Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ma Thein Shin - Chapter Two

(On 6 January 1966 General Ne Win’s Revolutionary Socialist Government stupidly prohibited the civilian populace from transporting, storing, distributing, and trading of 460 basic commodities including the staples such as rice, peanut-oil, and salt. Hta-nyet (jaggery) was one of those restricted commodities and a large scale smuggling trade of Hta-nyet had developed overnight in Middle Burma where most of it is produced.)

Year 1967 

It was dawn and still the thin mist had shrouded the early morning. I was standing at the doorway of a passenger car and looking for Nyo Nyo at her usual waiting place by U Kaung Zon’s Shop as the big train slowly entered Myo-lu-lin Station drowned in the mixture of pale darkness and bright light.

Back then I myself even didn’t notice the strong attachments started forming in my heart. Some days if I didn’t find her in that usual spot underneath the big banyan tree I always felt something missing inside of me.

She also would stand up from the seat underneath the banyan tree and look up at the train as if she was searching for me as the train came. And whenever she saw me her little round face would lighten up as if she was really happy even though she tried to hide that once she noticed I was happily looking at her too.

Even after loading her baskets onto the train she wouldn’t disappear inside the train. She would pretend to be busy moving her baskets here and there as if she wanted me to see her that she was already on the train.

Quite often I was busy working on the other cars and I couldn’t go to her car straight away. Then she would hang partly out of the doorway like a young boy and try to look out to the car I was in. If she ever saw me looking back at her she would become shy and disappeared back inside her car.


One day I had nothing important to do in the other cars so I jumped onto the steps of the car where she was standing at the doorway and smiled and said hello to her. If I went up and stood beside her she would become shy again so I stayed on the steps.

She didn’t dare to look at my face and she was suddenly busy tidying her hairs around the ears.

“I was afraid Ko Yin Maung Gyi wasn’t on the train,” she said like a happy child to me.
“Next times, Ko Yin Maung Gyi stays in the middle car. Ny Nyo always sits at U Kaung Zone’s Shop so that Ko Yin Maung Gyi could see Nyo Nyo. Next times, just look for me there, the seat underneath the Banyan Tree. If you do not find Nyo Nyo there I’m not going to the markets that day, okay?”

I didn’t dare to stare at her face but I could still see her whole body. She was growing fast and her usual tight blouse was now torn apart at both sides and the pieces of old cloths were used to mend the sides together. As I stared at her too long she became really shy and she bent her head down almost onto her chest.

“Don’t stare at me like that,” I thought I could even hear what she was saying in her mind.
Once her Pa-dee-gone Village was visible ahead she quietly said, “Father was telling me to ask Ko Yin Maung Gyi to visit our house. But I don’t really want to. Our house is so wrecked. I am ashamed of it. But father said you are our benefactor!”

I just quietly smiled back at her. By then I knew very well that she was having a strange effect on me as my heart and mind warmed up whenever I was near her.

Day after day, time after time, that warmth was becoming more prominent that I was even mentally exhausted. At the same time I knew same thing was happening within her. Sometimes I felt like I saw in her big wide eyes a desire so intense that her eyes shined bright like a star.

“So today, up to where Nyo Nyo is going?”
“Today is Nat-maut market day!”
“Come up to Pin-chaung?”
Still with her head bent down she whispered to herself, “If Nyo Nyo has to pay all the train-fares it must be a lot. When I win the lottery I’ll pay back Ko Yin Maung Gyi all the fares.”
“Have you already bought a lottery ticket?”
“Nyo Nyo is still thinking about it,” she then openly laughed out aloud as if the little girl still inside of her had suddenly reappeared.

Her child-like laugh brought me back to the earlier stage when I used to see her as a child and my heated mind also calmed down. Then I felt my mind was lightened and clear again. Her child-like laughs and the loud grind of the moving train were mixing together and becoming fun-filled music in my ears.

