At least our heroine has the benefit of history as she travels back through time. She knows beforehand what the toilets will be like, that electricity is out of the question, and how long it will take to journey between the kingdoms of Ayutthaya and France. Her struggles mainly have to do with manners, but even they almost cause her a breakdown.
But what if the tables were turned? What if the hero of the most popular Thai story of the day, “Buppesannivas” (“Love Destiny”), had to travel in the opposite direction – from home in the time of King Narai the Great, to the present day?
Would Phi Muen last even a day? It’s unlikely: there would simply be too much to take in. Imagine waking up not knowing how to flush the toilet, opening the curtains to skyscrapers and roads jammed with cars, seeing “mirrors” come alive with moving pictures, and hearing voices “trapped” in little boxes.
The heroine thinks she’s in a dream; the hero would think he had gone insane. Imagine someone telling him the moon is not at all what he had thought, that man had set foot on the dusty rock and had since all but lost interest. Imagine him hearing the sun is a star, and there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on Earth.
After living all his life close to the ground, how would things look from the top floor of the MahaNakhon tower? No offence to our favourite fictional hero of the moment, but he’d be screaming like a girl if he took a ride on a motorcycle, experiencing speeds twice as fast as the fastest horse he ever rode.
And then there is the smartphone. There was no fixed-line telephone during King Narai’s era, so how could he comprehend the concept of talking wirelessly to people on the other side of the world – let alone uploading and downloading?
Computers, notebooks and tablets would all be alien. He didn’t even know about cameras, let alone “publishing” photos so people in Portugal can see them instantly.
According to sci-fi author Michael Crichton, had you told the best-informed scientists of just over a century ago about all the things we take for granted today – satellite-transmitted videos, millions of passengers in the sky at the same time, nuclear power and super-powerful computing machines the size of a postage stamp – they would have pronounced you mad.
Why? Because the science of the time ruled out the possibility of developments that are commonplace today. Technology such as aviation was still in its infancy and not even the most knowledgeable scientists could imagine the globe-shrinking marvel it would become.
Talking of imagination, Jules Verne (1828-1905) probably had more of the stuff than almost anyone, yet his futuristic vision stretched as far as the ability to fly from New York to San Francisco “in only a few weeks”. Imagine our “Love Destiny” hero being told he can leave for France on Friday evening and be back in Bangkok two days later.
After his first day in 2018, Phi Muen would probably be dragged to a madhouse. Trapped in the scientific perspective of his own day, he would find much of what he experienced in our world simply impossible.
We would fare no better 100 years or so from now, considering the pace of technological advancement. Our own scientific knowledge tells us that we can’t teleport a human being, that we can’t transport our thoughts, feelings, emotions, memory or experiences into somebody else, and that we cannot simply talk to people in “other universes”, if such life forms exist.
There’s my pitch for “Love Destiny Part II”. I leave it to the scriptwriters to find a way of keeping our hero sane.
The writer of the novel behind the TV drama offered a clue, though, in evoking the possibility of love between people from different times. “Love Destiny Part III”, meanwhile, could progress to love as the link between two separate universes. As Carl Sagan, one of the leading scientific thinkers of our time, put it, love is the only certainty amid all the unpredictability.
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known,” he once said. For Sagan, we tiny specks have only one resource available to cope with the immensity of everything. Love.