Saturday, 19 March 2016
Monday, 7 March 2016
A Pansodan Old Book Seller
Sweat is streaming down on his cheeks under the blaring Sun. U Hla Win, a street vendor of Pansodan Street is trying to lay out old books, pamphlets, old post cards, magazines, calenders and papers. He hopes that today also he can make some money selling old items from his vendor shop. He has to start his shop around 1 p.m, which may be an official time for opening up a street vendor shop like his.
"Good afternoon, U Hla Win!"
My greeting makes him turn his head around. He is a man of sixty years old, but he seems younger than his age. He usually wears a shabby hat and cloth. And he has stub moustache, and beard. But he does not care much about it. It seems that he wants to keep a low profile.
When he sees me, he smiles at me, as usual because he sees me here often when I look for old books.
"No book is sold yet."
Then, one book attracts my attention. It's title is Love written by Rosemary Haughton. The cover is old enough. I ask him the price, then, he replies,
"It's Ks 500."
The deal between us sets. Today, I come here not only to look for a book but also to do an interview with him. Later he starts his story in this way:
"I'm from Alone township. I started it when I was in my early 20s when I got married. I've never done any other jobs apart from it. I have got a family, I have got two daughters. One of them is a graduate from Distance University."
"In those days, I used to sell old books on different places: Myay Ni Gone, Chauk Htet Yone(6-storey building), Upper Bosunpat Street(formerly known as Maung Htaw Lay Street) which is closer to the famous Bogyoke Aung San Market. Then, I moved my venue to the middle block of Kone Zay Tan Street."
Later, when he found a spot on Pansodan Street, he decided to open up his vendor shop on it. The possible reason for setting up his vendor shop here is that it is close to the famous Sar Pay Beik Mam building, which is also known as BTS building which is Burma Translation Society.
Another thing can be that on this street, many famous writers, artists, editors and poets walked down on their way to BTS building, and Lawkanat Art Galerry. Some other literary enthusiats spend most of their times around this area whenever they need books to be looked for. This is their meeting place. That is why when he chose to open his vendor shop. If it was why, it was the right decision he made for it.
He has been doing this kind of job over 40 years because he started doing this around 1975 when he says that in those days selling books was well enough because there was much interest from the side of the public. He could earn Ks 40 or Ks 50 a day. That amount was good for supporting a family, but it was still hopeless for being well-off.
Nowadays, he needs to earn Ks 4000 or Ks 6000 a day to cover his daily expenses. Sometimes, it is well to do the business, but sometimes it is not very well because there are days on which any books cannot find their potential buyers. One thing is that the reading rate has became declined.
He has been through good and bad times of selling books in Yangon.
Anyone can see him when he is preparing to open up his vendor shop around 1 p.m in front of the Post and Telecommunication office on Pansodan Street. Though life is tough on him to some degree, he still has stamina and resilience to run his shop. What a zeal he has got!
Photos and texts by San Lin Tun
Sand Stupa Festival
The weather becomes a bit hot when Tabaung, the final month of Myanmar calender comes in. But, in olden days, it was truly said that the weather is moderate as compared to the present climate. Even dry leaves began to fall from their trees, leaving them all bare, and showing the impermanence nature of them.
Some ancient Myanmar poets says that it is the best month of the year when they try to compose its excellent beauty. Not only the glamor of this season is composed in Myanmar classical verses, but also the monk Kaludayi composed the tranquility of this season with pali language. He tried to plead respectfully this event to Lord Buddha that itinerant travelers could enjoy the delight of Tabaung during their trip. He said it with 60 gathas(verses).
In Tabaung, on white, and pure riverbanks many birds find much felicity to enjoy the pleasure of the season. Apart from them, humans began to show their interest in that, but not in fowl ways, but in humane ways. Because of blissful and soothing mind, they decide that they should venerate Lord Buddha.
Then, they found sand which can be used for building sand stupas. One thing they choose sand is that it is pure in its essence. Another one can be that there were countless Buddhas appeared in the successive worlds and aeons. They want to venerate infinite numbers of Buddhas. Sand is the perfect catalyst for this purpose.
In this month, people try to celebrate sand stupa festivals along the sandbank of the Ayyerwaddy river. Though the sand stupa is temporary for veneration and it has to be completed in a day, they worship it by offering a thousand candles as well as flowers to gain much merit for their virtuous conducts.
They think that it can be done when the weather favors them by providing them with necessary item which is pure sand, and receding water level. Later, this trait handed down from generation to generation. Younger ones also want to preserve this tradition in their times. They also think that it should be well preserved for devotional purposes.
For anyone who is interested in sand stupa, there is a story about making it can be seen in Apadana pali texts in this way. A hermit named Narada was living in a hut near Himalaya Mountain. Because of possessing potent power, he had many disciples who praised him a lot.
