Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ma Thein Shin – Chapter (5)

(Direct translation of late Naing Win Swe’s “Ma Thein Shi Si Pote Pay Bar”.)

(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.)

Whenever I had to work with Conductor Mya Own I used to drink cheap palm liquor once the train turned back from Kyauk-pan-daung towards Taung-dwin-gyi. Once the train was well past Kywe-wa hill it slowly turned nearly perpendicular and started running towards Gaung-hti hill.

“Hey, Yin Maung, working for the Railways is like walking on the tight rope strung between two deep cliffs. If you fell your body would be broken into many pieces, do you understand? What we’re doing here like taking money from the smugglers is dangerous job, you know that. But we are human and we have to eat if there is something to eat. It’s not our fault at all and they shouldn’t blame on us for doing what we’re doing.”
“Ha. ha, they can’t blame us for eating when someone is putting into our mouths. Yin Maung, you should never think about when you will lose your job or when you will be jailed. You can go crazy just by worrying about. We’re working for Railways because we’re bad and we’re corrupt. We must take bad money. That’s right, we must take bribe from the smugglers. Only problem is everyone knows we’re corrupt and taking bribe money. But we are honest and we do not hide our corruption, ha ha ha!”

I agreed with Mya Own’s philosophy of taking bribe money honestly from the smugglers without giving them a trouble. “Yes, yes, you’re right, we’re right!” agreed me totally. By then train had left the Indaw-gyel Station and Mya Own was so drunk he couldn’t even wave his flag to signal the driver. By the time train departed Nyaung-doe Station he was so drunk he started vomiting once or twice. Then he started dancing and singing aloud in his guard compartment.

“I’m drunk, so drunk, so bloody drunk, I just want to fuck Ma Mya Thein.”
“Ma Mya Thein has a husband,” I warned him.
“So what? I do not care, I just want to screw her.” By then train had decelerated as it approached the Pin-chaung Station.
“Already at Pain-chaung!”He whispered to himself and sat down crooked on his seat.

We both knew that once at Pain-chaung Station the station master Aung Naing Myint and his railway policemen would board the train and search for smuggled Hta-nyets and confiscated whatever Hta-nyet they found on the train. We also knew that Ma Aye Myint and Ma Aye Shwe, two smugglers who never got along well with Aung Naing Myint, were already hiding in the train toilets. Even we both were quickly sober by the tragedies waiting at the Pin-chaung Station. Mya Own even sighed heavily on his seat.

“That mother-fucker Shorty Aung Naing Myint! Just because he is a Station Master he always fucks us up because he has his policemen. Those motherfucking cops were militiamen putting on new uniform just yesterday. Hey, I don’t give a shit whatever happens. I don’t care and I’m going to sleep, Mya Own is sleeping now.”

I could see the small Pin-chaung town appearing on the bend and I just lied down on the opposite seat. We were right though as the Pin-chaung station master and his henchmen took their time and didn’t even leave one pound of Hta-nyet on the train leaving train-ful of devastating Hta-nyet smugglers.

I went up and stood near Thin Thin and her friends as I always did and could hear their sad prayers to Lord Buddha to help them. The sisters Ma Nyunt Yee and Ma Nyunt Tin were turning their faces away from us so that others couldn’t see their sad tears.

“What we’re gonna do now, we’ve lost everything we had?” But I could hear their desperation and their heavy sighs. The sad atmosphere and desperation had spread fast on the train like a wild fire as I could hear Ma Aye Thwe’s cries too. Thin Thin and Nu Nu were also crying right in front of me as their pineapple baskets with Hta-nyets hidden inside were also taken down at Pin-chaung Station.

Only then Ma Aye Shwe and Ma Aye Shwe both came out of the toilet crying. The Railway Police sergeant, a very old thin man, pulled out the bribe money he got from them and tried to return the money to them.

“That’s why I warned you two before. I told you two I didn’t want your measly money. But you two forced me and put your stuff underneath my seat. Now they caught me and took Hta-nyets away. I can lose my job and at my age nobody will take care of me if I lose this job. No I’m fucked. You all should be sorry for us too, not just we feel sorry for you girls.”

My Nyo Nyo wasn’t one of Hta-nyet carrier girls but she was also badly affected by all the desperation and sadness on the train. I looked away at the same Pin-kan-daught Moutain Ranges she was staring away at and thought of the day she would be facing the same troubles once she was forced into Hta-nyet trade. When I turned back my face inside she did the same and we were facing each other.

She then tried to smile at me. She was growing up quickly and her eyes were no longer shy like before and were seemingly saying so many words to me gently and silently. I loved her so much. I also felt like she was telling me that her family had been suffering so much because she couldn’t be in Hta-nyet trade since my prohibition.

I realized by then how much I loved her and how eager I wanted to take care of her and her family. I knew I would be in heaven once we were married and living together. But I also knew that that time was far far away as with my lousy salary I couldn’t marry her yet.

“You know, I’ll never carry Hta-nyet. I will die of starvation, but I’ll never face such desperation and sadness,” whispered she just form me to hear.

By then the train was crossing noisily over the Kalar-myaw Bridge. She with both eyes full of tear was right beside of me. That day was the day the last barrier between us was broken. She was no longer shy at me like before. We hadn’t kissed or even hugged yet but we could face each other and smile instantly at each other. We also knew we could hear each other what we had in minds without saying words out loud.

Every day on the train she would put her basket beside her on the bench expecting me. If I didn’t come soon she would look up and down at wherever I was on the train. When I came over she would give me a big bright smile. Normally I came up to her at munch times.

Once the train was at Nyaung-doe Station I went down and bought some curries for both of us. Then I climbed up to their car and sat beside her. She always packed more rice for me too. Once we opened the lunch packs and started eating together I happily felt like we were already husband and wife, just happily married.

She would always pick up a piece of meat from the curry first and gave it to me like a loving Burmese wife always does to her husband at meals. She would then happily smile once I ate that meat. Her big bright eyes were filled with love and tenderness and I felt like I was on the moon.

Once the train reached the Indaw-gyel Station Nyo Nyo remided me to go back to my work as I as the train clerk had to check tickets and accept cargoes. I didn’t want to go yet as the terminal Kyauk-pan-daung would be soon and that would be the end for that day. But I still had to leave my dear Nyo Nyo.

Her eyes would be following me till I entered the Guard Compartment and she couldn’t see me no more. Her friend Thin Thin and Nu Nu would always tease her for doing that and they would then laugh at each other like any other young girls their age do.

“Hey, don’t say that, that is too much,” I could hear Nyo Nyo stopping them after they said some naughty words.
“Hey Nyo Nyo, you are too much, far too much. We once had boyfriends too. But not this much like you,” I heard their retort back too.
“Hey, this is not too much!”

Nyo Nyo’s happy laughter would follow me and I still would remember till I went to bed that night and fell asleep. Then I met her again in my sweet dreams.


(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 Satanist Ideology called Socialism where State Controls almost everything and People Starve.)

Ma Thein Shin –Chapter 6