How Krom Ngoy outsmarted Phirum Yu with a clever response!
There was a story that when Krom Ngoy traveled via Battambang to return to Cambodia, he met Phirum Yu, a talented poet and language master. Phirum Yu asked Krom Ngoy to participate in a competition because he had heard that Krom Ngoy was a great poet and singer.
Where is Meru Mountain? Pirum Yu asks Krom Ngoy in the song. What location is it in? What is the height? What’s the distance from here? “If you are so curious like this, do you want me to tell you the truth or do you want me to lie,” Krom Ngoy replied.
Phirum Yu responded, “I asked in a bona fide manner; so, you must answer in a bona fide manner.” When Phirun Yu asked how big, how tall, and how far Meru Mountain was from Battambang, Krom Ngoy said that if he didn’t believe him, he should go see it for himself.
Phirum Yu replied that he agreed with what Krom Ngoy had just told him. In response, Krom Ngoy questioned Phirum Yu, “How far is Battambang Market from Phnom Penh by road? And how many kilometers, if one takes the Tonle Sap River route? Phirum Yu couldn’t respond.
Later on, Krom Ngoy sang, “A place and a country where you used to live, you cannot answer me,” and targeted sarcastic comments at Phirum Yu. You also asked me a question about a location I had never gone to. Even if I lied to you, you wouldn’t know if I lied or not.”
The criticism and sarcasm from Krom Ngoy towards Phirum Yu continued until he left the stage in shame. The poetic discussions were well received by the audience, who also applauded Krom Ngoy when Phirum Yu left the stage. The winning prizes—a white horse and 400 riels in cash—were given to Krom Ngoy by the governor of Battambang (a huge sum at that time).
Since then, a lot of prose singers have been hesitant to compete against him. The only person who could match his poetic ability was Sann, the village chief of Pleung Chhess Rotess commune in the Phnom Penh district, who was also his close friend and regular duet partner.
Everywhere these two performed, a large audience of spectators traveled from near and far to hear them sing.
Source: A Biography of Krom Ngoy, the Father of Khmer Poetry: http://khmerization.blogspot.com