Friday, January 13, 2017

The Night She Rest In Peace; Longing for a Burmese Poet – Kyi Aye

(Kyi Aye (13th December 1929 – 2016))

(A photo of Kyi Aye (left), and the sketch of her (right), the artist – unknown)

A very rare woman poet in Burma, Kyi Aye, an old friend of my grandparents, once lived together at Aye-Yeik-Tha in the year around 1950. She was at that time, a Rangoon University student attending a bachelor of arts. She later studied at University of Medicine, and became a doctor. My grandma and she were closed friends. Grandma admired her because of her strong ambition in the education, and her beautiful literary works and her own successful household life with 8 children (including a pair of twins.). Grandma and she discussed about literature for a long time until she left Burma (1970?).

Kyi Aye had been already writing poems and romance since her high school. Her romantic poems were famous for not only her writings, but also for the artistic feelings themselves. While I was reading her poems in my younger days, I thought Omar Khayyam was reborn as our poet, Kyi Aye in Burma. Her famous Myanmar poem, - ‘The Night I Cannot Sleep’ in Burmese, was still the most popular poem. It’s popularity can compare one of the short four verses of Khayyam; ‘A Loaf of Bread,...thou beside me,…’

Her selected words were gentle, simple, and calm. I was proud to say that the beauty of our Burmese poetic languages was found in her writing. Unfortunately, I could not dare to translate her poems into English without destroying her poetic sense, and sensibility. So, let it be. … I would say that we are lucky, because we could taste the new Khayyam’s tongue in the 20th century.

(An old photo of Aye-Yeik-Tha group. My grandparents were standing in the middle, and my father, sitting in front of my grandmother. Kyi Aye stood at the right hand side of my grandmother, Khin Myo Chit – writer of Colourful Burma.)

Kyi Aye passed away in 28th December 2016 at the age of 87. I had never met her in my life before. I only saw her at Aye-Yeik-Tha photos from my grandparents. She looked slim, simple and plain as her poems hold. Her big eyeglasses showed the way of an educated woman. Her Burmese fan must remember her, especially her famous verses, ‘The Night I Cannot Sleep’. I wondered if she was born again as a poet in the next life, I would wish to hear her new poems alive in the 21st century.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Annual Moegaung Pagoda Festival

 (Moegaung pagoda was seen behind the busy road, and tress.)
Moegaung pagoda was situated at the Moegaung Pagoda road, near Yankin. Every year on December, Moegaung pagoda festival was held. There was a week or sometimes 2 weeks fair held at the pagoda ground. Although my grandma wrote, ‘Every pagoda has an annual festival.’ we rarely see the annual pagoda festivals in every pagoda except Moegaung pagoda in our days. For the people who were hunger for pagoda festivals, were waiting for the Moegaung Pagoda festival comes.

(The evening view of Moegaung Pagoda.)
Moegaung Pagoda stands at the side of the Moegaung Pagoda road, East Rangoon. The locality is a busy road with daily traffic and people around. There was a large estate of Moegaung monastery near Moegaung Pagoda. Monks and lay devotees always care, and do maintenance for the Pagoda. The season festival on every December always takes place in the Moegaung pagoda ground. So, there were trade fairs, and colourful goods from all over the country were seen in the place in the festival. 

(Burmese foods sold in the festival ground.)

(Chairs and tables welcomed all the visitors for foods and cuisines sold in the festival.)

(Until night, still crowding, and crowding.)
            Especially the Burmese foods were seen at the pagoda ground, and people loved to walk around, and tasted them with delight. Before the evening came, people wondered under the long winding rows of temporary stalls built of bamboo and, shopping Burmese foods, and colourful goods with excitement.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Day at the Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

          For the Burmese Buddhists, to go to the pagoda is, to do good deeds, and pay respects to the Buddha. At least they walk around keep the pagoda on the right, in complete circle, and stop at their birthday corner, and watering the stupa, and wishing whatever they want to.

There were 4 entrances; East, South, West, and North to reach at the top of the hill where Shwedagon Pagoda stands. People ascended the stairs from the entrance as they wished. At the top of the hill, they were buying flowers and candles at the stall, and offering at the foot of the pagoda, and walking as keeping the pagoda always on the right side.

(People always keep the pagoda on their right side. It was a symbol of respecting the Buddha told from one of Buddha’s stories.)

Often the Buddhist stopped at the corner belonged to the day of their birth; Monday or Tuesday, or Wednesday, etc with its ruling sign and its mythical symbol. People paid respect, and watering or offering flowers, candles at the corner. There were cups, and water already there to pour both Buddha image, and the mythical symbol. There, counting the number of cups we poured that represented our recent age. For example, if you are 17, pouring 18 cups of water. But it was not always necessary. 3 cups of water (3 cups of water represent the Three Gems of Buddha, Dhamma (Buddha’s Teaching) and Sangha (venerable monks)), or 5 cups of water (5 cups of water represent the Three Gems of veneration, our parents, and our teachers.) would be good enough. 