On her return trip on the evening that day she took my train too. It was almost dark when the train arrived at Myo-lu-lin. She unloaded her empty baskets first and then told me about next day.

“Tomorrow is Myo-thit Market Day!” She yelled out to me.

As the train was leaving she stood still at U Kaung Zone’s Shop and looked at me till I couldn’t see her no more. Together with her, U Kaung Zone’s Shop and the banyan tree and Myo-lu-lin village were standing still in silence at the distance.


Whenever I was going to take a leave I had to tell her in advance. Still I always worried about whether my substitute clerk was getting along with her. Once I had to take an emergency leave and I didn’t have a chance to tell her. Then I couldn’t sleep at all during my leave as I constantly worried about her as I knew she would be searching for me on the train.

The day I came back to my job I intentional rode the middle carriage as she asked me to and stood at the doorway so that she could easily see me. Then I saw her at her usual place in Myo-lu-lin. It was quite obvious to me she was looking at the train as if she was really hoping to see me. I would never be able to forget seeing her looking at me in such a way that day.

Since from a distance we were looking at each other as if we hadn’t seen see each other for a very long time. And then her childlike mind inside suddenly took over and she stood up and ran to me. She didn’t even know how to hide her happiness.

“Ko Yin Maung Gyi, Ko Yin Maung Gyi,” from among the crowd she was shouting at me.

She then shoved her baskets up into the doorway. Once the train had left the station we stood at the doorway facing each other.

“Where did you go?” she asked me with gusto.
I said, “Nyo Nyo is now prettier,” without really planning and her face went flushed as she gave me the evil eyes. I just laughed at her.
“Okay, now what are you gonna blame me for?”
“Not really, just answer Nyo Nyo’s question. Were you chasing women? Just tell me the truth.”
“What do you think?”
“I thought you were dead!”

She pretended to be angry while whispering these words at the same time tidying her hairs around the ears.

“Ko Yin Maung Gyi didn’t work for ten days. Okay, I counted everyday. The first day you didn’t work I got almost arrested. Since then I bought ticket everyday. You have to pay me back for all my tickets.

Nyo Nyo didn’t like that ticket-inspector. That’s why I bought ticket everyday. His name is Ko Mya Aung. Drinks too much and always smelt of grog. He has a bottle always in his bag. Ko Yin Maung Gyi, please don’t drink too much. Nyo Nyo hates it.

That Ticket-inspector even tried to chat me up. And then he teased me and asked if Nyo Nyo was missing you so much. He also said you would be back soon. Nyo Nyo told him yes I was missing you. And then he told me you went back home to get married. Is it true?”

Her cheeks were now reddish pink and they made me excited. Wind was also playing with her soft hairs on her forehead. Not seeing each other last ten days also made me feel strange in a way too. The warmth inside of me became more pronounced and I suddenly felt like grabbing her and holding her tight in my arms. I was strangely heated inside.

“I missed you everyday!” said she like a child.
“Next time Ko Yin Maung Gyi takes leave can you tell me in advance? Do not forget, okay!”

Arakan Ranges.
By then I tried not to stare at her as I suddenly felt like pulling her into my arms. So I deliberately looked away at the faraway mountain ranges. From the moving train the mist covered mountains appeared to be slowly following the train.

My innocent heart was now being filled with sexual attraction towards her and I somehow felt guilty as I still thought she was a child.


If she wasn’t on the train for a market day for some reason I couldn’t hide my desire to see her and talk to her and stand beside her at the doorway of the middle car. I felt empty inside of me if I didn’t see her sitting at her usual seat when I looked for her.

Everyday when the train approached Myo-lu-lin Station I would stand at the doorway of the middle car as she wanted me to. Then I would search for her among the passengers coming into the train. Only when every one was onboard I believed she wasn’t coming. I would secretly mark her market-going days in my mind.

After more than 20 days of not seeing her I even thought of asking U Kaung Zone. But I couldn’t as I didn’t want people to know I was attracted to a very young girl like Nyo Nyo. 

