Bupphae Sanniwat: Karma Karma Katesurang

If you haven’t heard, the most watched lakorn right now is Pope Thanawat and Bella Campen‘s time slip, body swap period Bupphae Sanniwat (บุพเพสันนิวาส). And like everyone else in the lakorn loving world, I am enthralled by its story and characters. With episode 10 having aired Thursday, the show has passed its halfway mark and while it continues to be absolutely wonderful, we are at a point where our characters start to frustrate each other and us as they navigate through their emotions and circumstances. For just when our heroine was beginning to hit her stride and truly settle into her choice and her world she’s rudely awakened to the idea her sacrifice isn’t sufficient, nor has it amounted to much.

I was thinking as I watched episode 10, that one of the many things that I have appreciated about this show is that it doesn’t give away all its answers or reasons at once. Rather, it unfolds slowly, sliver by sliver and comically, that very fact is also currently my biggest area of contention with only 5 episodes to go. But the best way to unpack all my questions and thoughts is to start from the beginning… Meet you after the jump.I’m someone who likes to know the rules, so I know what to abide, bend or break but this show doesn’t necessarily do that. And while that can seem unfair, even narratively manipulative (or lazy), it actually places the viewers in a position of deeper respect and understanding of Katesurang, her plight and her bravery. Just as Katesurang mentions from the start, unlike lakorns we’ve seen in the past (Tawee Pope), this is reality and she can’t rely on an author’s imagination.

Kate Becomes Karakate

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“I miss home. I want to go home. I don’t to be here anymore.” ~ Katesurang ep4

We meet Katesurang (ep1) outside an Ayutthaya temple (Wat Chai Wattanaram),  tired and ready to go home (her grandmother and mom are waiting) but her flirty bestie Ruengrit leads her inside with something to show her. She’s not too keen on the idea cause it’s dark and isolated but Rueng reminds her, for Archaeology majors this is nothing new. She complains the entire way as he moon gazes, waxing romantic, until she starts to get goosebumps and shivers. Of course, Rueng makes a crack attraction to him, then he looks up and sees a woman in the shadows wearing red, that freaks him out so terribly, he hides behind Katesurang. She sees her too, so Rueng cuts and runs (which he later claims was involuntary), leaving Kate staring alone in the dark.

The red wearing woman levitates toward Katesurang, who screams in her face shocked stiff. But in a blink the ghostly woman is gone, Kate is released and she’s in the car crying, cussing and fussing at Rueng for being a deserter and horrible friend (all true) vowing to never forgive him. He tries to rebut, when his face pales and they both realize the red ghostly girl hadn’t left after all— she’s in the backseat. Rueng’s foot presses the gas and Katesurang grabs his arm as they both scream and their Jeep meets the bright lights of an oncoming car.

BSKKKatesurang2018-042Next, Katesurang finds herself in a dreamlike place: a field, with piercingly bright light, puffy clouds and glittery butterflies. In the distance she hears her grandmother and mother to her left and Rueng to her right but it’s the unfamiliar voice behind her, that grabs her attention and she turns to see the ghostly girl, looking much more human, approach with the words “Help me” on her lips. As soon as the girl is close enough to touch and voices her concerns, Katesurang’s scenery changes to a pit of flames and ghost girl explains she’s being chased and needs help. Suddenly, two horned, strong-armed demons appear and ghost girl grabs Katesurang by the arm and they flee. The girls introduce themselves; ghost girl is Karakate from Songkrae the daughter of Phraya Rambalong from Muang Papisanuloke, who just minutes before died from her own bad deeds. [But of course, she doesn’t mention that part.]

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Turns out, about two years ago, after her parents’ death, Karakate moved in her father’s friend’s family (she’s betrothed to his son)  and became incessantly jealous, determined to eliminate the prime competition for her fiance’s heart— Mae Ying Janward. After a routine visit, Karakate sends her maid Ee Pin out to overturn the girl’s boat for her to drown but the plan takes a turn when a young servant girl, Ee Dang, dies instead. Her entire house is in upheaval and her maids crying hysterically, but Karakate insists the women deserved it and even scolds her maid for not accomplishing her mission. No one believes the death was an accident and blame immediately falls to Karakate, whose known for being outright evil but coolly and unconvincingly denies any involvement (since she didn’t “do it” herself). However, her fiance, Khun Thun Muen Suntorndewa (Phor Daed) is disgusted with Karakate’s lies and beseeches his father to hold a moon mantra ceremony which will punish the guilty party, believing this will finally kill Karakate and her wickedness for good.

