By Nyi Pu Lay
The group of people dressed in their best stood in the
narrow lane, necks straining to catch a glimpse of the car as
it rolled towards them on the bumpy road, they could see it
in the dust, coming as slowly as if it were a horse-drawncart.
This was the car taking them to the wedding. In their eyes the
car rolled on the bumps as if it were a boat riding the waves.
When the car was near enough for them to see it through the
whirling dust, one of the waiting women exclaimed to the groom,
"Sein Hla, is that the car taking us to the wedding?"
Sein Hla smiled to himself. "Yep, it sure is. Why?"
"You said it's a van."
"It is a van, isn't it?"
It was, but just barely. The hind end of car had been cut,
remodeled and roofed, the sort of car that carried vegetables
from the jetty to the market.
But they could not be choosy: they were already late,
and some of them must go early and hurry back in time to
go to work. Anyway, in their part of Mandalay, there never
had been such a luxury as a car rented for the purpose of
taking guests to a wedding. This time, the bride being the
schoolteacher and all, and with the groom's best friend
being the owner of a car, transport had been arranged
as a wedding gift from the owner.
After making a five-point turn, the car was
finally heading outwards. The first batch were the
young girls who were in charge of handing out
sprigs of flowers and cigarettes to each guest.
They must be in their places before the guests
There was an immediate uproar about who gets in
first, who sits where. The driver obligingly shut off the
engine, which shuddered like a malarial victim, before it
"Now where is that Sein Sein Aye? She's always so
slow...just let her be quick if its about watching out for a
husband, then I'd tear her to pieces." Before the words ended, a bug-eyed
girl dressed all in bright red scampered up. Her make-up was exactly like the other
girls'...its pink tones clashed alarmingly with her dark
Uncle Than Sein and Grand Uncle Win
Maung, as befit their age, had already installed
themselves in the front seat.
|"Oh, Uncle, take this child with you, she's
Daw Aye Chit's little girl."
"Come, come, you can sit on my knee." The
girl was overjoyed to be riding in the front seat a
and her wide smile showed missing front
The groom tried to pack in as many as
possible, for he did not want his friend making
too many trips. Gas prices were not cheap, as
he well knew.
The car began to look like a piece of candy
with ants climbing allover it. It was indeed a
To their alarm the car took a few minutes
to start; then they were off in a cloud of dark
"Now, bridegroom, you'd better go change,
what are you waiting for?"
"Well I'm just so busy seeing to things..."
"Never mind! Everything will be fine. You
go change; it's your wedding day, man, look
"Who' will look after the gifts?" one lady
"Don't worry, Aunt, there will be
someone...go change, Sein Hla."
The group of ladies who were left standing in the lane began to chatter.
"That red dress Sein Sein Aye's wearing,
whose dress is it?"
"Must be hers, since she's wearing it."
"No, the dress is too big on her, must
belong to her sister who lives downtown."
A quarrel broke out between two children about who was to wear the one pair of
slippers belonging to both. Kywet Thoe, the best
man, sauntered up, hands in the pockets of his
"Well now, how grand you look; you should
look as spic and span as this all the time." .
"Of course I want to, Aunt, but look at me,
I'm a mechanic, covered with grease all the
time. I didn't go to work yesterday, that's why I
look this clean. Even then I couldn't get rid of
all the black."
He held out his hands.
"How is that old father of the groom? How
is he, Kywet Thoe ?"
"Better, thank god...we all thought he was a goner, when the invitations were already
printed and all."
The old man had fallen ill all of a sudden;
the neighbourhood had held its breadth. But
now, thank god, he's on the mend. .
When the car came back, they had picked
up the bride Mar Mar Tin from the beauty
salon. Everyone in the neighbourhood who
was not going, mothers with babies, old
people walking with canes, toddlers with
grimy faces, all came fast as they could to have
a look at the bride.
She did not step out of the car. Her hair
was done in a high chignon, and the false tress
was darker than her own hair. The dangling
rhinestone hairpin sparkled. Around her neck
were a necklace and a strand of pearls, and in
photos they would surely look real.
Her face was pink with make-up. Unused
to the false eyelashes, she kept batting her
eyes. The beautician had done away altogether
with her scanty eyebrows: they had been
shaved off, and he had drawn a curvy line in its
place in deep sea-green pencil.
There were comments about how pretty
she looked, and they all asked how much it
cost, the name of the shop, and in the melee
they heard a piping voice of a girl: "She doesn't
look pretty at all!"
Mar MarTin pretended not to hear, but was
itching to rap her on the head.
The groom was wearing a dark golden
yellow longyi (sarong) as near the golden
colour of the bride's htamein (sarong) as
possible. He too seemed to have plastered
some powder on his face; it looked dusty. He
tried to open the car door: it did not budge,
even with the bride working the handle from
inside. The driver, his friend, leant over and
pushed it open. The back of the van was
already packed with more guests.
He remembered his turban only when
they drove off; never mind, he could ask his
friend to bring it along the next trip.
"Ko sein, how's Father?" the bride asked
"He'd had a pee, but couldn't pass motion
yet. I moved him to a sunny spot."
"Who's with him?"
