Wednesday, December 5, 2007
by Pho Than Jong
[၂၀၀၃ ခုႏွစ္၊ ႏို၀င္ဘာလ၊ 'လူထုေဒၚအမာ ၈၈-ႏွစ္ေျမာက္ေမြးေန႔' အထိမ္းအမွတ္ထုတ္-မာယာမဂၢဇင္း-မွ ျပန္လည္ကူးယူေဖာ္ျပျခင္းျဖစ္ပါတယ္]
One day, Ko Min Zin, a deputy editor of the Irrawaddy magazine, asked me some questions about my mother and I answered his questions as below. Though part of the answers were included in his article, I think there are still some important points that will attract readers' interest.
Here are the answers to your questions. If there is anything you would like to know more or make clear, please don't hesitate. To tell you the truth, I am not very much at ease to praise my own mother. There's a Burmese proverb that my mother often quotes: " The neighbourhood will acknowledge if your daughter is really beautiful." So, I don't think that it is the task of the children to write about them. Anyway, here they are.
1. How would you describe your mother as a mother not as a journalist or social critic?
A. She's a good mother just like any other typical Burmese, Buddhist mothers. She loves Burmese food and can make good dishes herself. She loves planting flowers and likes to visit markets, especially those in the countryside. She enjoys seeing Disney cartoons, comedies, as well as Hollywood films that my uncle(her younger brother)recommended. Once she went to see the horror film "Dracula" on my (elder) brother's insistence and admitted laughingly that she was very scared when she came back. I mean to say that she's just a human being.
As my parents were always occupied with their jobs they had very little time to spend with their children or attend to their daily life and needs. We were left in the hands of an aunt, a distant relative of my mom. When educating us my mom always emphasised cherishing the traditional values of our nation and moral intergrity. Knowing that we were starting to get involved in politics, she once toldme, "No matter what, as a student, one should try to excel in studies also. Just look at Ko Aung San and Ko Ba Hein. They are not only known for thier political merits, they are known for their perfomance in their studies also. " This is the way she used to tell us. She rarely say "don't" "must" or mustn't." Rather, she pointed out exemplary figures. There are three brothers in our family and no one of us drink or smoke. This is not because they told us not to , but rather because through their own deeds they made us convinced that these things are not good.
She rarely beats us. As far as I can remember, she once beat us when my elder brother, my elder sister and I went for "begging" during one Dazaungdaing Thieves' Festival. I think I was about ten at the time. My brother went with his friends and my sister and I went with the children of our age from our neighbourhood. As we were young, we could'n't go very far, we only went to some of our relatives and neighbours. Evidently, the news reached her ears immediately and she gave us some thrashing when we arrived home.
She never told her children to read Marxist books(nor oppose doing). Instead, she recommended us to read various kinds of books that she thought worth reading. Edgar Snow's books, Autobiography of Charlie Chaplin, The Silent Spring (an early book about environment question) and Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire were some among them. As for the Burmese books, there were too many to mention. The list includes classical literature, Thakin Kodawhmaing's works and Khitsan Literature. She also mentioned books like Thakhin Ba Hein's "The Capitalist World" and Tin Moe's "The Lantern" as very good and we should read.
2. Would you recall the most unforgetable moment you spending with your Mom?
It's difficult to say at this age, because (I think) I have become more and more less sentimental or emotional, than when I was young. However, I should say, listening to what she told us about our forefathers or their old days was the most enjoyable and unforgettable moments. That kind of moment was not very common. As I have said above, my parents were always busy. I think I had more chances than other children at the time, because when I was sacked from the Mandalay University for taking part in student activities, my parents arranged me some deskwork at our newspaper staff and during the hot Mandalay afternoons, when she had time, she used to recall these and told me.
I must also say that I neither regretted nor blame my parents for spending less time with us. On the countrary, I believe that, even when I was young, I know they were working for the good of others and their devoted working style became my model, as I grow up.
3. Nearly all of your siblings have been involved in Burmese politics as committed dissidents/revolutionaries have your parent (particulary your Mom in this context) had any disapproval against your involvement? How did they express their worry for you siblings since you all have paid a lot for what you believe? Have you ever heard any complaint from your Mom regarding to your elder brother's (U Soe Win's) death?
