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