"Ma Ma Than from next door's keeping an
eye on him; he misses mother, you know. He
doesn't say so but I can tell."
He tried putting his elbow out of the ,
window; the glass could only be lowered to
mid-Ievel, so he felt uncomfortable. He took
his arm down.
He turned to his friend. "When father heard
you're helping out with the transport, he
wanted to come, too. Said he should entertain
his own friends himself."
"How did you persuade him to stay, Ko
Sein?" the bride asked.
"I told him there'd be all three of us
brothers, that we'll see to everyone being
welcomed. Even then he asked to put an over
jacket on him, just in case someone drops in
The wedding hall was filled with people.
The newly weds both live in the same
neighbourhood so there were no strangers. As
the car went back for the third trip, two kids
did not stay behind but went back for another
ride; it was a treat for them. One kid started to ,
howl because he could not go with them.
The ladies manning the gifts table were
busy, making lists, eating cake, gulping down
The elders were in a group, happily smoking
cigarettes. The pop songs blaring out of the
speakers mingled with the chatter, and the
audible clearing of throats as they ate the
dryish cakes. The room was filled with smoke
and the scent of make-up and perfumes.
All the way back the guests talked and
gossiped about the wedding, the dresses, the
cakes. The newly weds had already given
pocket money to the lads. It is called 'Payment
for Stones', a sum paid off to avoid the teasing
hail of stones on the house that night. The guys
had all trooped to a food stall. As for the girls,
they had promised to take them all to watch
TV that night. The children overheard this, and
demanded that they too wanted to come
along. The bride had agreed just to keep them
quiet, but thinking about the one kyat for
adults and half for kids, she felt worried and
stole a glance at the borrowed silver bowl
where the cash gifts had been put in.
Father had been eagerly asking news from
anyone who returned from the wedding. As
soon as he saw his son the groom, he asked for
his potty. Sitting on it he asked detailed
questions about the event.
As sein Hla cleaned his father, the old man
asked if it were true about the TV show. "What's
"Mandalay Dance Troupe, Father, yes, we
promised the girls."
"Is that so? I want to watch it, too."
"I'll carry you then, Father, if you want to
But he thought of the sulky face of the
owner of the TV, and felt a twinge of worry.
The program was a favourite; the front
room of that house would be filled with the
guests of the wedding.
He dressed his father warmly in an old
jacket; the nights were getting cold. His new
wife Mar Mar Tin had gone on ahead, carrying
his father's folding chair. There were still traces
of the morning's make-up on her face. As it
had cost her all of Kyat 150, she thought surely
she must still look as nice as this morning.
She had the money for the show tucked in
her bodice. Her new slippers hurt her feet, so
she was wearing her old pair. Besides, people
steal slippers at such places where they must
be left outside.
Sein Hla showed his father the potty he
carried in a plastic bag. "Tell me anytime if you
need to pee, father, no need to feel embarrassed; everyone knows you."
The owner of the TV, U San Tin, came out to
greet Father when they arrived at the house.
He seemed happy to have a full house. He
was rather strict: he did not allow any kids to
eat snacks, or throw plum seeds at each other.
The audience sat on mats covering the floor. Sein Hla placed his father's chair at the back.
He himself sat on the floor, holding the potty
bag, and his new bride sat by him.
The program started. Well! How they.
enjoyed It all: the jokes, the songs, the
dancing. It was as if they were all nailed to the
They were still smiling as they took their
leave when the show ended. sein Hla took up
his father, and his face fell: the old man had
peed, probably without noticing it. There was
even a small wet patch on the floor. U San Tin
must surely notice. sein Hla did not know what
to do. He grabbed the brand new handkerchief
Mar Mar Tin was clutching and made as if to
wipe the floor.
"Never mind, my boy, never mind." It was
an unexpectedly kind word from U San Tin.
They said their good-byes, apologizing. U
San Tin squeezed Father's hand as they left. Mar
Mar Tin paid for her guest, bargaining with a
beating heart to let off the extra four kyats. The
TV owners agreed, just for this night.
Mar Mar Tin carried the folding chair with
the wet burlap seat, wondering how she could
keep the make-up on until tomorrow. Sein Hla
carried his father, wondering about how this
night U San Tin had been so nice.
The audience made their way home,
talking about the show. .
(The above short story appeared in Tabin
Magazine May 1986 and is transtlated by MTG)
Nyi Pu Lay
Nyi Pu Lay was born 1952 in Mandalay to
parents who are both well-known writers and
journalists, Ludu U Hla and Ludu Daw Ahmar.
He graduated from Mandalay University with a
Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. He
started writing short stories since 1985 and by
1989 has published his first collection, 'Thu htet
kai Shwe Pyi Soe Nyi Pu Lay."
A second book of his collected short stories
followed in 1990, titled "Ka-Iay kyike, Lu-gyi kyite,
chit kya ba de Nyi Pu Lay."
In 2002 a third collection of his short stories
was published under the title "T'gyaung hswe 0Ka-Iay p'ji and other stories."
His first novel "La Min ye cho thar de let
5 khote than" was also published in 2002.
The themes of his stories are usually on the
lives of the ordinary people, portrayed with his
signature touch of wry humour on the vicissia tudes of life.
He resides in Mandalay.