 (The Buddhist stopped at the corner belonged to the day of their birth; and pouring water at the Buddha statue, ruling sign and its mythical symbol)

We can also do this deed on behalf of our friends, and our relatives. I did this good deed on behalf of my grandma. At that time, her age turned to 70, so I poured 71 cups of water at my grandma’s birthday corner; the Saturday.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Medicine Night’

(The silver super moon we saw last night on the full moon day of Tahsaungtaing.)

Families in Burma gathered in front of their door, all together looked at the full moon in the dark sky, waiting the time as the astrologer said, holding a small plate of something like green salad. When the time came, they grabbed their spoon, and took a spoonful of that green salad, and had a good taste, and still looking at the moon.

My dear reader, don’t be puzzled. If you knew today is the full moon day of Tahsaungtaing, is the day all the stars are surely seen in the sky, moreover if you are familiar with Burmese custom, you would not be surprised to hear such performance.

Yes, on the day of full moon day of Tanhsaungtaing, no star can be hidden. It means that what we eat in this night, good for our health even the water you drink turn to an effective medicine. In the Burmese way, especially to have more effective medicine, we must eat ‘Mei Za Li buds’ (natural buds from plant) (Cassia Siamea) by the instruction of the astrologer for what time we will have to eat. This year 2016, on the 14th of November, on the full moon day (the time super moon appeared), we would have to eat ‘Mei Za Li’ at 8:46:37 PM by the instruction of the astrologer.

(Preparing Mei Za Li salad before the time comes.)

The original ‘Mei Za Li’ taste was very bitter. So we mixed with lime, onion, salt, sugar, sesame oil and other materials to have a good taste. We believed that it would be good for our health for the coming year. We have to buy this thing as quickly as possible in the market because it could be out of sold on this very day. Some said that if we cut off the leaves of the ‘Me za Li’ at the time as the astrological says, and kept them, and ate tomorrow or at the day appropriate, they were still effective and could use as medicines.

Unfortunately, I caught cold, and have been sick before the full moon day. I could not go to the market and buy Mei Za Li buds. Fortunately, Mei Za Li tree grow in our garden, but the tree was cut off few weeks ago. Luckily, we have young leaves that grew beautifully at the tree. We could cut the young leaves, and make salad, and ate under the super moon in the dark night, and wished I would be in good health soon.

I feel better after eating the Mei Za Li leaves salad. See! I gained my strength back, and can write this post, and update it!

(Mei Za Li leaves salad, not bad!)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

They Died with Their Boots On!

They Died with Their Boots On!

On the 15th October of 2016, the boat carrying about 300 passengers on board (the boat pecked over the legal limit), sank on 5:00 AM at Chindwon River in Burma. It was happened 10 days ago. On that day it was estimated that mostly university students, school teachers, workers, and doctors on the ferry.

(Alarmed to see such unsafe transportation for the people coastline.)

A report said that boat accidents are common in Burma. But people living along the nation’s coastline used to go by heavy ferry along with the system of poor maintained transport, and overcrowded vessel. They risked their life as soldiers at war. A total of 154 people were recused alive after the ferry disaster. Found 30 dead bodies by the rescuers. Sad to hear the tragic news told by the survivors lost their loved ones in the ferry crackdown.

After the dreadful accident the death toll reached 100 so far, still missing bodies remained. Family still waits along the Chindwon River whether their loved ones would be found in the strong river flow. People at coastline used such unsafe transportation although they felt it was a dangerous driving. Now they met a tragic disaster, and died with their boots on.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Letter To My Grandmother; You Will Never Know What We Have Lost

A Letter To My Grandmother; You Will Never Know What We Have Lost

(Grandma titled, ‘Will you ever know what you have lost?’ at the Working People’s Daily newspaper in the July of 1975 about the earthquake that destroyed the old pagodas of Pagan.)

My grandma, Khin Myo Chit – writer of Colourful Burma- wrote ‘Will you ever know what you have lost?’ at the Working People’s Daily newspaper in the July of 1975 about the severe earthquake that destroyed many of the old pagodas of Pagan. In the article, she lettered to her grandchildren that she was so unhappy for hearing the news of the earthquake strike at Pagan where she was dreaming of taking her twins-grandchildren to enjoy the historical place of Pagan.

The earthquake so happened at the evening of 6:35 PM on the 7th May of 1975. She always said to me that her great grandfather, great scholar, and archaeologist, taught her to love Pagan. Because of his teaching, and explanation of archaeological discoveries of old Pagan, she could later write a historical novel ‘Anawrahta of Burma’ (King Among Men) – history of the old Pagan King. I read many times the book, and was thinking that one day I would be there and see the remarkable places that my grandma had high-lighted in the book.

But I visited at the first time to Pagan after my grandma passed away. At that time, I listed the names of the historical places, and pagodas that I was planning to go. I believed my grandma saw me from heaven, and would accompany the visit with me.

