Blogs Posts Reflections

Those Vintage Years by Mervyn Shwe Tha (Myo Thant)

I live in the northern part of Yangon in an area under the name of Parami; It is a reasonably well to do district, however not in the same league as Golden Valley or Inya Road. Being in my golden years, every few months, it entails me to drive to downtown and draw my pension at Commercial Bank no.3, situated on the top of Sule Pagoda Road near the Port area. The drive used to be under half an hour from my house, however regretfully, with the high or more correctly ultra extensive congestion, making it in about an hour must fall in the category of ‘lucky’. To be fair, the drive downtown has always been reasonably congested as far as I can recall. However, today it is even worst: heavy build up of vehicles commencing from the old War Office for about half a mile in the direction of downtown. Should the four wheelers be moving or trying to crawl, I could reluctantly forgive and understand; Much to my dismay, cars are unceremoniously parked not only on both side of the road, but worst they are stationed at times three abreast starting from the old ENT Hospital (Eyes, Nose and Throat) or the once renowned The American Hospital, right up to the President Cinema: while a single file of cars sat idly by on the opposite side also. Traffic snails to a single or where possible maximum double files, but only in a few places with the poor traffic policemen sweating it out, trying to direct the onslaught of traffic come rain or shine in vain. This uncontrollable mayhem of vehicles is due to the Basic Education High School no.1 Dagon Township, BEHS no.1 Dagon for short, being situated on the one-way Southbound Sule Pagoda Road; there, the hurdle and bubble of picking up and sending of pupils and students to the school on time congregate: at times their portable meals, lunches or dinners on laptops, galore. This school today is arguably the best educational establishment for children from Kindergarten up to the Matriculation standards in Yangon (Rangoon): thus the rush by parents to ensure their siblings secure a sound foundation and jump the threshold of Matriculation Examination with flying colours, to make the grade for entry to the top universities in the country. This is of course in keeping with the old tradition of the previous school management, which they religiously followed. The BEHS no.1 (Dagon) was born on 14th April, 1965 when it was nationalized by then, New Burmese Government. Prior that, it was known as the Methodist English High School (MEHS) and the Principal was Mrs. Logie, who nurtured all her charge to be well groomed educational wise and no need bother to enquire which school stood first in the country. It’s students securing the prestigious first position in Burma (Myanmar) in the fearlessly contested yearly Matriculation Examination, and the pass rates were second to none also for General Certificate of Education ‘O Level’ set by the University of London: Some years we did stood second, but a rarity to be sure. Since those bygone-era our school was a beacon of stellar education, gestetnering top nosh students in Burma (Myanmar) who also turned out to be a member of a very selective well-refined brigade, a cut above the rest, one might say. Most of its alumni holding positions of prominence in business and Governmental bureaucracies: also doing well for those who are abroad too, believe it or not, till this very day, of which I am rather proud to admit. Our MEHS had excellent well-qualified teachers, they were renowned for being well versed in respective subjects they taught and be able to put across the educational message to their pupils and students in classes: The teachers and the prefects were fine tooth combed selected and high degree of discipline ruled over the school, maintaining motivation, discipline, calm and order. Even till this very day, should one enquire which school we attended, the mention of MEHS was worth its weight in gold: no doubt about that. The school excelled not only in educational results but also in sports such as football and basketball plus the parents and teachers dialogs were complimentary to the hilt. We also had a small medical clinic run by a very professional doctor and a well trained and kind nurse; however, there were a few ‘over ripened apples’ and I was regretfully one, a few of the times only mind you: this will become abundantly clear at the end of this article. There are numerous entries into town, but as the distance, petrol consumption and time would roughly be the same or a wee bit more, thus no alternative but to take the well-trodden route and satisfy my reminiscences at the same time. When I was younger during those vintage years, the Sule Pagoda Road was known as Alanpya Payar Road and it was two-way: our school stood herald, mighty and proud, as it is up till this very day. Each time I passes-by, I cannot but steal a glance and admire our old MEHS building; still holding its granular prominence, dominance, charm and attraction. The Methodist English Church is still there on the left of the school building and according to my best friend Peter Mo Kyaw, who with his brother Marcus also attended the same school, though a few years junior to me: believe the old parsonage is still standing there between the school and the church, which their family attended way back since sixty years ago. I can still see the tennis courts in front, as it is nearest to the road. The gymnasium, (cum) sheltered playground is still standing tall annexed to the main building on the right, entry by way of Sandwich Road (Nawaday Road) and understand the football pitch behind the school is still very solid there. I also do recall the old Indian Bayar Kyaw (fried chick peas fritters) peddler by the platform, selling his wares sitting in front of the tennis courts railings come rain or shine, with his make-shift small stove, frying pan, cut fresh green onions and chilies with small pieces of lime, which we were forbidden to buy and consume by the school, being a health hazard. My pocket money was too minimal to indulge in such culinary pleasures after school, while waiting for my ride back home in the afternoons. To let you into my little secret, I did support the old Indian man once in a blue moon when I could spare a few pyas. Not too often though. Mervyn Shwe Tha (Myo Thant) Posted: 3/7/2015

By Myo

Myo Thant aka Michael Tin Hla during my MEHS years graduated in 1964. After graduation, I completed my medical school before I left for US. Currently, I reside in Maryland, retired from my hematology/oncology clinical practice but works at VA Hematology/Oncology clinic part time. My house at MEHS was Judson and I am proud to be a green martian.