Enchanting Myanmar Enchanting Myanmar

Contents | Letter to Our Readers | Pagodas of Sagar:Lost Treasures | Marble Images |
Mysterious Jewels of the Jungle | Guardian on the Northwest | Birders' Delight | Pwe | Events Calendar

 

Pwe
By Khin Khin Htoo

"May everyone be full of auspiciousness, all who hear; this, a welcome from the village of U-daya, from the District of Myingyan, on the banks of the fair Ayeyarwaddy."

As soon as Aye Thi and her friends heard this song, the very own song of their village blaring out of the trumpet-like speaker hitched on the high branches of the Rain Tree, they were in ecstasy.

A call from U-daya!

This year their village was holding a pagoda festival; something they could not afford as an annual event. This year the peanut crop was quite good, and the elders had decided to hold a rice-donation ceremony for the monks at the village stupa. 

Grandpa had once told Aye Thi that to donate the produce of one's fields ensures the richness of the soil for the next crop. So it surely means a better harvest next year. 

But whatever happens next year, for now people are busy for this year's festival: the elders arranging for the donations and making cakes, youngsters like Aye Thi planning new clothes and dreaming about the theatre troupe coming to perform.

Aye This had two whole baskets of peanuts she had laboriously gleaned this summer, and from selling it she has bought a piece of material which this very minute was being sewn up by the village seamstress. 

Her daydreams about her new jacket were shattered by her mother calling her to haul more water. 

She went down to the river, pot on her hip, and saw a crowd already gathered on the bank. She love going to the river: it is a fun time for young girls with the boys loitering nearby to play the flute to them, singing snatches of love songs. Aye Thi strolled to the water's edge with her friends; her elder sister is no longer allowed
to do this chore as she has become quite a young lady. Mother said next year Aye Thi must stop going for water as well, since her hair would be long enough to be tied back in a chignon, and not hang down girlishly in bangs as now.

"Aye Thi, go down to the general store:ask Daw Htwe Nyunt if the jaggery I ordered is there," her mother called.

Everyone in the village shops at Daw Htwe Nyunt's store, and why not,since she gives credit. "Do you hear me?!"

At another shout from her mother Aye Thi moved. Being the youngest, she gets screamed at all the time, she thought, apart from having to be at the beck and call of everyone. Her elder brother had bashed her a few days ago for singing something out of a show she'd seen; how could she have understood it was a bawdy song?

She nearly bumped into Old Man Ba Chet, but managed to put the brakes on her legs in time. 

"You rascal, nearly knocking me down", he scolded. Being one of
the oldest in the village, he was ever ready to scold and shout at anyone. Let there be any fight in the village and there he'd go on the double to deal out punishment. 

"Kadaw, kadaw, Uncle," Aye Thi asked pardons hastily and fled on her way. 

"Aunt Htwe Nyunt, mother asked if the jaggery's here."

Daw Htwe Nyunt, busy with her scales, did not look up.

"Yes, its here; take it with you. Wait while I jot down the bill."

She opened a greasy copybook and scrutinised Aye Thi's account.

"Sticky rice, 10 pyi
8 viss of oil
5 Coconuts "
Reading out the list she moistened the pencil tip with her tongue.

"Now I'll add the 8 viss of jaggery, you hear?" 
Aye Thi did not look at the bill; she dared not. The old lady might think she was being mistrustful and what if she refused more credit out of a snit? One has to be careful. They would pay not with cash, but with bushels of peanuts. Coming home with the basket of jaggery on her head, she came across Koyin Hsa Mi, leader of the village lads.

"Koyin Hsa Mi, are you sure the dance troupe's coming?"
"Yep, the Culture Kyaw Win Troupe from Mandalay"
Aye Thi skipped happily all the way home.

When the barge carrying the troupe arrived, the whole village was out waiting at the jetty. The stronger lads of the village tucked up their longyis into shorts and waded into the water to help carry the boxes. Aye Thi and the others looked at the members and tried to guess who the lead dancers are.