One day, the hermit reflected on thus: "I have no one who admonishes me. I need to nurture the attitude of seeking a good teacher whom I can be obedient. I'm going to search for a respectful, appreciable, and venerable teacher."
Near his humble abode, a small river flowed and there was full of pure sand he could see. Truly, it was very pleasant. The hermit made a stupa with those sand, and venerated it with much respect as if it were a real Buddha.
Later, he contemplated thus: " Though living near to the Buddha, it is not suitable without eradicating mental defilement." After his demise, he enjoyed reaching good destinations many times until finally reaching Nibbana. 1
People celebrate building the sand studpas without knowing this story or not. They think that it is satisfactory and pleasant to perform this noblest act during their lifetime. They also think that their devotion will be enhanced because of that.
Some people build it for removing bad kammas or for warding off dangers they are going to face. Though difference in reasons and purposes, anyone can build it with the genuine sense of devotion. It will be more beneficial for anyone who has clear consciousness of the ultimate goal of a Buddhist.
The benefit gained by donating sand can be seen in this story. One day, a hunter went on hunting a deer, and found a sanctuary dwelt by the Buddha. Feeling wonderful, he fetched sand and laid it down the precinct of it. After his death, he never reached any woeful abodes because of its good action until he reached his arahanta.2
These stories can uplift the morale of any devotees whenever they read this kind of story. Some people want to adopt this trait if they have a chance to do it. Though it seems meager in shape and size of sand stupa, the benefit one gets from building is enormous, one can say.
Ipso facto, those who understand the salient features of sand stupas want to build them when Tabaung is coming in. Also, they think that it is the best and perfect time for it.■
San Lin Tun
1. pg, 127, Vasondari and traditional items by Teik Soe
2. Ibid, 128
Saturday, 13 February 2016
Suppose you are hungry a bit some hours after your lunch. You imagine that it will be nice to have tea and some Myanmar snacks. But, again, it is noteworthy that tea is an option, it is not a compulsory.
That time, a street vendor is calling out from the depth of his throat in this way, "Shwe Yin Aye, Moat Let Saung!". One can say that it is really euphonic to listen to them.
Any householders glance at one another and wait for final decision. One of them has realized the message another one gives, and goes out to the verendah and calls out the seller to halt. Later, they send a child there and ordered two cups of Shwe Yin Aye, and one cup of Moat Let Saung for them.
Normally, the diligent vendor comes to their less quiet surrounding at about one in the afternoon. The inhabitants of the street know that it is the appropriate time for having some snacks. But, for some people, their tea time or break time is around 3:30 or 4:00 in the evening.
We can conclude that we, Myanmar people, like to have snacks between these hours: 1:00 p.m to 4:oo p.m. We also know that we have richness in Myanmar traditional snacks. But, some want to enjoy modern foods at some famous food chains in Yangon.
The splendid and dazzling modern delicacies can really attract anyone who wants to taste them. But, they prefer traditional snacks. For "Shwe Yin Aye", it is suitable for hot and sunny hours of Tabotwe, Tabaung, and Tagoo. But, one can eat it anytime one likes to have. No restrictions on this part. At one's fancy, one can have it. Actually, both of them are really good for consuming.
The best thing to try "Shwe Yin Aye" is one of its ingredients, which is Kyauk Kyaw which is a bit softy, and jelly like. Normally, I firstly taste it with a spoonful of the sweet solution of squeezed coconut juice induced with sugar. Later, sagu or tapioca, and a slice of bread. It can surely cool your warm chest because the weather is a bit hot under the blaring, merciless sun.
Another one is Moat Let Saung which is the concoction of green colour Mote Phat (rice droplets), sagu and the sweet solution of squeezed coconut. It can be served with another solution made of jaggery. It is more tasty and good for everyone who does not like the taste of coconut. Especially, a person with hypertension should stay away from having it with coconut solution.
At some other time, they want to enjoy other Myanmar snacks. Then, they look for them in other streets. Mostly, the vendor sellers gather near apartment buildings and government buildings.
The vendors are very smart to understand their market place where their real consumers will definitely come and buy snacks from them. Actually, they are trying to fulfill their needs.
Apart from above-mentioned two snacks, the other favourite snacks they have is "Moat Lin Ma Yar , literally translated as (The Couple Snack)." It is really tasteful one. One thing interesting about this snack is that when it is made, they use a special pan which has got 50 cavities in it. They pour dough into the swallow cavity, letting the outer layer of it to be a little bit crisped. But, the inside of it is not meant to be criped. Then, they put boiled pea sometime or they will put quail egg into it to make it more tasty. It is much mouth watering to think about it.
Just a thought on it gives one its smell and taste appearing in the mind of the thinker. So much influential on people. Finally, the seller sprinkles pounded sessame to have got perfect taste of it.
