THREE’S AN AWESOME COMPANY OR HAIL TO THE M.E.H.S.
by Tommy Htay
“We used to rule the airwaves, didn’t we?”, she chirped demurely, her glassy eyes dancing with glee longingly wandering deep into the past. She gave me a questioning look, her smile sweet and captivating.
And, without much moving away from her focus on my impending response, with a suaveness like that of a Hollywood movie star, she sipped the coffee from a cup she held in one hand and with the other handed me another cup of coffee as if I needed to perk myself up to come up with the answer she so wanted to hear.
I looked at Hazel Kyaw Zaw aka Daw Kyi Kyi May intently and slowly soaked in the dream world she had elected to be in at that moment. Her girlish charm and demeanor certainly betrayed her stature as a retired head of a premier broadcaster in Burmese, the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, United Kingdom. She was the first among the three of us to have enjoyed this exalted position.
As I was toying with the cup of coffee she handed me, a tall, dark and handsome hunk of a man ambled towards us. She looked him up and, in a heartbeat, beamed a hearty smile and greeted with all alacrity: “Hi, U Soe Thin, I was gloating over our former roles in three different world-class broadcasting institutions and sharing my thoughts with U Khin Maung Htay. Just imagine, all the three of us, at one time, were heading those departments and we happen to be, wonder of wonders, products of the same school — the great MEHS!”
Her boundless enthusiasm ostensibly caught U Soe Thin aka Po Soe Nyunt by surprise and he could only eke out a sheepish smile, almost a neutral response. The former head of the Burmese Service of Radio Free Asia in Washington D.C, USA, instantly tried to balance his composure by throwing a quick smile in my direction before he sipped coffee from his cup. A one-time diplomat U Soe Thin was the second alumnus of MEHS, among the three of us, to captain the ship of RFA Burmese programs.
We were all at the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand – the venue of the Third Methodist English High School Alumni International Reunion in 2008 — when this conversation took place. In the midst of old friends, classmates and schoolmates, the atmosphere was one of fun and salubriousness.
I looked around and what I saw among the revelers — the once-upon-a-time school kids of the best school in the nation of our time and, perhaps, in the whole of Southeast Asia – a certain bond of lineage and pride that derived from the quality of education they had had at the Methodist English High School of Rangoon, Burma — made me understand peerlessly the girlish burst of enthusiasm from Daw Kyi Kyi May of the BBC and the sheepish smile from U Soe Thin of RFA.
Between sips of coffee, I gave a fitting unspoken salute to these two stalwarts of broadcast journalism with a humbling acceptance of the obvious as someone who took their “mantle”, so to speak, as the last alumnus of MEHS to take over the helm of Burmese Service at the Voice of America.
In due defiance to the hackneyed saying, I’m sure my professional partners will agree with me that “Three’s An Awesome Company” for Hazel, Po Soe and Tommy, what with all that we have amply achieved.
Hail to thee, good old MEHS!