreeness is reminiscent of Achai’s situation in Takhli where he is away from his mother’s influence. In a sense, both the youngest and the eldest children are most dear to Yoi yet, as we learn later on, she meddles with their lives the most.
From the start, we know that Asee fancies Wanna, an uptight and “proper” girl who lives in the same town. Unlike Renu, Wanna is simple, conservative and prudent while Asee is the irresponsible and cheerful student who is at risk of getting kicked out. We later on find out that Wanna is Renu’s youngest sister, while Asee is Achai’s youngest brother. They may be related but their roles are switched, with Wanna seeming to be the cream of the crop while Asee is the notorious loafer.
More importantly, we get to learn later on that although Asee and Wanna similar in that they are both the youngest children in their families, we get to see how different their lives can be – with Wanna being brought up in a poor family, that just got poorer after their father fell deeply into alcoholism and her elder sisters get into a scandalous situation; and Asee living a privileged life as he benefits from the fruits of his parents’ labor. This, in turn, makes Wanna much more mature compared to Asee while Asee is more affectionate and has more time for love. These good qualities are somehow neutralized by their corresponding flaws – For instance, Wanna’s maturity fails to pierce through Asee given that he is inattentive and too happy-go-lucky (he cannot even remember Wanna’s name in episode 2) while Asee’s flirtations go to waste with Wanna’s distrust of men as she keeps on comparing them to her deadbeat father. Later on, as both Wanna and Asee grow, they overcome these flaws and actually become well suited – in the same way that Renu and Achai become more obviously fitting for each other.
Asee, despite going to college and not having as much drama as his brothers, does not seem like the most eligible bachelor among the Bae brood – in fact, Asa, who is supposedly the uneducated one, is more “popular” in that sense. Yet more than anything, the reason why Asee isn’t even considered as a candidate at all is that everyone sees him as a child. He can be carefree because he is a child. He can be careless as he is a child. He is portrayed as someone who has his life ahead of him so he has the privilege to dilly-dally in whatever world he was currently living in. There was no hurry for him to marry and inherit the business and start a family. He was just there, seemingly isolated in another town as he studied in college, and had no need to be involved in the family drama.
He was a spectator at best, as he observed and sometimes inserted bits of humor and mischief in his siblings’ stories. Yet all was fine in his world as he was supported well by his parents, and seemingly allowed to go on his own path without any expectations for him to return, stand in for any one, help with the business or get married – unlike the expectations that were upon his older brothers. Moreover, he gets to enjoy more perks with this freedom as he is able to get the material things that he wanted, without even having to work hard for it. In fact, Ma and Tia even bought a house for Asee in Pak Nam Pho – so even if he had not graduated, he was more or less set for life.
Although Asee is the favorite child, we get to see a different form of parental love in his situation. Achai, who was the eldest, got pressured to do everything and be the best successor of the Bae enterprise. Yoi thus cried and moved heaven and earth to ensure that Achai be in his proper place. Atong, who wasn’t the favorite child, was nevertheless trained by Yoi follow all her orders. Asa, the least favorite child of Yoi, was expected to help around and was easily “given away” when the opportunity presented itself. While all the older brothers had their lives and paths dictated for them, the situation is different for Asee who was actually given freedom to move, and resources to do his bidding as he took his sweet time to get his life together. Indeed, Asee is the archetypal spoiled youngest child. So spoiled that he is ill-equipped with the foresight and maturity to face the world.
This made him not only lax, but also quite “adventurous”. While the Bae boys are generally obedient, it was Asee who was always blatantly disobeying their mom, in the pettiest ways. He slept on duty, he ate without washing his hands, he played the guitar even after she told him not to do so, etc. Even though Yoi snapped and tried to curb his actions, he still went on his way, and was forgiven due to his youth, lack of maturity and perhaps, due to the fact that the family was in a better situation compared to before so he had the leeway to be the way he was.
Even with girls, he was audacious enough to go against the bro code and declare that he was going after Chanta, even after knowing that his Hia Tong had a crush on her, since Hia Tong was already getting married anyway. Had Atong and Asa not taken turns to smack some sense into his head, would Asee have followed through with his plan? (remember, this was all after they showed Asee was already interested in Wanna. Man! This kid is quite the insatiable womanizer!)
So, ok. Achai married and brought home a hooker as a bride, but Asee – he’s on a different level than his eldest brother. After showing us in the earlier episodes how harmless this brat can be, we finally see in Episode 6 that he is not only a delinquent when it comes to his studies, he also double majors as a player. Asa asks in his first scene with Asee, and his first time to see Wanna, if she’s “another one” of Asee’s girls. This means that we only see him flirting around with Mala, but for all we know, he’s slept with more of them.
Mala isn’t portrayed as the most virtuous girl, but their first scenes together show Asee as the bad influence between the two of them. Mala is on her way to do some chores for her elder sister, and yet what does Asee do? He tells her, not only to do it later, but to “go watch a movie” with him first, in the middle of the day, when they should be doing other things like studying. And of course, by “watching a movie” – Asee actually means something else – and Mala’s flirty looks make it obvious that while they were young, they were old enough to know how to hanky panky.
