DIVINE DIVA, DEVOTED MUM

 

 

 

Mention the name "Thitima Krisanayuth" and most of you won't have an inkling as to who this woman is.

 

Tweak the name a bit to "Thitima Sudsunthorn" or "Waen Thitima" and recognition should appear immediately because this diva once stood amongst the elite in Thailand's music industry for more than 25 years.

Her mega-hit Rao mee rao and numerous albums are a testament to her credentials.

Thitima first entered the music industry by winning a singing contest organised by the Montien hotel; she then started releasing a string of albums from 1982 onwards as one of the pioneering artists on the Grammy label.

One aspect that not too many of us are familiar with is the fact that Thitima has a warm, loving family and is a wife and devoted mother.

Her husband is Banjerd Krisnayuth or Pi Pu and who is 20 years her senior. They married several years after Thitima entered the music industry.

In the years since, Banjerd has been her personal manager, supervised her band and been behind just about every aspect of her career. The marriage itself was a quiet affair since only a few people in music circles knew about the relationship.

In his wild and younger days, Banjerd was given the nickname Pu Krungkasem and literally lived life by the slogan "Spirit of Elvis, Vision of James Dean".

As such, he was no stranger to trouble and got involved in a rumble (gang fight) at the fifth anniversary memorial dedicated to James Dean at the old Krungkasem theatre. Hence his former nickname Pu Krungkasem.

But instead of following a downward spiral into violence and crime, Banjerd decided to devote himself to real honest work instead.

He moved to the US for a while where he waited tables at restaurants and leading hotels.

Upon returning to Thailand, he became an airline steward, opened the "Gear for Guys" line of clothes which was popular among singers and musicians, and oversaw the entertainment for many leading hotels.

His love of music saw him enjoy a close relationship with many professional musicians and one of his closest friends was none other than the late Raewat Buddhinand or Pi Ter.

Banjerd's colourful past and key leadership attributes impressed the young Thitima immediately. Banjerd was also smitten by Thitima and admired her determination to become a singer. He supported her ambitions and eventually became her personal manager as well as her soul mate and partner in life.

Young rocker to devoted mother

When mylife asked for an exclusive interview with Thitima, the venue was a gymnastics hall where her 14-year-old daughter, Temfah, (nicknamed Panpan), perfects her gymnastics routine for at least six hours every day.

Panpan's a rising star who took gold in the team event in rhythmic gymnastics at the recently concluded National Youth Games in Kanchanaburi.

Panpan has shown an interest in rhythmic gymnastics since she was six years old and has aspirations

to one day become a professional gymnast.

It's an aspiration that has the full support of her mother and father.

"Most of my time is devoted to my daughter. I drive her to school, the gym, and ballet classes. Travelling takes up a lot of time which is why I don't work that much. Parties and get-togethers are out of the question. Most people don't know I have a family and a daughter who is nearly all grown up. I didn't mean it to be a secret. Most of my close friends knew about it. Followers of gymnastics usually see me carrying my daughter's gym bags at competitions. It's been like this since she was young." said Thitima.

Rhythmic gymnastics is a new discipline to Thitima but she's been more than willing to learn and adjust since her daughter decided to devote herself to the sport.

"I knew nothing about it at first, but when my daughter fell in love with it I did my research and took her to practise and competitions. I once hurridly stitched something onto Panpan's outfit because she was about to compete. It wasn't a good job, but I've become quite good at it now."

Raising Panpan

Husband Banjerd was always there for her, but the turning point came in 1994 when her career almost reached saturation point.

Close friend and fellow diva Nantida Asavahame (nee Kaewbuasai) already had children of her own which was why Thitima decided that 32 was just the right age to become a mother.

She breastfed Panpan for the first six months. Even after childbirth, Thitima managed to release a few albums but most of her time was now focused on Panpan.

"I used to spend money senselessly, but now I think long and hard before spending because I have a child. I buy a lot of discount items, and everything I do must serve as a good example for my daughter. Another change in me, I think, is my high tolerance level. Sometimes I surprise myself at how much I am able to tolerate these days." she said.

Thitima's dedication in a nutshell: Drive everyday from their Ladprao home to Phetkasem gym and ballet classes at Phra Khanong during school holidays; once the school term begins mum drives to Mater Dei every weekday before ending the day with gymnastics practise.

Daily practise is a must if you want to become a professional gymnast.

Thitima rents a small apartment near the gymnasium so both mother and daughter can rest when it's time to train for competitions. But when Thitima has to sing at concerts outside Bangkok then Banjerd substitutes occasionally.

Panpan spends most of her time with gymnastics, which is why Thitima also helps her daughter with her studies.