Aye Thi felt impatient, impatient to invite the dancers to her home for tea. Would they like the country fare she had prepared, such as sticky-rice cakes, but there were also the biscuits brought from town, and milk from their own cow.

"Stand back, Aye Thi, you're always underfoot", scolded Uncle Dwe Hla. Aye Thi moved back hastily. 

She came home only when the barge has been unloaded. "Oh Mother, you should see the boxes; I saw the 'prince', too, sis, and the actress, so pretty!"

"Don't forget, Mom, I'm giving lunch to the actress." she continued in a very serious tone. 

"Yes, yes, madam, you might as well feed the whole troupe."

In the afternoon Aye Thi went to check that the mat she has put down for the show was still there.

By dusk she was bathed, dressed and ready; her make-up was two huge circles of Thanakha applied to her cheeks. She could hear the music from the show grounds. 

She moistened a finger and rubbed her ruby earring, which came out sparkling red, free from the coating of Thanakha. 

"Not done prettying yourself up yet, are you? And you're not even a full-grown girl yet, Aye Thi.1 see you're going to be a handful. Now go fill a water pot to bring along and don't forget a mat."

How like mother to make her do more chores when she's all ready and dressed. 

When they arrived the microphones were still being set up. They sat down and like all others of the villages, did not get up again until the show ended the next morning. 

After one night's performance, the whole village was friends with the members of the troupe; the dancers were invited to this house and that for lunch, for tea, for early dinners. 

How Aye Thi adored the pretty actress. What big round eyes in a face framed with curly, fluffy hair. She whispered the pretty name, Su Nanda Htwe, and wondered why her mother could not have picked a pretty name like that for her, too.

She had invited the pretty lady for lunch, and she came with three other minor dancers as company. She had said she liked chicken, so there in the pot was Aye Thi's little pet, Golden Cockerel, killed this very morning by her brother. The honoured guest ate heartily of the chicken liver, but Aye Thi could hardly bear to look, thinking about her late pet.
But even her brother for once was generous with her.

"Sis, don't forget to get her the milk I got from my cow."

Aye Thi wanted to laugh; he'd fallen for the pretty lady, for sure.

"How kind you are, Brother, I shall never forget you all," the pretty dancer cooed. Why, you should have seen the huge grin on brother's face.

Such a silence fell on the village after the festival.
She felt so miserable she could not eat for days. When she went to say good-bye, the pretty lady had tears in her eyes, just like on stage.

When Aye Thi plunked herself down on the riverbank, breaking into sobs, the dancer comforted Aye Thi by saying they would be back next year.

Aye Thi could not visualize the time stretching to next year: would they be able to hold a festival, would it be the same troupe, would the pretty lady be still acting? While Aye Thi sat in misery, the barge slowly drifted away. She sat there long after the bank was empty of people. 

Next day she must get back to the fields. She prayed the next crop would be good.

"Aye Thi, I've been calling for ages; are you deaf?" It was her mother.

"Go to Daw Htwe Nyunt ask her how much we owe over this festival; how many bushels of peanuts we are to give her."

In front of the store there was quite a crowd; like Aye Thi, people coming to pay in peanuts. She hoped that after payment there would be enough left over as seed. For the next year.

About the author:
Born 1965,she has written over fifty short stories and numerous articles on sports which is one of her hobbies.

At present she is writing a series of articles on her family history for Shwe Am'tay Magazine. 

She has published two books, a collection of short stories, "The fragrance of Thanakha Flowers" (from which this short story was taken and a collection of essays titled "Footballer heroes I love ".

She lives in Mandalay.

Contents | Letter to Our Readers | Pagodas of Sagar:Lost Treasures | Marble Images |
Mysterious Jewels of the Jungle | Guardian on the Northwest | Birders' Delight | Pwe | Events Calendar

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