[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Daw Suu's Letter from Burma #26

Mainichi Daily News, Monday, May 20, 1996


"Water Festival (3)"

Letter from Burma (No. 26) by Aung San Suu Kyi

	The energy of the young is wonderful.  The NLD /thingyan/ festival had
begun at 8 o'clock in the morning an concluded at 5 o'clock in the afternoon
according to plan.  After the visitors had left, the young helpers who had
been on the go all day but who were still overflowing with vim insisted that
we oldies engage in a bout of water throwing with them.  So we took our
places on the young women's side of the water boats and together with girls
and children tried to splash the young men into submission.  Scooping up
water in bowlfuls at top speed and throwing it at stoically laughing young
men is strenuous work.  We participated in three rounds, one at each boat,
and ended up drenched to the skin, invigorated and exhausted.  In spite of
our best efforts only one young man could have been said to have dearly
"surrendered" as he held his cap up in front of his face to ward off our
liquid barrage.
	As far as I was concerned, one such day of water throwing was quite enough
to last us for at least another year but of course the young people saw
things in a different light.  Before they had even finished tidying up for
the evening they were making plans to establish a little water throwing
depot on the side of the street in front of our garden the next day.  As
that would be the last day of the water festival, they were determined to
make the most of it.
	Equipped with large tanks of water, diverse vessels, syringes and several
cassette tapes of thingyan songs, our band of water players took up position
outside the front gates next morning.  The star of the show was a small 7
year old.  Deceptively frail looking with long hair, sweetly pouting lips,
round cheeks and thin legs, this little girl had more stamina than most
boys.  She had been engaged in dousing others or getting doused herself
almost without respite since the first day of thingyan, yet she was
unflagging on the fourth and last day and outlasted almost everybody else.
	It gave me a sense of deep contentment to work quietly by myself inside the
house while faint sounds of music and laughter and the shrill shouts of
children drifted in from the road.  To be able to clear my desk of
accumulated work and to know that our young people were having a happy time
afforded double satisfaction.  The water throwers occasionally wandered into
the house, faces glowing from their exertions, leaving a trail of wet
footprints, getting themselves something to eat.  During the hottest part of
the day they took a rest to recharge their batteries for the final
onslaught, then went back to join the watery fray with new vigor.
	In the late afternoon, our water throwers asked me to join them.  On the
understanding that I would not participate in the action, as I was feeling
none too robust after the activities of the previous day, I went out to
observe the proceedings.  Two young men with whistles signaled to cars
filled with soaking wet people to indicate that those who wanted to have a
go at trying to get even wetter should stop.  The cars usually stopped and
with good humor the passengers allowed our water throwers to get to work
with their howls and other dousing equipment.  Some of our young people had
begun to slow down but the hardiest ones, including of course our 7 year
old, gave an impressive demonstration of their capacity for sustained endeavor.
	It was obvious that many of those cruising around in cars for the joy of
exposing themselves to as much thingyan water as possible had imbibed
freely.  Inebriated merrymakers often make provocative remarks or crude
gestures and get involved in brawls quite out of keeping with the
traditional spirit of the New Year season.  But such unseemly behavior was
not at all evident in those who stopped for our water throwers.  Everybody
was cheerful and friendly and even those who were evidently tipsy did not
fail in courtesy.  The single exception was a man who jumped down unsteadily
from a car with a bottle of liquor in one hand and in the other an aerosol
can from which he sent out sprays of scent.  He became aggressive when he
was asked to contain his overwhelming enthusiasm.
	Of course it was not all sweetness and light everywhere throughout the
festival.  Apart from the inevitable brawls that break out when spirits are
running too high, a number of traffic accidents resulting in loss of life
and limb, take place every year.  This year too was not free from the usual
quota of casualties.  There were also a few unnecessary incidents involving
NLD caps which had been sold at our ceremony on the fourteenth.  Young men
(wearing such caps), some of whom were not even members of the NLD, were
harassed by the authorities.  One young man was beaten, then dragged off
under arrest while his assailant was left untouched.
	In spite, or perhaps because, of the repression and injustices to which
they are subjected, the Burmese have a remarkable capacity for extracting
the maximum amount of fun from the opportunities offered to them during our
traditional festivals.

* * *

This article is one of a yearlong series of letters, the Japanese
translation of which appears in the Mainichi Shimbun the same day, or the
previous day in some areas.