My parents never say 'no' to what we do with our beliefs. They only told us to be careful when they learned something about the government agents' knowledge or plans. They never said that you should believe in communism, rather, they somtimes told us how the leaders of the communist party and other patriotic personages at the time had made enormous contributions and sacrifices for the nation. Incidentally, as my father was arrested again and again by the government and the publication of our newspaper was disrupted often, seeds of hatred for the government took root in my mind since I was very young.
My parents, both devoted Buddhists, never compelled me to be as devoted as they are. We were sent to Roman Catholic Schools, but my parents made us convinced that we should not become Christians, and that they did, not by saying directly, but very tactfully. They have respect for our beliefs and our ability to decide for ourselves. It's not their style to interfere in our political convictions. Perhaps this is because they think what are we doing is right. Of course, they instructed us about moral and manners when we were young.
No doubt, they are very worried about us taking part in very dangerous and risky activities. But they rarely express these feelings on their face or in their words. I found their faces very calm and serene when they came and arrest me on two occasions (I managed to escape at the second time) and they made me brave and less worried during the consequent events. Once, when I went to play football at Myaung, a town fifty miles southwest of Mandalay on the Irrawaddy River, we came back very late. Perhaps it was one o' clock after midnight. When the car carrying stopped infront of my home, I found both of them standing infront of our house, worried! They had prayer beads in their hands.
When I got home after my release from gaol, they told me the following episode: just about a month before my release. U Ne Win, who was on summer vacation in Maymyo, asked my parents to see him. He told them, " As a father myself, I can understand your feelings about your son in prison. But they told me he was very stubborn also. Nevertheless, please go and see Brig, Gen Tin Oo (The M.I.S. chief) in Rangoon and he will arrange for his release." Thus , I was released from the Insein Gaol. My mother added , "We often met with people like U Ne Win and other leaders of the government. However, we never uttered a word asking them to release you. Of course, we want you to come out as soon as possible but we know we shouldn't do that the expense of your dignity." That made me very proud of them.
As for my brother's case, both of them said nothing to me. Once, after my release from gaol, I got a letter from a CPB leader for my mom. In that letter he explained the case of my brother and appologised to my parents. I handed it over to my mom and I saw tears falling from her eyes after reading it. She said, "I and your father had never said anything between us about this matter. We just pretended not to have heard anything." After that I didn't try to talk about that matter till now.
4. Recently, we have heard that Sayamagyi was sick and hospitalized? Since you haven't seen your Mom for a long time, how such news worry you?
Certainly, I'm very worried, worried than anything. My inability to be present at the bedside of my dad when he was about to leave this world has been haunting me all along. One of my greatest wishes as an ordinary man is to have a chance to pay respects (kadaw)to my dad's tomb.
5. Daw Ahmar has been highly respected by Burmese people. Many people even compare her with Thakin Kodaw Hmaing. Even though she is getting old, she still writes prolifically with well-intention ( cetana). How would you see your Mom not as your mother but as a women from the angle of your social value and political belief.
I'm not interested in comparing her with Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing. To me it's just a kind of storm in a teacup that would lead nowhere. My Mom always express her deep respect for Sayagyi Thakhin Kodaw Hmaing for many merits and I'm sure she won't like comparing her to the person she respects so much.
She never attack or react against anyone for personal grudges. Both my parents tried to be balanced when they tried to judge other people.
My mother has very remarkable courage that she inherited from her mother. She never sulks, grumbles or murmurs when she has to encounter all kinds of difficulties and threats. She used to express dislike for traitors and cowards.
Her, as well as her husband's, attitude towards young people is made up not only of cetena, but also of recognition their capability and potential. They used to be very humble when talking with young people. Even with me, they never treated me patronizingly. For instance, when she was writing her prize-winning book about famous people from music and drama circles, " Artists who are Loved by Masses", she asked me one day, " My son, I know nothing about music and to handle a character like Myoma Nyein is simply beyond my capacity. Can you tell me some facts that may throw light upon the talents of this genius?" In fact, through I was about eighteen at the time, I was also a philistine in this field. She often said, " My son, I am not good at choosing names for books. Would you mind choosing one for me?" The titles of some of her books were chosen by me.
She believes in the might of our people. She believes in their future and that one should work for, and if needed, make sacrifices for this cause.
She reached this height because she has been standing firm with the people of our nation through thick and thin. She never bargains her principles for anything.