BSKKKatesurang2018-moonmantraThe two men set to prayer and supplication, as an unfazed Karakate retreats to her room. But, just as quickly as she denounces the mantra as superstition, she begins to feel its effects and her life wretches from her. Her maids weep by her bedside coaxing her to pray for forgiveness (“Wai”: folded hands, which can stand for several things but mostly a sign of respect, humility or reverence) in the direction of the temple shining in view from her window, as she stills, lifeless.

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Now, after hearing Karakate’s name, Katesurang is convinced she’s a ghost and quickly offers to pray and do merit for her but Karakate doesn’t have time for that. She wants something else:

Karakate: Please help me. I’ll give you my body.

Katesurang: Body? What body?

Karakate: Use my body to do good. Repay my bad karma. Show everyone that Mae Ying Karakate has goodness. That she’s not just a bad person like everyone thinks. 

As she screeches for help, the demons’ fire lassoes attach to her ankles but Karakate’s grip tightens, continuing to beg, until both screaming girls are pulled apart, one toward the fire and waiting demons, the other seemingly to a tumbling vehicle (which is later overturned not far from the temple gates).BSKKKatesurang2018-fundee

Katesurang screams awake, scaring herself and the two women in the room who’d just pronounced Mae Karakate dead. All three scurry to opposite corners and Katesurang wonders aloud what kind of dream she’s having. The maids are certain their lady is possessed and tear from the room, alerting the rest of the household, who rush to assess the problem. With the permission of his father, Phor Daed steps inside, lantern in hand and eyes her crouched in the dark. Katesurang watches him and murmurs dreamily: “So handsome. What a great dream.” [My favorite part.] But when she leans into the light, his face drops in disappointment calling her Mae Karakate, which confuses Katesurang even farther.

It’s not until she’s faced with the all the other strangers outside her door, a dazed perusal of her surroundings after a frantic escape attempt, a fainting spell, and a giddy glimpse of her “new” body in the mirror, sprinkled with a few pinches (just to make sure), that she accepts she’s not dreaming BSKKKatesurang2018-pinchand immediately chooses to take on this task as her duty and do what Karakate asked, so she can go back home. Unfortunately, she realizes immediately that what she’s up against is far greater than just “doing good deeds” but undoing human resistance. For Karakate was known to be a violent and hateful, first time (we hope) murderess, who left nothing but self-made enemies and victims in her wake.

A Modern Woman

“I’m not a good woman… So I can go.” ~Katesurang ep7

In my Top 5: Things I Love About Bupphae Sanniwat List, the fact that Katesurang reminds us— Strong, intelligent women are all different, but every modern woman has distinct similarities— is my favorite. For while personality is always a factor, the antics and trials that Katesurang faces (even being Karakate) are rooted just as much in her modernity, as her condemners’ prejudice. Like any other 21st Century girl, she speaks oddly, deemed disrespectful, loud, and undisciplined and finds certain systems and customs unclean, unfair and unjust. And she’s a woman that values and demonstrates autonomy for herself and others and seeks to ensure its guarded and respected. However, I do admit being an archaeologist, may afford her a certain grace and understanding, perhaps the rest of us would take more time to enact. She’s also kept in the forefront her purpose and chosen to tackle the history and events unfolding before her humbly, remembering she’s a student no matter the time period. And doesn’t pretend to have all the answers or blindly believe everything she’s read. Rather she seeks to soak as much in as possible and warns, when necessary.

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Therefore, the past 9 episodes have been filled with Katesurang hilariously hunkering down to change people’s perceptions of Karakate, by simply being herself. Thankfully, Katesurang is naturally transparent and inquisitive, fun-loving and generous but also cheeky and smart and all her actions are mostly an intricate part of who she is, from doing continuous merit for Karakate and Ee Dang, to having compassion on her servants, playing with the household kids or improving hygiene and even saving lives— so it’s pretty hard not to love her, even among those with bulletproof barriers against her. But there has always been one area that she dared not broach, unless pressed— her impending marriage to Phor Daed.

