RESURRECTION- REVISITING RANGOON
After a lapse of about 50 years [49 to be exact !] I and my wife visited Yangon [Rangoon] in Myanmar [Burma] on 25th May 2012.
Now Yangon though stripped off the capital stature is still the most important city there. I had mixed feelings when I went.
From what I have wildly read, visiting the childhood places are often catastrophic as the cherished images are lost as one could hardly find any remnants of the past. But I was well prepared. Further I know that if I didn’t visit I will always having that longing !.
I have already learnt from my cyber friend that my house has been demolished and a new one erected. Our timber shop – no trace, even the street name has changed - and I had to have the help of google map to find the street’s new name. Only the school building was remaining being converted into a Burmese Govt School.
After settling in the hotel, arranged by my friend who is now working in Singapore, and adequate rest, in the evening we went to Shwedagon Pagoda as I wanted it to be our first place of visit.
The Pagoda still takes your breath away in its majestic splendor, being the icon of Myanmar.
We were pleasantly surprised to see the settled Tamilians coming forward to talk to us. Almost all were born there and are Myanmar citizens but still they talked Tamil well and maintained the culture. Many couldn’t even name the part of Tamilnadu from where their parents came from.
One family insisted that we should visit their house.
The next day was the D day – to go and see my home places. It was drizzling lightly.
We had one small umbrella bought in Malaysia and the hotel provided us with one big umbrella.
We were dropped right at the entrance of the coveted 50th street by the taxi driver.
I always remembered the street as wide, clean and neat but now I found it was overcrowded with pavement shops, heavy traffic, so much so it is an one way street. Ours was the only big house then.
Now on both sides there were big houses all built wall to wall.
Fortunately the door numbering still was almost the same and we identified our house site with the help of a Tamilian [Krishna] working in the automobile shop on the opposite side. He said that the old house was demolished about 10 years back.
We walked slowly along the road. We saw one internet café and the girl came out and said there is power cut and it is not operative. She understood English and chatted for some time.
We then went to the Varadharajar Perumal temple in the corner of 51st street and we felt as if we were transferred to Tamilnadu as there were tamilians everywhere with name boards also in Tamil..
Then we walked slowly the 5 blocks to our school building in the still drizzling rain.
Our school is in 45th street corner. There was good crowd in the school as admissions were going on in full swing. I talked to the head mistress who could only muster in some bit of English. She regretted that she couldn’t allow me to go upstairs inside the school premises as it is a government school. So I roamed inside and outside the prayer hall.
One difference I could make out was that the empty space on one side-our play area- was built up and there was another stair case [wooden] on the opposite side.
I came out, took some photographs with the rain still drizzling, noted that the Arya Samaj building on the other side was still intact under their possession.
The St.Antony church with the sprawling ground on the next street was also untouched.
Then we took a taxi to our timber shop site.
The canal I remembered on the way side where we used to catch fish was still there but it was foul smelling more than our Coovum. It was largely rain water drainage in our days and we used to wade in and catch fish there. Now it was a sewage canal.
I could make out the shop site only with difficulty. It was a store now.
When I photographed it the owner came out and queried, being pacified only after my explaining. He didn’t understand English but seemed to make out what I was trying to say !!
In the evening we went for shopping.
There were many super markets similar to the Nilgris and one or two even as big as our Spencer Plaza. All supermarkets accepted US Dollars but insisted that it must be new without any crease. But they gave change only in Myanmar currency [Kyats].
When I inquired in the hotel about the Kanbe [called “Kambai” in Tamil] place which I thought was quite far away I was pleasantly surprised that it was very near. In fact much nearer than the city center.
In my child hood days once a year we used to travel in arranged buses to the Kanbe area. The place will wear a festive look on that day [Thiruvizha].
Our people had built a Pillayar temple and had a hall built near it where food was served free. Also in the neighbouring temples we had ‘Thee mithi” [walking on fire], Kummi, Mulapari with local songs -sung as by Ramanathapuram district people [ seen in “Subramaniapuram” and “Nadodigal” films].
So next day we went to Kanbe and saw the famous five temples. I was thrilled to see the “Vella [White] Pillayar” temple with the hall as before. The priest told me that it is still run as usual with the all the festivals.
I was surprised to see the good old “trishaw” still running and we had a ride in it too.
We roamed around Sulepagoda shopping and dined in Indian hotels. We visited the famous Scot market, now called Bo Gyo Aungsan market – quite famous for Gems. I had a taste of real Burmese food- Mohinga- in a restaurant only on the last day. Though it is freely sold in pavement shops it is rarely catered in big restaurants.
Wow ! Golden Myanmar ! Mystifying and mesmerizing as ever !
You have spun a web around me and in its splendor I am only a willing prey!
Hello Rangoon ! [ I prefer to call you that way] I may come yet once again if not for anything else but for loitering in the streets getting immersed in the nostalgia !! So good bye for now !!