This whole affair with Asee instigates (indirectly of course) Renu to start this whole lecture about not freely giving your virginity to men who just want to take advantage – cute, harmless Asee who is Ma’s favorite child, who can, apparently do wrong – is actually portrayed as the natural enemy of women. Although Mala spirals from cute and flirty to bitchy and desperate quite fast, it is hard to blame her. She is young, and let’s face it – stupid. She is stupid enough to think that she and Asee, given their level of maturity, had a serious relationship – and she is also oblivious to the fact that she was just his passing fancy and she had no hold on him whatsoever.
Yoi gave Asee the same lecture as Achai – the one about not falling for women’s wiles and aiming for high-class women. In a sense, Asee complied with that, as when he flirted around, he had no intention of becoming serious with any of them. But what Ma didn’t lecture him on is how to be a gentleman and how to treat women right. Yoi, without her knowing it, raised a rake, and Mala was his pitiful victim.
Yet despite everything, Asee isn’t completely hopeless. In fact, his redemption is the most crucial part of his story. As I earlier mentioned, Asee, like all the other Bae boys, is actually inherently good.
The interplay between Asee’s wickedness and kindness is shown when he was pitted in the battle between Philai and Renu. When Philai was badmouthing Renu, Asee knew right away that Philai was lying. Yet just the same, he asked (albeit jokingly) which shaman Renu had been dealing with – acknowledging that a good person can likewise do wicked things and yet still be good in the end.
His growing infatuation with Wanna likewise changed him for the better. Her virtuousness and refusal to budge despite his advances (wait: let me rephrase that. Asee couldn’t even advance at all with Wanna since she had been shooting him down from the start) made him more considerate and more insightful. The best part about Asee is that he knew how to listen – and he did listen to all the lectures that Wanna gave him – about how he was wasting the good fortune he had by not living as a better person. Wanna emphasized how hard his parents have worked to put him where he was and how unforgivable his prodigality had been.
As though he were turning a new leaf, he asks from Wanna one thing – a Hawaiian polo. As though clothes make a man, in Asee’s case, he wanted to wear a creation of Wanna’s proudly as his medal once he successfully graduates after he has slacked off for so long. It gives new meaning to the idiom “dressing down” – for indeed, Wanna dressed down Asee and opened up his mind to see reality and change him for the better. At the same time, Asee showed just how much he valued Wanna by asking her for a handcrafted gift. Wanna lacked confidence early on in her career as a seamstress, yet Asee assured her that her work was enough reward for someone who had a life-changing 180 degree turn for the better. Again another metaphor is how as Wanna sewed the Hawaiian polo together, she was patching up and building the relationship between her and Asee and finally the two of them can meet eye to eye.
Wanna finally lets her feelings for Asee develop, after she saw his determination to grow up and be a good man. The way the love blossoms between Asee and Wanna is a joy to watch. Although it isn’t exactly “puppy love” it was good to see how it was a love that was brought about by maturity and insightfulness. Asee who used to be so carefree and so careless suddenly entered into this new phase with Wanna with a clear mind and a resolute heart. It shows that people can change their fate and be better – no one is stuck in a pitiful situation. We can always grow and make better versions of ourselves.
Yet again, this inspiring reminder is tempered by the Bae boys’ lives being intertwined with karma. Just when Asee is finally determined to change, and in a moment when the Bae family is thrown into chaos, after Tia’s death and Asa’s marriage secret getting revealed, Asee gets news that Mala is pregnant with their child out of wedlock. Asee is blindsided with this new responsibility – just when he was just on his way to getting his whole life together. Regressing back to his old careless and carefree self, he selfishly tells Mala to abort the child as he needed no additional complications in his life.
Desperate and not knowing what to do, he had wanted to tell his Hia Sa and Hia Tong about his predicament. Yet at the last minute, he chickens out and the three have a discussion as to where each of them stands in their mother’s heart. Asa heartbrokenly tells Asee that he knows he’s the least favorite child of their mother while Asee is the favorite. It is a privilege which he enjoys and a responsibility that he must carry. He is the most beloved son so he may cause Yoi her biggest heartbreak if he isn’t careful.
Asee just saw how badly Asa was beaten down by their mother for something that wasn’t even his fault – what more when she finds out how he messed up and got a girl pregnant despite all her warnings? It is quite tragic really, how a person can finally decide to change for the better, but actually have his past indiscretions catch up with him and make him unable to escape. Is this the cage of karma that is often discussed in this lakorn? Was there really no way for Asee to escape his fate?
Things turn for the worse for Asee when Mala, in her desperation, goes directly to Yoi to seek retribution after Asee refused to be responsible for their baby. In her anger, Yoi sends Mala away, only for Mala to utter a curse – if it is not Asee’s baby, then I shall die in 7 days, but if Asee is the father then he shall die in 7 days.