This fact is yet another piece of information Katesurang doesn’t find out until after she’s already stuck in Ayutthaya and does her best to make light of in every situation and way possible, even as her feelings change. However, after she publicly gives Phor Daed CPR (The man had stopped BREATHING!), it’s immediately decided the marriage that had been stalled for over a year, that Phor Daed had one day hoped to skirt, must happen no matter what. But Katesurang takes this in stride as well, though a tad reluctant, believing the marriage just another step in fulfilling her duty and promise to Karakate, until Karakate shows up and shows out, whining bloody betrayal and demanding her man back.

Passive Free Will

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“Regardless, this is how things are. I’ve come this far. I can’t go back. I have to keep fighting.” ~ Katesurang ep3

There are several issues that crop up again when Katesurang hears Karakate sobbing angry tears that her man is being stolen away (I know, I know, we’ll get back to this later). The first is the initial problem of Karakate asking for help, let alone something this impossible to accomplish. When she approaches Katesurang in the beginning, I was very confused as to what she believed a stranger could do in her stead and on top of that, I never truly viewed it as a “request,” nor something she wanted done because she felt actual remorse. But rather, like the proud woman we knew, to preserve and repair her reputation in hopes of perhaps changing her own destiny and future but also to be remembered and spoken better of, because she believed herself worthy of a different outcome and opinion. And while over the series, we’ve learned there was much more to Karakate and her actions than servant slaps, temper tantrums and attempted murders, fueled by fury and jealous-heartedness, she allowed that darkness to shroud everything else she may have been. [But that’s for a different post]

Secondly, (and this might be my greatest problem), Katesurang never consented to Karakate’s request, but rather chose to do her best, once she was already in her body. I adore the fact that Katesurang does her utmost to hit the ground running and even when she falls (or is pushed), shakes the dust off, wipes her tears and continues on. She’s not a pushover, but an easy-going quick study, who knows what it means to choose her battles, while also seeking to learn and embrace this new place, yet, not lose herself in the process. Her strength lies in being unafraid to be all of who she is, with giggles, inquiries and tears (tons and tons of tears). And while, she understands that the adjustment is hard on everyone, remains consistent to living her best life; one that she enjoys but also brings joy to others.

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But with all that said, it doesn’t negate the fact her current state was thrust upon her, not willingly chosen. To me, consent here is a huge issue because of who Katesurang is written to be and also because Karakate “asking” alludes to a demand for it. However, I’m reminded of the “heavenly” field (ep1) where Katesurang is drawn to Karakate and not the people she knows and loves. Something about this woman in need made her stop and listen. And even now, her determination to stay true to her promises to this woman is so great, it could make one question her sanity, if it wasn’t so painfully palpable she feels compelled beyond just righting her wrongs— she wants Karakate to be at peace. I find this overall to be the trickiest part and introduces the possibility of other forces at work that even bring into question Karakate’s rights to what she’s asked for in the first place.

Which leads to the most obvious point— in no reality (not even Bupphae Sanniwat‘s, I believe) can an entirely different person, undo or repent for the sin or wrongdoing of another. Therefore, Karakate being given the license or permission or gift to even proposition Katesurang actually superimposes the show’s subtitle and theme— love destiny. In the way that, as we know now, Karakate is still dissatisfied and angry, and while on the surface it’s over yet another irrational plan on her part, it may be much larger than that. Perhaps, what she considered a chance for herself (getting some else to do her dirty work), has always been about or initially set in motion, as an avenue for someone else. Not  another lease on life (for either of them), but a gateway to set things on their proper course, while also giving Karakate an opportunity to do something right for once. Because maybe, just maybe, no matter how you shake it, nothing about Karakate would change without Karakate’s recognition of her need for repentance and penance.

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For initially, it appears that Karakate has some type of cosmic control over her circumstance by making this petition to Katesurang, believing her to be the one to help her, however, that’s pretty doubtful, at least on Karakate’s part. She was desperate and needed a proxy yet realized her limitations (ie. she couldn’t do it herself), either through intuition or just plain self-awareness. For it’s apparent she knows she’s no longer among the living (and where she’s headed) but chooses against possession or sanctioning divine intervention. Coming to Katesurang and following her, was just happenstance and her plea, little more than a veiled demand of entitlement. I’m willing to venture that she may have more foreknowledge than Katesurang but if her recent words and reactions (ep10) proved nothing else, they revealed her motives were always just self-serving. Karakate commissioned Katesurang, but never took into consideration what that would actually entail because she’s never stopped to consider the emotions or perspective of anyone other than herself. She didn’t care about what being in her body meant, as long as it gave her what she wanted. She even shrugs off what Katesurang has already accomplished, including the inquiry over her well-being and spiritual prosperity.

