by Theikpan Maung Wa
Now then, I should write about married life; after pondering on whether I should or not for so long, and whatever happened to me as a result of it, I should write.
With all the millions of people on this earth, think of the millions of marriages. With all the creatures of the world, fish and fowl, think of the number of their marriages. Let us not bother about the few unmarried people: they are surely just a handful.
Western thought is that marriage is a partnership. Well and good, of course it is a partnership. Wife helps husband, husband helps wife. Myanmar elders say marriage is like tongue and teeth: like husband and wife, tongue and teeth cannot be apart, but accidentally the tongue gets bitten sometimes, what?
Sometimes it is quite a bite and hurts like blazes.
Maybe the Myanmar elders are right: seems to me there's a lot of biting. Partnership is rare; when the husband is out partying, the wife prays at home; when he's at a poker game, she's at the monastery. When he's boozing she kneeling in front of a shrine. Well.
And maybe when he's reading scriptures she's off to the movies; when he's fasting and praying at home, she's at the social club. He saves, she spends. He goes east, she turns west. And the tiffs can end up in court, maybe in divorce and Going Back Home to Mother.
Now, among these millions of marriages let us consider the marriage of Sub Divisional Officer Maung Lu Aye and his wife Khin Than Myint. They both liked to read; they both enjoyed going to the movies; they both pray with devotion; they love music; they like staying home.
Now then, is that not pleasant? Does it not disprove the elders' words about teeth and tongue and biting? In this case such a situation of teeth and tongue cannot arise, wouldn't you say? Wrong.
Let us examine this agreeable marriage.
Both like to read, books and magazines. Which ones? The same.
But let us go into more detail: which chapters and articles of these publications does each like?
Now the problem begins: he reads the essays, the editorials, the news reports. She prefers fiction. He said people who read fiction are immature. She retorted that only monkish men like essays.
Not wanting to be thought monkish, he tried reading fiction but prefers stories with a sad ending and said so. She likes happy endings. That difference alone would be enough to start an argument.
At each month drew to an end, she would begin to fuss about the lateness of her subscribed magazine: if later than five days, she would get furious with the publisher, the writers, the printer; the clerks, the postmen. Her fury would spread. Beware of this, all ye in her vicinity.
He would laugh at her anger: Who cared if that rag doesn't turn up, he would tease. A nice noisy quarrel would start.
When his literary magazine was late, he would start to fret; he would interrogate the postman. Why? Why? He would ask plaintively, sometimes talking to himself. She would giggle and say, Good, good, I hope it doesn't come. Now that was nasty; he could not stand it and there would commence another teeth-tongue battle that ended only when the magazine turned up.
On Saturdays they would go to the movies. When she said she adored the actresses Khin Aye and Khin Kyi; he would hoot with laughter. That infuriated her. When he praised the actress he liked, she disagreed: how could he tell if she's any good, how many of her films had he seen, anyway? On what basis did he think that certain actress any good? Another battle would begin.
Theikpan Maung Wa was the pseudonym of U Sein Tin, who was a member of the Indian Civil Service. He studied at Oxford's Christ Church college and served as Deputy Commissioner in many districts of Myanmar. In the1920s he and two other writers Zawgyi and Min Thu Wun started using a simple, straightforward style that broke away from the florid literature of the past. The trend, which was a watershed in Myanmar literature, was known as Khit San Sarpay (New Age Writing.) He was killed by bandits in 1942, one day after his 43rd birthday. He had written nearly 400 articles and had published 12 books among which "Oxford Diary",and "Theikpan Maung Wa's Essay-stories" still stand out as the best of Khit San literature.
His character Maung Lu Aye, based on himself, is one of the most beloved figures of Myanmar literature.
They both liked music but let us examine that fact closely. He liked the classic songs, such as 'Deep Woods of Flowers' or 'The Glory of Buddha'. She preferred pop songs.
When he sang 'Deep Woods' in the bath, she would start beating on a tin can outside the door. However grand the classic, it could never hope to compete with a tin can. She said a mouse got into the tin and needed to be scared off. She said it with a giggle. He being a judge and since there were no witnesses for the prosecution, he had to keep mum.
The next day, she started to hum her favourite pop song while sitting at her toilette table. Aha! He was sitting at his desk and immediately took up his walking stick standing nearby and thumped it loudly on the floor. A mouse ran under the table, he protested when she scolded. He laughed. She, not being a judge, could not care less about evidence nor witnesses and accused him bluntly of malice.
All his years of studying law were of no avail. His knowledge could not save this learned judge from these teeth that bit, and would keep on biting. Sigh.
Dagon Magazine, August 1933.
(The above short story was translated by MTG)