(I visited the place where the statue of the royal horse of King Anawrahta (Pagan King) stayed at Shwe Zee Gon Pagoda.)

(All the souvenirs that I met at Pagan, I still remembered and missed them.)

I learnt from the natives that some remarkable places had been destroyed and lost. They showed me some old pagodas that had been destroyed, and some notable pieces that were lost, and some historical fragments that were no more. Here, I whispered; ‘Grandma…. You will never know what we have lost? Not because of the earthquake of 1975, but because of human destruction.’

Now I heard the news of the earthquake that destroyed many of the old pagodas of Pagan at 5:05PM of 24th August of 2016. I wondered what my grandma would write if she heard the news of the earthquake.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Adventure of My Book Reading - I Am Reading Encyclopedia

A Present from My Grandmother When I was 10

(The old copy of The Modern Encyclopedia for Children.)

The old edition of The Modern Encyclopedia for Children (1966) that our grandmother (Khin Myo Chit – writer of Colourful Burma, etc) gave to her twins grandchildren when they were 10. Her own handwriting on the first page brought me back to the memory of our childhood. The book was a huge book, and it seemed difficult for ten-year-old children. But at that time the twins could read this book by the help of their grandparents, and their parents. They taught us how to read the dictionary of Encyclopedia. Our granny showed the pictures inside of the book, and explained everything what we asked. It was a long time ago. We are only 10 when our granny gave this old edition of The Modern Encyclopedia for Children. We kept this book at our library not only as a memory of my grandmother, but also it still needs for the learner.

(It was a huge book, but very interesting to read.)

(Pictures inside still attract me.)

We also have The New Universal Encyclopedia (1950?) in ten volumes from our grandparents. Although those ten volumes were in the old edition, they were very useful until now. When I grew older, I was hungry for new Updated Encyclopedia series. But my parents could not buy them, because they were too expensive for us.

(The old copy of The New Universal Encyclopedia that I have been learning since my childhood.)

In 1980, we received Practical Knowledge For All in 6 volumes from our grandfather (grandpa from my mother’s side). He gave us his books unwillingly, because he valued them very much, and he also wanted to share other grandchildren. I remembered my father begged him to give us his books. Finally, grandpa decided to give us. At that time, my parents also needed them too, because they were writing articles about Science, History, Geography, etc in some magazines in Burma. They received good ideas from those books. There was thousands of information about Agriculture, Art, Politics, etc with various subjects as Mathematics, Biology, History, etc and also with different languages and so on with colorful pictures, and photos.

(Grandpa’s memory. We still use them with great pleasure.)

In 1988, we had a chance to browse books at The International School situated at Insein Road, Kamayut, Rangoon, Burma. Yearly, they sold not only old books, but also other things at reduced prices to public. There my parents found The Home Library Encyclopedia in Ten Volumes of 1970. But one of the volumes, volume 4 – Masterpieces Of The Arts was missing. We were beggars cannot be choosers. Although we wanted to buy the complete set of it, we had no other choice. We hoped we would find the missing volume at the bookshops one day. But it was not easy to find it until then.

(One volume is missing. But all the rest fulfilled our needs of knowledge for many years.)

Whenever we went to the bookshops, and saw Encyclopedia in 23 or 24 volumes, I wished I would buy and keep at our library one day. We could not buy the Encyclopedia until my mother’s friend sold her complete set of old Encyclopedia Britannica (1976) in 23 volumes at the cheaper price to us in 1999. She was a well-educated person. She wanted to sell her Encyclopedia Britannica to a true booklover. For 23 volumes, we had to pay the price of only one. Imagine! How happy we are at that moment!

(The complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica that we keep as our own.)

Since our childhood, we always heard our grandparents talked of rare edition of Encyclopedias, and of ancient poets and their lives. They valued books, and our parents too invested in books for the library. I always was buying books whatever money I earned from my royalty however our country is in the state of poor in books.


I am thinking about the updated Encyclopedia (2015 or 2016) in complete volumes that I still want to buy and keep at our library. I wish I could do one day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Seasonal Flower in Rainy Season

(Wa-zou-ban flowers in rainy season. Very rare to see Purple colored Wahso in Rangoon.)
Especially flowering in the rainy season, Wa-zou-ban (herbaceous plants) are sold every corner of the market. People love to buy them, and offered at their household shrines. Its color was mixed with white and orange. It looks like a bell, and hung beautifully by its pattern. Bearing purple blossoms was a rare to see in Rangoon, we can call it ‘country Wa-zou-ban’.

(Wa-zou-bans are popular and have best attraction in the market place.)
            Wa-zou-bans are easy to plant in the garden. Its stem can be grown naturally in the soil. We can plant again and again their stems, and it will grow, and increase in the next rainy season, or sometimes it quickly blossoms if it gets water enough.

 (Easy to grow in the garden.)