The world of Krong Karm, despite being practical is also quite superstitious. Here we have love spells, shamans, ghosts and seemingly unseen forces of spirits bringing about gloom and doom to the characters. Mala’s “curse” on Asee is another one of these superstitions and some may say that it is the cause of Asee’s untimely demise later on.
Yet there is also another superstition that is brought in, that is, Yoi’s own past misdeed catching up to her. Later on, it is revealed in the story that Yoi, in a moment of trance, kills her mother-in-law while she was badmouthing her. The ghost of Yoi’s mother-in-law appears upon Asee’s death, as if his life is retribution for the life that Yoi took away.
So, whose karma was it really that caused Asee’s death, if at all? Was it Yoi’s? Was it Mala’s? Was it Asee’s? Even the shamans have already predicted early on that Yoi’s life was about to take a turn for the worse. Did they mean that her bad karma was catching up on her? Was Asee’s death a direct result of Yoi’s killing of her mother in law or punishment for all her misdeeds as taokaenia?
The answer is – we don’t know. Yet one thing is for certain. Asee’s death shows us the impermanence of things. That no matter how hard we try to grasp some things, they could and would slip away. The lesson learned is that everything that we do has an effect. Whether the effect is good or bad would depend on whether we did good or bad acts to begin with. A curse results in ill-fate, in the same way that carelessness leads to mishaps. Logically, Asee wouldn’t have drowned had he and his friends been more careful and not drinking and being merry by the river. Whether he was killed as a result of Mala’s curse or not, we don’t know, but what we do know is that her own curse caused her immense guilt, regardless of the intense hatred she received from the grandmother of the child she was carrying. Was Asee’s life taken in exchange for his grandma’s? We don’t know. What we do know is that Yoi carries the burden and blames herself for every misfortune that happens in their family due to misdeeds. It is her stigma which can never be erased.
As Asee’s remains are burned in the funeral pyre, Yoi looks on as her song plays in the background – she has defied the laws of karma because of extreme love and now that love has destroyed everything, leaving her broken and in pieces. It is one of the most touching points in the lakorn and it makes me tear up each time I see it.
What was it that really killed Asee: Was it his mother’s love? Was it Mala’s love for him that pushed her to desperation? Was it the love for their unborn child? Was it Asee’s love for his mother, that he even wished his own child to be aborted just to avoid causing Yoi heartbreak? For one thing, it is precisely because Yoi loves Asee so much that his death brought about extreme devastation. This is the same love that made her want to give him everything, protect him from everything, yet this love is not a wall of protection. It can be a cage that can be suffocating and painful, and love can also be destructive, especially when a person decides to go against fate and the natural course of things (i.e. karma) in the guise of “protecting” and preserving someone dear. Yoi staunchly “protected” Asee from Mala’s demands and cursed her instead of making her son take responsibility for what he had done. Mala thus carelessly cursed Asee and, to Yoi’s mind, caused his death. Seen in another light, Yoi loved Tia Seng and her sons so much that she kept the secret of the circumstances of the Bae Matriarch a secret and held it close to her heart that it gnawed on her every day. Now, Asee’s death, though completely unrelated to grandma’s death, is seen by Yoi as payment for what she had done.
But if you ask me what is my take on it, I would say that it was simply just Asee’s time. He lived a privileged life, was careless and had several wasted chances, but at the same time, he was able to do good. I view his death not as a curse, but actually a blessing because he died while saving the life of a friend. In a sense, it was as if his death was his good karma – because of doing the most noble act, his mediocrity, his bad deeds were all wiped out and he is able to die in peace. The only regret of course is his being unable to do well in his life on earth, after he already seemed to know how to get his act together. But still, he has left a mark and will be remembered fondly by those he left behind.
The story ends with the next generation of the Bae family, spearheaded by Asee’s child, Kommala. She is shown as a bright girl, spoiled like her father, but sweet and kind as well. In a way, it is ironic how Asee told Mala to abort the baby, only for Asee to end up dying in an accident. Nevertheless, the past is already a closed chapter and the future seems bright with Kommala’s birth. Kommala lives to be the favorite, just as his father had been. Tia finally gets the female grandchild he had wished for, and Yoi has a new descendant to dote on and love unconditionally.
Kommala is given a home, and an education which, Asa notes will surely surpass that of his and Chanta’s. Despite Asee having a tragic end, the future seems bright for the child he left behind. Probably, the fate of Asee’s child, if it can be viewed as a reflection of the karma that has been accumulated by her parents, is outstanding, meaning, despite everything, Asee was able to do good in his life (and on that note, even his ancestors, Tia and Yoi have done the same) and this goodness has been passed on to his daughter.
So there you have it folks! What do you think? The next Double espresso coffee talk might actually be a Frappuccino since Asa’s the only one left. I hope I would be able to churn it out soon. But in the meanwhile, don’t hesitate to comment if you have any insights which you wish to share! Thank you and see you again. ~Greta (@gretutay)