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The rag for reading: Myanmar's library heroes
He was a destitute Mandalay village dweller whose unquenchable appetite for literature led him to Yangon. YANGON: Zaw Zaw came to Yangon nine years ago, desperate for music. However, as he later found out, there were hardly any bookstores and the ownership of the book was a luxurious thing for him, a impoverished Mandalay village dweller with little property.
"And I came to Yangon with a couple of cheaper clogs and 4,000 kyat (US$3). Here Zaw Zaw Zaw Zaw began to spread his appetite for books to the local community by bringing them to his very first library, Mandalay. Most of his lifetime he was always starving for nourishment and wisdom - two things he lacked in his youth.
Zaw Zaw has dreamed of studying Myanmar since he was a youngster, but home poverty has made it virtually impossible after all. He came nearest to the textbooks through tales and narratives of literary legend told to him from memories by his grandpa. In his home town Kyaukpadaung there were no borrowed works after elementary schools and working on a farmstead.
In spite of years of work, his curiosity has never disappeared. Zaw Zaw abandoned his wife and daughter in 2007 to Yangon, where he was hoping to be buried in open access galleries and learn as much as he wanted. Increasingly thirsty for textbooks led him to brush the toilet, rinse the kitchen and await a meager comeback at a pub.
In 2008 he had already resigned his position at the café and began to sell barbecued seafood on the street in Yangon. It had also become proud owners of several ledgers, which it purchased with a day fund of 3,000 Kyat (2 US$). In the same year, Zaw Zaw turned a part of his room into a small library to preserve and divide the expanding library.
"I' ve built a library so other folk won't have to face what I've been through. Not that many galleries in town, but pubs were everywhere. Today, about 40,000 volumes fill his library in Yangon, many of which have been sponsored. Zaw Zaw Zaw Zaw has been dreaming since he founded the Mandalay Library.
It was his resolve that led him to buy more literature and open more galleries in the countryside. In addition to the initial store, Zaw Zaw runs six more - three in Mandalay, two in Sagaing and one in Ayeyarwady - which are all taller and have large ledgers. Not only do Zaw Zaw's libaries offer all sorts of literature, but also guitar, which he said have little opportunity for poverty.
Yangon's readership and the selection of titles they lend varies. Little kids often go out with comics and translate teen books. The Mandalay and its other libaries are financed by its revenue from the sale of barbecued music. As his fame grows, innumerable volumes have found their way from all over Myanmar to his little library in Yangon.
It was described by Zaw Zaw as a center of distributive justice, sending ten thousand copies of the book to other local and rural communities every single quarter. She also offers a book supply services for the handicapped, the aged and those in secluded areas. "He said I do it for those who don't care."
In July, he was also honored by State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi for his efforts to provide the Myanmar community with knowledg.