Formative years of an introvert :(7) From Nyaunglebin to Thaton
From the small town of Nyaunglebin, my father was transferred to yet another town, Thaton. Our family traveled to Thaton from Nyaunglebin by truck. At certain sections of the road there were armed dacoits preying on passing cars at the time.Left over arms from the Second World War had been acquired by these dacoit gangs and this was not the only road frequented by them. It was happening all over the country. So at the sections of the road where dacoits had been seen, our truck had to avoid them, and had to make the journey passing through paddy fields. The small embankments in the paddy fields gave us a real bumpy ride. My mother was pregnant at the time. By the time we reached Thaton, my mother had a miscarriage. My father later told me that it was a boy.
At Thaton, my father changed his career. From the administrative branch of the civil service he joined, changed over to, the judiciary, became a Township Judge, then Sub-Divisional Judge (SDJ). Here in Thaton, I attended my very first school. A Myanmar Christian lady teacher had opened a school at her house and I attended the kindergarten at this school. Then I attended the American Baptist Mission (ABM) school in the town. At the time, Myanmar was still under British rule and as the war had just concluded , there were still some British military motor vehicles stationed in our school compound. The British soldiers were friendly with us boys at the school, and they used to hand out sweets and cakes, and of course chocolate. I tasted the first chocolate in my life here at this school. I found it a little bitter at first, then got to savour the taste. The soldiers at times gave us their small ration tins.
Of my school days in Thaton town, I recall them as happy days of my childhood. In the kindergarten and also in the 1st standard (we used the term ‘standard’ then, not ‘grade’ as at present), we had to write on slates with slate pencils. In Myanmar language we call them kyauk-thin-bon and kyauk-tan. I don’t think children these days know what these are. In those days at Thaton, we didn’t have ball-pens yet, only fountain pens. When I was in kindergarten, I had to do my home work on my slate writing with a slate pencil. During the rainy season (Thaton is famous for its heavy rains) when I went to school in the morning, I had to take great care that the rain drops did not get onto the slate on which I had written my homework.
I also recall that one Christmas at the school concert at my school, together with two or three other boys, I had to play the part of an angel, fully equipped with a small make-believe harp and sing Silent Night, Holy Night in Myanmar language. (Tate-seik nya, thant-shin nya). I think that was in 1949. I was a frail little boy then and as it was rather cold, my mother made me wear a shirt under the angel costume. The white angel costume had a wide neckline, and the result was that the shirt collar protruded out of the angel costume making me a very unrealistic angel. To make matters worse, mother made me wear socks when the photograph was taken at a photograph studio. My class teacher said I was an angel with shirt and shoes.