To me, these moments were pivotal because it gave us some clues not only into at least one reason Karakate’s still lingering (she’s a vengeful spirit) but also Katesurang’s thoughts on what she’s doing and why. In episode 3, we get the first piece of evidence that something has definitely happened to Katesurang of 2018 (coma?) and in episode 4 understand she has indeed died, as her mother and grandmother mourn and later do merit in her honor (which Kate appears to hear and receive). Her mother wishes for her to not only be reborn but to live longer in her next station and find lasting love. Also Master Chieprakao reveals that Katesurang and Karakate are different people (separate minds) but connected spiritually (one heart, beginning). In that same scene, he encourages Katesurang to let her grief go but reminds: If you’ve decided to help her (Karakate), help her until the very end. Don’t abandon her. Therefore, after this conversation, I’m inclined to believe Katesurang viewed her stay semi-permanent, over outright temporary and had every intention of living everyday well, for Karakate. Being herself but having secrets, trusting that one day, she’d be able to unburden herself somehow, to someone, somewhere, at some time.

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That might also explain her renewed interest in Khun Rueng and Ruengrit’s relation (ep10). Before they meet, she had an inkling Phor Daed’s Muen Rueng Ratchapakdi, may be her buddy. And even up until their face to face introduction (ep4) there’s hope but once she truly speaks to him, she lets it go because not only is it pretty clear he’s not but also the general assumption would be that he’d have arrived, much like she did (in full knowledge). However, now, with Karakate “back” and not having moved on, her distress is renewed and isolation is high again, so she could just be reacting irrationally but this could also be an indication her wheels are turning in a different direction. It’s possible she’s thinking that perhaps they have met in a previous timeline, not Boran, or Bangkok. She may want, possibly even need an ally but Rueng recognizing her might be a key to figuring out what all this is truly about. And Khun Rueng has always seemed the perfect candidate for all this, not only for his appearance but in their immediate and breezy connection. [For though she continues to insist she will reveal everything to Phor Daed, I’m not sure whether that’s from desire (wanting to share her burdens) or obligation/conviction (believing he deserves to know). ] But unfortunately, I’m more inclined to believe Khun Rueng, in that, the first time they met was over a year ago in Boran.

Final Thoughts

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“I’m not ready to tell anyone (who I am).” ~ Katesurang ep10

For me, what breaks my heart the most for Katesurang, isn’t her lack of knowledge (of  the whats, whens, hows or whys) but being confronted with the fact that what she’s doing isn’t enough. Like I said before, she’s sacrificed so much to do something good for someone. To give up what she wants and trudge in someone else’s life, body and existence. The truth is, Katesurang doesn’t exist; not yet and not anymore (in history) and all she’s ever wanted is to do the right thing. But the one person who knows her and should understand that is upset and cold and as far as Katesurang knows, trying to abandon her. And I can’t help but feel that confusion and loneliness. As humans, we need purpose and that purpose is coupled with achievement and success. Not just feeling good about ourselves but knowing we’ve done well. And for now, it’s not as simple as Ork Ya Thun (Khun Lung) put it— to just focus on the present because her present holds her greatest obstacles. The life she’s leading isn’t as easy as moving on and forgetting the past, simply because as far as she knows, that’s the only reason she’s even there.

In episode 8, Master Chieprakao tells Phor Daed that the answers to Katesurang’s presence are found in the issues of a past life and karma and it’s only that karma and merit that will determine how long she’ll be around. However, it’s the confirmation and reminder that she’s human that lingers. For regardless of why she’s traveled in time, for whom or how long, the fact that she’s a human being is what we should remember and take stock in. It’s also this that has had me thinking about the common phrase “what I want to be when I grow up” because Katesurang too had those thoughts and dreams and while in so many ways she’s living a piece of that, Show seems to also suggest that who you want to be, should be who you are right now, in this moment.BSKKKatesurang2018-115

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