“The further you are from your home town the more successful you are,” said a friend. It has been long time, far away from my home town. Once, a few years ago, I returned to my home town.
+ + +
I was living in Mawlamyine from 1979 to 1985. Those were the earliest days of my childhood life. The doll shop from the No.1 Mawlamyine main market. A slipper gone with the river at the jetty. The Tha Mee Daw school where I used to go by tri-shaw. The bus stop where I use to be playing. The traditional snack (Sargalay Khway) that used to be tossed to feed the sea gulls. The island called Head-Wash Island that I used to gaze at from the ship. Additionally, the Bayint Cinema where I watched movies from the arm of the chair. Those things were all the things I could recall. When I lived there for six years, I was little enough for not remembering everything.
+ + +
The summer of 1990, I went once to Mawlamyine and Thahtone. Those days were the middle period of my childhood. I had to bring the candle and torch-light on the train to Mawlamyine. At sundown, the candles were supposed to be lit. This was the only way people could be seen clearly. When you went to the toilet, the torch-light had to be brought. Only in that way, things that needed to be done could get done.
At my arrival there, in the darkness, I happily took a three-wheel orange car to little grand daddy’s home. I also ride the horse-cart called Bonepyat and bus left-over from the war time. I also vividly remember a doll-shop from the No.1 Main Market. The Mawlamyine that I arrived at in 1990 is left as a blared vision of my memories.
+ + +
In 2010, September, I arrived Mawlamyine once again. That was the first time returning to Mawlamyine in 20 years. The time there was too short. Even within this short time, I got back freedom, happiness and freshness of my childhood life again. The scenery of Mawlamyine that existed from 20 or 30 years ago never treated the one, who came to visit his home town, as a stranger.
+ + +
Mawlamyine, a very active place before, was quiet. The ships were not crossing between Mottama and Mawlamyine. Even the sea-gulls flew away to where the water was clear. Workers who used to carefully fetch a child’s slipper that fell into the water, were not there anymore. Now, I don’t know where are the old drivers who used to carry me. I can’t find the doll shop from the No.1 Market. Where have they gone to? What were changed for them? Peace be upon their lives!
+ + +
Before, Goungsay Island (Head-Washing Island) was seen across from eye level. Now, Goungsay Island could be gazed at only from the Than Lwin Bridge. Bayint Cinema hall is still not changed. It is just like before. Are there still the arms of the chair where I used to sit? Not there anymore? The backyard of the house where I used to run and play became Strand Rd. No where to run and play anymore. Also, I wonder if the children still like to run and play?
Three-wheel cars are still running. The left-over cars with the wooden body from the war are also still running. Are they the land mark of the Mawlamyine? Or are they still carrying of unfinished life on duty?
Where is the horse-cart called Bonepyat? I couldn’t say hello to them because my journey was too short. The sound of the motorcycle is heard with the moan that “business is no good,” from the fabric shopkeeper. Is it really true that motorcycles now cover the roads of country sides?
When I visited Mawlamyine for such a short time, what I really made sure to do was to take pictures. I wanted to remember the scenery of Mawlamyine from 2010 for a long time. I wanted to record accurately, as photos can do. I took as many pictures as I could. I wanted to show my mother, who was from Mawlamyine the portraits I had of Mawlamyine.
+ + +
When I got to Yangon I delebrately showed my mother the photos. For 20 years she had been settled in Yangon. She might have missed her home town.
Looking nostalgically at the scenes in the photo, my mother said, “Mawlamyine hasn’t changed in any way.” My father agreed with her and he begin with the words, “ In the olden days … ‘’ to replay his old memory.
+ + +
What did my mother mean when she said, “not changed”? What did my father mean when he said, “In the olden days”? What was going on in Mawlamyine within those 20 years ? What does itself really need to happen?
+ + +
A person who passed his early life in Mawlamyine, grew up on the wave of the present times of Yangon. Family life and the lives of people must have changed in various ways within any certain age. I feel backward in judging Mawlamyine from the images, photos, and memory of childhood life.
It’s very hard to review and criticize the changes in a place that has been left for a particular reason in just a short visit. How do the people who were born, lived and died there assess the changes? These thoughts haven’t travelled long enough to reach an answer.
+ + +
I had to leave my native town well before I grew up. I didn’t leave it for the reason expressed by my friend, “ The further you are from your home town the more successful you are.” Why did those who left their home town leave it? They themselves may have an answer. What reasons affect whether people move from one town to another, or from one country to another? For what reasons do people return to their home town or native land after they have left it?
They would have an answer. One’s native land gives rightful testimony to one’s provenance. For all cases that require supplying personal data, the native land fulfills its duty. The native town might hope people who were born at its heart would grow up humanely.
+ + +
The person who was born on the soil of Mawlamyine has grown up. I brace myself not to have as I lust my slipper at the port when I was young. I must keep the camera that I always safeguard, not to hurtle it away. I need to preserve the images needed for my life.
When a slipper went with the Than Lwin river water, the port worker jumped to the water and fetched it because the child was crying. Now, they also might have grown old. Now, if a pair of slippers and a camera slips out from his hand, there’s nobody to console the grown-up crying man .
When a person has grown up, he has to take responsibility for his life and his environment as a duty by birth. According to his powerful expert area, his enviroment could have genefited. If you do not destroy the environment, the native land will recognize you as belonging there.
Translated by D.Lugalay