Tale of the Lamp

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Phnom Penh is known as the heart of Cambodia, a vibrant place that is home to old architecture, arts, high-rise buildings, public parks and many other tourist attractions. But beyond the beauty of the capital city are depressing scenes – beggars roaming around the highway and trashes scattered on the road.

Sok Chanphal, 2013 winner of S.E.A. Write Awards, has made famous a story about this side of the society. Through his book, Tale of the Lamp, which was published in 2011, the genius writer brought up several thought-provoking sides of a typical Cambodian life both during the Khmer Rouge regime and in the present day.

The Tale of the Lamp is a collection of Chanphal’s short stories. But while most of his write-ups are centered on ghost or spirit themes, all his stories contain important messages for the readers to ponder upon. One of the nine short stories within the book is “Chrok Pleang” or “Taking a Shelter from the Rain”. Chanphal tells a story of a life in the city through students’ point of view.

The story begins with two young kids trying to find some leftover food in the trash bin in front of one rich family’s home. The book gives comparison to the lives of these two kids that it is not too far from a dog’s life since they can even eat dog food out of desperation.

Aside from that, an unnamed character – a 3rd year university student – also shares his experiences while he tries to shelter himself from the heavy rain. While he thinks about his girlfriend who always dreams of pursuing higher education, he gets distracted by the sound of beggars asking for money.

He sees these people – dressed poorly – who couldn’t afford to buy themselves even a single decent meal. He also sees another man, old, crippled, blind. They are all a picture of hopelessness and poverty.

The character sympathises with their situation. But he also feels that he shouldn’t be supporting these people to prevent them from getting to dependent on others. He said that they should be taken cared of by their families, parents or the government.

Through the character’s eyes, the readers can see that there are so many problems in the society and there are so many people suffering from extreme nothingness. How do we help alleviate this?

There are more interesting stories for you to read from the book. Grab the book at Scholar Library and be ready to be confronted with the sad realities of this world.

Author: Sok Chanphal
Publication: 2011

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