As far as beginning go, it has to start somewhereOctober 28, 2016

It happened in Pre Rup, as I was wondering if the architects came from the Western Hemisphere. If they didn't travel through landmass, then there was a dream telepathy between the Khmer architects and their Mesoamerican counterparts. The bright sun made it clear to everyone who set foot on this ancient ground. Pre Rup was once a majestic pyramid. And then someone brought me back to the humid afternoon. He was asking me if I knew of anyone or any organisation that would need volunteers.

I was savouring my burger and fries the other day when an amiable couple greeted me. After asking me about my travel plans, they told me that they were on a mission. They wanted to brighten up the day of some impoverished children in Siem Reap by giving them new football kits. It was a sweet gesture, but a startling idea came to mind. Poverty was the other main attraction in this northern community. I reckoned that lending a helping hand in Indochina had started here.

I have nothing against a good cause. In fact, I participated in the Dogtober campaign last year. (Adorable puppies helping people with physical disabilities. It was hard to pass it up.) And I learned to admire people with good intention. What if these noble acts were part of tourism? I was at a loss, such that I recalled the novels I read at the University. Would Charles Dickens see an Oliver Twist begging for a dollar (or two) at the entrance of Angkor Wat? Could George Orwell foresee the causes of totalitarianism in the less-touristy areas in Siem Reap? What about J. K. Rowling? I was skeptic about the warm reception to the Harry Potter novels in this part of the world, but a slight modification might be needed in this case. A young Buddhist monk ending up as an accidental student at Hogwarts.

It was the last thing I wanted to see

My tuk-tuk driver brought me to Banteay Samre, which was a Hindu temple in Angkor Wat style. And I was glad that the place was practically deserted. I was about to enjoy the silence when I heard a chant. It turned out that a small group of older tourists was praying inside the temple. I managed to enter the other rooms, which filled me with curiosity. If these walls could talk, what would they tell about the place? It didn't take an hour to find out the answer.

A young laddie came up to me with a few paperbacks. He was selling it for 20 pounds apiece. A book was the last thing I wanted to see especially if it would come with a hefty price. He was insistent, even quite desperate, as he hasn't sold a copy the whole morning. I wasn't interested, but I ended up handing him five dollars. I might have turned into a softie; I wanted him to go away. (And rudeness wasn't an option. He was neither annoying nor obnoxious.) I don't want to think that I made a difference on the lad, who might be a few years younger than me. But it had to start somewhere. He ended up giving me one of the books.

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