"Most of Panpan's friends can devote their time to study and even have time for special tutoring but Panpan has her gymnastics training. I help Panpan by summarising study material, recommending memory techniques, constantly questioning her with pop quizzes and sometimes helping her with reports till 2am in the morning. By the time we reach our house it's usually very late and we have to get up at about 5.30am in the morning." said Thitima.

Surprisingly Thitima credits Panpan's father when it comes to raising their daughter.

Banjerd plays an important role in raising and giving advice to Panpan; falling back on his own life experience which allows him to present many interesting ideas during father-daughter conversations.

Father's unique style

Banjerd had always wanted a daughter. He was ecstatic when his wishes came true. Panpan was born on Loykrathong festival day, which meant that the moon filled the skies in its majestic grandeur, the reason why he chose 'Temfah' as his daughter's name. Temfah is translated literally as a "filling up of the sky".

He said his friends tease him about being a doting father to an extreme degree. Banjerd bought pricey Bally shoes for the physician who delivered Panpan, discreetly hopped on a plane to Hong Kong to buy baby clothes for his baby daughter on the first night - and even hangs Panpan's baby shoes in his car.

His devotion is unquestionable, but bringing up Panpan to live a good and righteous life is also one aspect of how he raises his daughter.

"The day she was born, I told Waen that she must take care of herself now because I have to take care of our daughter."

Banjerd is not as strong as he once was - he's had two balloon surgeries and three years ago, he had a near death experience when his heart stopped beating and he had to be revived by doctors.

"I want to live long enough to be able to see my daughter grow up. She's a really good kid who shows determination in whatever she wants to do and she's loved by all her teachers and friends. I am confident that she will grow to be a good person. I always try my best to instil good things in her by stressing she must try to be a good person as much as possible.

"At her age there is only one thing that I worry about and that is boys. She's a teenager and I teach her to be patient and not to base her decisions on style or looks, but to look at determination and purpose in life. You can be rich, but without a purpose in life, you'll end up squandering everything away. The important thing is that a woman must learn to be independent."

Banjerd takes Panpan and his wife on trips outside Bangkok and they often eat out. He snuggles with Panpan after she comes back from practise late at night and if he spots a bruise he'll massage it with ointments.

Thitima joked about Panpan being perfectly normal when she's with Mum; but the moment she sees her father, it's all aches and pains just to get Dad to rub in some medication.

Serving as an example

A big heart, generosity and popularity is what Panpan sees in her father.

Wherever they go, people come and pay their respects to Banjerd. It is clear that her father is loved by many and has an effervescent effect on anyone who comes into contact with him. In short, Banjerd's an entertainer.

''When they

[the parents] go to work at Grammy, people give normal greetings to my mother but if it's my father, they literally jump on him and are so happy to see him. It's always like this. He taught me to wai everyone, and that if we are a good person we will eventually be loved by everyone else.''

She said: ''Mae Waen (Mother Waen) is devoted to taking me to practise and school. She whispers to my father if she's tired but only he can convince her to take time off from practise.

''But when it's time for competition, both of them have a way of taking the pressure and stress off me. My father tells me to treat it like practise, no pressure, no stress, because I perform well in practise already.

''Mum tells me that rhythmic gymnastics is a competition between me and myself.''

Thitima added that it's just like performing at concerts where her husband encourages her to do her best by concentrating on the task at hand. ''The important thing in gymnastics is not to feel the pressure.''

The road to professional rhythmic gymnastics

Panpan said that her interest in gymnastics was spawned by her ballet classes.

Flexibility enables a ballet dancer to perform beautiful routines.

''I didn't like it at first. I cried a lot. The Russian coach was so strict. I asked my father for permission to quit but the coach kept on sending me to competitions.''

Thitima opined that determination is a key ingredient for gymnastics; Panpan has practised harder and competed more during the past two years.

Thitima has also placed priority on Panpan's health, food supplements and injury prevention.

Perhaps being the daughter of Waen Thitima has made Panpan a familiar face. Mum's fans always strike up conversations and make small talk. Too often she's invited on stage, but Thitima is always careful because she does not want her daughter to feel any unnecessary pressure.

''People want to honour me and single me out by announcing my name. I understand that gesture but I just make do like any normal mum. I don't want to pressure her and be the centre of attention. Panpan's needs to focus while I blend in with other parents'', said Thitima.

Pursuit of (Mum's) Happiness

Thitima's colleagues at Grammy Plc understand the importance and the amount of devotion the diva gives to her beloved daughter.

She made it very clear that choosing between selling millions of albums and her daughter achieving success in gymnastics, Thitima would prefer the latter because Panpan's success is so much more important than her own.

''It means that we've created and nurtured another human being. I have done my duty as a mother and supported her dreams. To this day, I am very satisfied. I worry sometimes because my daughter has never been hurt before because she has always been successful at whatever she does. But I try to build up her immunity, tell her that she must be a good person and be willing to sacrifice. Each and every day all she does is to make her parents proud.

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