An Auspicious Moment
covering burma and southeast asia
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Magazine

CULTURE

An Auspicious Moment


By Tin Maung Than JANUARY, 2001 - VOLUME 9 NO.1


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The author, the former editor of the recently banned Thintbawa magazine, pays homage to celebrated poet Tin Moe in this article first published shortly after the latter’s release from prison in 1995. Some forty years ago at Yezagyo in Upper Burma, there was a young man called Maung Ba Gyan. He was over twenty, with a taste for poetry. He had by that time started writing verses and kept close connections with literary enthusiasts in other towns. Like many men in his generation, Tin Moe received his education at a monestary. Maung Ba Gyan was a native of the village of Kan Mye Zagyan in the township of Taungtha, Myingyan district. He was brought up and educated in the little town of Yezagyo and had never been anywhere else except to Myingyan, where he’d scarcely paid a visit. When he was made a Buddhist novice, he studied the fundamentals of the scriptures at the famous Shweyesaung Monastery in Mandalay, the seat of Burmese Buddhist learning. Those were the only places that Maung Ba Gyan had seen up to the age of twenty. He’d never had a chance to visit the capital of the country, Rangoon. He hadn’t even dreamt of visiting that great city. After he sat for the matriculation examination, he joined a village primary school as a volunteer to teach village children. The results of his examination had not been announced yet. One day, Maung Ba Gyan was preparing English and math lessons for the seventh standard. It was just nightfall A letter from a teacher, U Thaung Nyunt, had come to Maung Ba Gyan by village truck, a Chevrolet left over from World War II. The letter informed Maung Ba Gyan to see the professor of Burmese at Rangoon University, U E Maung. It was said that his essay on the Burmese examination was extremely good. The young man could not believe his eyes. Impossible! He hadn’t been satisfied with his Burmese essay. He felt doubtful about the letter. The letter also meant that he had passed the matriculation examination. But the results weren’t out yet. How could anybody know the results before they were announced? No, it was impossible. There was still another reason for disbelief. The one who told him to see the professor of Burmese was none other than the Minister of Education himself! Apparently, the professor had asked the minister to convey the message to the young student when he was traveling in Upper Burma. So when the minister reached Yezagyo he duly sent the message to the disbelieving student. How could it be? A professor, giving special attention to an unknown student at a remote up-country townlet. How could it be? And the professor, asking the Minister of Education to convey the message to the young man. How could it be? And the Minister of Education, not forgetting to convey the message to the boy. Impossible! Absurd! But it was true. It all did happen like that. Maung Ba Gyan passed the matriculation examination, winning distinction in Burmese. His roll number was YZG 74. It was true. It so happened that Burmese faculty member U Maung Maung Tin, who evaluated Maung Ba Gyan’s Burmese essay, felt that the student should be awarded distinction and duly presented the case to the professor. Professor E Maung examined the paper and exclaimed, "Excellent!" He even told his staff that he wanted to see the student. The professor did not stop there. When he met the Minister of Education, who was about to begin his tour, he did not fail to ask his superior official to convey that mysterious message. And the minister carried out the professor’s request to the letter! Hence, the unbelievable information to the bewildered young man. But Maung Ba Gyan did not go to see the professor. It was not easy for him, a young man of limited means, to go to Rangoon. Meanwhile, the local leader of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (the ruling party), U Tun Shein, asked Maung Ba Gyan to work as a teacher in the leader’s home village. It was during a time when those who finished junior high were happily appointed teachers. So fortunate to get a high-school graduate as a teacher! Maung Ba Gyan had an inborn aptitude for teaching. And with his meager means he was not fortunate enough to join the university. He accepted the offer. When the university reopened, Professor E Maung did not wait for Maung Ba Gyan to come to see him. He checked to see whether YZG 74 had joined the university at Rangoon or Mandalay. When he received a negative response, he asked the professor of Burmese at Mandalay University to arrange everything for Maung Ba Gyan’s admission to the university. Professor E Maung wanted to bring up a new generation of Burmese scholars.


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