Another one is "Baine Moat", which is "Myanmar Pan Cake" which has got two kinds. The one is tawny colour sweeter one, and the other is a non sweet whitish one. The first one is suitable for someone who wants to have sweet. The smell is really good, and the taste is exceptional. Anyone cannot deny the allurement of these delicacies. It is the best when one eats with a cup of tea. A perfect pair one can say. The second one is liked by girls rather than boys, because sometimes it is served with shroudded chilies studded on the face of it and that will give the whole pencake the hot taste.
But, people have different temperaments, and likings. They will choose whatever they like. It is only up to them. Anyway, these snacks are the favourite ones of Myanmar. Accordingly, they will have them whenever they feel fanciful to them.
It is the best way to suppress one's hunger by having one's traditional snacks. It will whet Myanmar appetite, bon appetit!!!■
San Lin Tun
Thursday, 4 February 2016
Time to Celebrate VALENTINE'S DAY
Valentine's Day! What a thrilling word for me, Naing Naing thought. She knew that this year Valentine's Day would be really special for her, because Ko Aung and she became lovers a month ago. It was such a happiness she felt when they found out each other's love. She thought that it was a really blessing moment of their life.
She knew that Ko Aung would love her sincerely because he had spent much time to court her. Every day he was waiting for her outside of her office to accompany her to go back home. Not a single day he missed his mission of going home together with her. He was such a kind of wonk.
Naing Naing noticed that Ko Aung was following her up to the bus stop but not too close, he kept his own distance. When the bus for her came, he just appeared on the scene and followed her up to the bus, which was all the time crowded with passengers.
That time, he stood a few far down from her, and staring at her. When she got off from the bus, he followed her too. He stopped his steps when she entered her compound of the house. But, he showed his hesitation, lingering around the house, though he lived in the same street.
This became his routine. There is a proverb goes, "Perseverance wins the girl's heart". This time it shows that it is true because later, she thought she should give him a chance and on that day they became lovers. It was such a great pleasure to be a couple. They could eat whatever they liked on the way back home.
She liked pork sticks so much that he had to agree with her, and sat together with her though he didn't like them much. But, they felt such a liberty to enjoy time together.
This time, she knew that she wanted to do something special for their loverhood. That would be remembered until they were getting old. She suggested Ko Aung that they visit some shopping centers and wear same colour and same fashion on that day.
"Ko Aung, Valentine's Day is coming nearer. We should do something memorable for ourselves. What about wearing the same fashion on that day?", said Naing Naing enthusiastically.
At first, Ko Aung didn't want to wear like that. He thought that it was unneccessary. And, he thought that it would be like some kind of "Yeine" troupe who usually perform their dance together. Actually, he felt a little bit shy and hesitant to wear like that.
Ko Aung seemed silent on that because he didn't want to do any ceremonious thing. Actually, it was not his type. But, he understood that he had to be sensible because a girl could be grumpy on that small matter.
"Um, if you wish, let's do it. But, I don't want to look ridiculed by others. I don't want to lose my face on that. All I want is to be happy with you", bemused by Ko Aung.
Now, the decision went back to Naing Naing who smiled broadly, and she said that she would devise the plan for that. She just said Ko Aung that he should wear a white shirt and a good quality longyi which she would buy them for him. For her, she would plan the dress. In this way, they had got their agreement.
Finally, the day came.
Holding hand in hand, they tried to find their way in the dazzling shopping center. They could see many other couples wearing the same dresses on this day and showed much happiness in their faces. They thought that they seemed a bit different from other couples and they were outstanding among them.
Both of them noticed other people were looking at them, not with contempt but with much admiration. Only then, Ko Aung looked at Naing Naing who was wearing a pink sleeveless silk blouse and a pink sarong which had got intricate floral patterns around it. The pink colour was compatible with her fair complexion. Also, she applied a patch of thanakkha on each cheek to enhance her beauty. He realized how beautiful and elegant her beauty was. He felt a wave of admiration spreading across his whole body. He felt really proud of having such a tender and graceful girl.
He simply thought that he was such a lucky person and this special moment would be kept in his heart forever. As long as their love existed, he would feel this sensation again and again. He hoped that this was the thing he needed for the life to come.
Naing Naing also looked back at her lover, Ko Aung who looked spic and span in his Myanmar dress. Now they understood that anyone could show their own beauty with one's own cultural identity which was not outdated in any age. This is the beauty depicted by the couple. They felt really happy and satisfied with what they did on this special day. Both of them felt that the love between them seemed more enhanced.
As youths, they wanted to celebrate Valentine's Day together with others who were the same age as them. Also they understood that they should gain something valuable for them on this special moment. Now they got what they wanted: pleasure, understanding, and satisfaction which would bring much meaning to their relationship.
Written by San Lin Tun