Whenever the train drove past her Pa-dee-gone I looked at the village and tried to figure out where her house might be. A small cloud of mist normally shrouded the groves of Tamarind and Tamar trees hiding the village. When the village was well past I started feeling that it had tried to chase the train but couldn’t and now slowly left behind in the distance.

Sometimes I tried to think of Nyo Nyo as just a child and almost succeeded. But only after a short while I again believed she and I were lovers. I was definitely missing her during that long period of not seeing her on the train.


When I saw her again after more than a month I was so excited my heart was beating almost out of my chest. When I saw her from the distance I thought seeing her that day was like seeing a dream angel. I couldn’t take my eyes away from her.

She was sitting there at her usual seat underneath the big banyan tree. Once train approached she stood up and stared at the train as if she came with a great big hope. She had a red blouse on. A blood-red blouse.

Her hair was no longer all tied together at the top of her head. It was let down and nicely cut short round her neck. She was completely different from the innocent young girl Nyo Nyo just a month ago. She was now a beautiful young woman and she was standing there as if she was declaring it to the world even though she didn’t intend it knowingly.

We immediately saw each other and ended up locking our stares together. She then started walking to where her baskets were. Rain was sprinkling and seeing her in the midst of drizzling mist was like I was in a dream.

The train had stopped and the doorway I was standing was right at where her baskets were. She looked up at me from the platform and smiled. But her smiles were not pronounced as she was also obviously excited by seeing me again.

I took the baskets from her and placed inside the car. She also came up and stood near me facing her at the doorway of the middle car. I had forgotten to greet her and she had too. She was smiling but she didn’t really look at my face.

The train had left the station and our heartbeats seemed to be drowned out by the grind of the train undercarriages. But I thought I could still hear her heartbeats over the train noises.

“I’ve heard Nyo Nyo’d eloped with a man?”
“Ko Yin Maung Gyi, don’t tease me,” said she while moving her baskets unnecessarily as she was shy and she didn’t want to face me at that awkward moment.

At that instance I let my mind go and stared at her whole body. After moving her baskets she stood up and ended up facing me close up. I looked deep into her eyes. I saw her long curly eyelashes. Her whole face became pinkish flushed and she just stared down at the floor. We were so close I could even hear her heavy breaths.

“I wasn’t so sure Ko Yin Maung Gyi would be on this train,” said she with a slightly trembled voice which made me desire her more.

Between the doorway and the rest of the car was the toilet and where we were standing had a sort of privacy quite appropriate for two lovers, I thought. She being really shy made me laugh and I couldn’t stop myself laughing quietly. But still my mind is really excited by my increasing desire for her.

“Nyo Nyo is becoming real pretty. You’re taking my breaths away,” I whispered into her ears.
“I love you Nyo Nyo, don’t you know that? I really love you Nyo Nyo. You already knew that,” said I and her eyes becoming big rounded like a little wild deer.

I was really excited and I stepped forward and held her both hands. She became aware of the situations and instinctively wriggled her hands out of mine.

“Oh, Ko Yin Maung Gyi, please don’t do that,” said she as stepping backward away from me.

She then suddenly turned around and walked briskly to the passenger seats inside the car. I just stood there at the door trying to calm myself down. What happened was just instantaneous outburst of love and desire for her and I didn’t really want to think whether it was bad or good.


She got off the train at Myo-thit Station that day. It was Myo-thit’s market day.

That afternoon when the train got back at Myo-thit I couldn’t find her on the platform as usual. I looked for her all over the place. I definitely knew she had to get on the train here to go back home, but I couldn’t find her.

Only when the train had left the station I found her among the traveling passengers while I was checking the tickets. She just glanced at me only once and then turned her face away from me. I also turned myself away from her and went and stood at the doorway.

I tried not to look at her and just stared at the outside scenery as the train was traveling towards Myo-lu-lin. I knew that she looked at me a few times but I wouldn’t look back at her. Not even once.

