He’s Honest, He Isn’t Stupid

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“My salary, the money I earn for my wife and children would never be poison “. My father said these words.

“My big daughter, my pension allowance is enough to buy three pieces of Bayargyaw (fried chick peas).” he said with a broad smile. I always remembered it. I would never ever forgot. One day, father woke up early and chopped firewood. He wore military sweater as he was ill. He said he had to chop again as the firewood was very big. We, brothers and sisters tied up all the firewood father had chopped. The bundles of firewood had to be sold. My younger sister piled up “Tayza”,”Shwethway” and “Our students”journals and she opened a shop for lending cartoon books and she sold the firewood bundles, too. Gradually, fbther opened a bigger shop to lend books. My sister’s name was Hnin Hnin Myint and the shop was named “Hnin Literature” the ere bought as much as he could afford. Different magazines. many novels and cartoons could be bought at K 500 or K 600. ‘rhe lender had to pay one kyat or half a kyat for a day’s reading.. The over-due fine was about ten pyas or twenty-five pyas. The book shop did very well: we got not less than a thousand kyats for a month.

And then, father ordered some cold drinks and ice-cream from Dagon aerated water factory and we sold them. It was not bad at all. We sold out. The car garage was large enough for the books, Firewood bundles, cold drinks and ice-cream.

Back home from the office in the evening, father came to the garage first and asked,”Are you all doing well? Do you sell out? Do you lend many books.my daughters’? “and we said. “Yes, we do, we lend many books.” then father nodded his head and smiled and stepped into the house.

In l973, we moved from the state to Yangon. Father, mother and eight brothers and sisters, a family often members was not easy to nm a livelihood. The cost of living in Yangon was high and we had a hard life to earn our living. And then, mother had another baby boy. There were eleven members in the family. It became harder to have a livelihood. In the state, we had tea and coffee more than enough. we could not afford to buy sugar and condensed milk. We had to drink black coffee with jaggery. Poor Mother! Mother drank coffee with a big bowl every day. The coffee was made of too much condensed milk. In Yangon, she had to go with black coffee.

We couldn’t afford to buy “Pepsodent” toothpaste. we never forgot that we used charcoal and salt to brush our teeth.

What made us feel most miscrahle was the matter that we had to use bran cooker. Could we not afford to buy kerosine oil? Could we not afford to buy charcoal’? I couldn’t remember very well. We went to the timber factory to buy bran, we, brothers and sisters carried the bran-bag in turns we put bran in the long cooker and we had to press hard so that the bran would become very thick. As we made fire there were smoke all over the house We had to use the bran cooker tor quite a long time. It was very disappointing, I even wanted to cry. How could I ever forget that I bought bran from the factory in Myalayyongarden. Thank goodness it was near our house.

In 1975, there was another baby boy in mother’s womb. We all went to No (l) Dagon High School. The other students could spend much pocket money. When I was a tenth standard student I got only nga-mu (half a kyat). If I wanted to eat boiled noodles with cooked oil, I had to save half’a kyat for two days and I ate noodles for half a kyat and drank lime juice for fifteen pyas.

To lessen the expenditure of the house, mother bought white cotton cloth and sent it to the bodice shop, sometimes she didn’t get the money at once and she had difficulty to buy the cloth. The Chinese shop-owner said to take the money next time and my mother did not know what to reply.

And then, father told mother to make curry-powder and sent them to the shop. Mother, with baby in her womb, had to go to the market to buy cumin, bay-leaf and cinnamon to make curry- powder, She had to roast them in an iron frying-pan. At weekends. father and we, brothers and sisters pounded the roasted things in the iron molar till it became powder ‘I he curry-powder were put in small plastic bags and then put into paper-bag with seal .We tied up ten hags each. Father made a name on the seal, and very happily. we, brothers and sisters stamped the seal on the paper hags, The name was “Maymyo Butter Curry-powder”. While we were stamping the seal on the paper bags, I never forgot that we played stamping the seals on the hands and cheeks.

After everything  was finished, the curry-powder bags were put in a cane basket and sent them to t he shops in Theingyi market. There were four or live shops we had to send. Like the Chinese shop-owner from Bogyoke market, they said to take money next time and father and mother were very sad. They could not help it. They had to let it he the next time.

Mother had to pawn her jewelleries to father’s aunt in Pazundaung as they needed some investment. They had to invest again with that money. The family had to go round in circle of life.

Father and mother had heartfelt worries to earn a living for the family. We, brothers and sisters did not really understand the meaning of livelihood, but we helped our parents without grumbling.

As I was the eldest daughter, I gave tuition to the primary students during the holidays after I had finished the tenth standard examination. j also made dresses. such as skirts, longyis and blouses. Why did my family have to do like that? Was it the reason that there were many family members? The other family of the same status did not have to do like that.

Some of my father’s favourite friends said to me:Your father isn’t honest, he’s stupid.” They criticized and blamed my father. I didn’t feel like hearing their words. At that time, father was a personnel who got K 1200 a month.

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