At Myo-lu-lin Station I just walked away from her towards the Guard Car. As the train was leaving I tired to catch a glimpse of her on the platform from the window. She was standing on the platform intentionally turning her back on the train and I had to smile.

For next few days I didn’t see her at her usual seat underneath the banyan tree at Myo-lu-lin. I thought she would be fine and treat me normal again like before. But she would not and day after day I worried more and more about her mistakenly believing that I was trying to take advantage of her.

I was even thinking to go look for her at her house whenever the train drove past her Pa-dee-gone Village. I was also exhausted by the constant worry that she would think I was only sexually attracted to her like other train clerks Sein Htun and Mya Aung and Soe Myint.

I wouldn’t forgive myself if she thought of my actions that way. I didn’t behave lightly towards her as I had loved her dearly from my heart.

Only later I found out she had been on the train every market day. At Myo-lu-lin she waited for the train at Ma Sein Mya’s Shop at the other side of track. She did the same thing too at other stations to avoid me deliberately. Childishly she teased me by giving me trouble for more than seven days.

Only at one evening on the return trip I found her again on the platform of Myo-lu-lin Station. She was sitting on the bench-seat at this far end of the platform and I saw her from the Guard Car at the end of the train.

The bench was underneath the neat row of Tamar tress and she was alone and looking towards the Guard Car but once she saw me she jerked her face away.

I jumped down as the train was slowing down and then walked to her and sat at one end of the bench. The bench was on the farthest end of the platform and away from other travelers and we were alone.

I sat down quietly there and didn’t talk to her for a while. I just stared at her face turned away from me and I thought I could almost hear her heart beats.

Then she turned back to me and said, “You want to check my ticket?” and showed me the ticket in her hand. Her voice was shaken.

It hurt me as now I truly knew what was in her mind. Her face was pale and her eyes were teary and her ticket-showing hand was shaken. She might have believed that I was just trying to advantage of her without really loving her as she was just a fare evader.

“Nyo Nyo, you should know what really is happening in my mind. If you don’t believe me at all I will never say I love you ever again,” I sadly promised her and she turned her face back to the train and sighed heavily.

I moved slightly nearer to her and said, “So you don’t know what is happening in my mind and how much I love you. I don’t know how to say it too. At first I loved you like a little sister. But then you are getting prettier and prettier. Is it my fault to love you because you are so lovely, tell me? Is it your fault to become prettier or my fault to love you because you are so pretty?”

She just shook her head as if she was confused and then said, “Shunting is finished and the loco is attached already,” and slowly stood up.

“Hang on a sec, Nyo Nyo?”
“Train is leaving soon.”
“Nope, you haven’t answered what I asked.”
“What do I have to say?”
“Say you love me before you go.”

By then she was already a couple of steps walking away but she turned around to look at me again.

“Oh, look, you are really giving me trouble. Nyo Nyo had a bad day today. I couldn’t sell my green chili. Also I had to buy tickets for both my return trip and cargo. I had to dump the bad veggies and losing four five kyats a day. I really want to cry out now!”

As she was walking to the train she also let her problems out aloud and made me laugh with satisfying pity for her. Then she turned around giving me her lovely evil eyes and I had to laugh loud aloud.

Before she went up the train she gave me a crying look and bit her lower lip as if she was angry and made me laugh at her again with a lot of love. I was so sure now that we were deeply in love!


(Prominent Burmese writer and poet Naing Win Swe (1940-1995) was killed in a jungle on Thai Border in 1995 by Burmese Army after he took to the jungle in the aftermath of failed 8-8-88 Uprising.

The legend is that, as he lay dead on the battleground his comrades picked wild flowers and covered his remains with the flowers before they retreated as they didn’t have enough time to bury him.

This fictionalized semi-autobiographical novel vividly depicts the utter sufferings of a society under the brutal Socialist System as both the rulers and the ruled become the hapless victims of that Evil Ideology called Socialism where State Controls almost everything and People Starve.)