August 19, 2016

Hello, I’m still alive! Part I

Relatives, class mates, colleagues, students, and friends at home and abroad, I’m still alive!
News of the hospitalization of Dr Khin Maung Nyunt, retired Professor of Statistics Department and retired Rector of the Institute of Economics, Yangon in the Facebook and a few weeks later the sad news of his death on Friday morning 11-12-2015 and news of his funeral service and burial followed by condolences by his students on following two days Saturday and Sunday 12-13 December 2015 had caused many confusions and untimely condolences offered to my wife and family by phone, Facebook and e-mail.
Even on 15-12-2015 at the early hour, one of my old lady students who is also my wife’s class mate at St.John’s Convent, Mable Maw rang up my wife. As my wife had just gone out, I received the phone call:
“Hail, Sayagyi you’re still alive. I thought it could be you Dr Khin Maung Nyunt who passed away a couple days ago.”
“Mable, you are not the only one who made this mistaken identity. My wife and family members are kept busy with such kind of phone calls.”
The worst and funniest was that some history major I.R major and Archaeology major students began collecting money for yellow robes for monks and wreaths to lay at my burial. Then they suddenly found out that I was still alive giving lectures at Ph.D prelim classes. So they purchased a nice silk longyi and a fine fancy foreign shirt with the collected money and paid me respects. They cheerfully and happily explained their mistaken identity.
The funniest case was a recent graduate of Ph.D Archaeology named Dr Khaing Mon Kyaw. As she returned from National Museum at Nay Pyi Taw she heard the news of the death of Dr Khin Maung Nyunt that day. She wept on the way home and she phoned my driver to know the date and time of my funeral service and burial. The driver had to convince her that it was not me but the other Dr Khin Maung Nyunt who passed away. That evening she came to my house. Half weeping and half laughing she retold her mistaken identity. With a silk longyi and many dry food-staff she paid me respect. She left immediately to tell her parents and friends that it was not me who passed away but the other Dr Khin Maung Nyunt, the retired Rector of the Institute of Economics.
Dear readers, assuming that it would be very amusing and entertaining for you to hear the long story of mistaken identity between the two Khin Maung Nyunts – the late and the still alive by tracing the history starting in late 1956 to 11-12-2015. The editors of the highly esteemed Daily The Global New Light of Myanmar would be kind enough to serialize my articles on this subject for the entertainment of its readers.
It was in the year 1955 that the two Khin Maung Nyunts won Myanmar Government state scholarship for post-graduate degrees abroad. I had already got an M.A degree in modern history and Political Science from Yangon University. The other Khin Maung Nyunt also got his M.A statistics, Department of Economics. Now began the first cause of mistaken identity between the two Khin Maung Nyunts. He and me both got admission to the London School of Economics and Political Science [L.S.E] London University for our post-graduate studies leading to Ph.D – he in Economic Statistics and me for International Relations [I.R.] in the Faculty of Social Science. He flew to London and arrived there two months ahead of me.
Inspired by reading Kin Wun Mingyi’s London Diary, Oxford University Diary by I.C.S U Sein Tin [Theikpan Maung Wa] and Bo Ba Ko’s and Dr Htin Aung’s writings on their sea voyage I chose to go to UK by boat. It was a cargo boat S.S Salween of Henderson Line. There were altogether 12 Myanmar students, among them were Daw Sein Sein [Anthropology] and Daw Khin Ma Lay [Betty, Geography]. They were my contemporaries. There was one my senior U Win Maung [Ngwe Tayi Magaznie] who shared cabin with me. The rest were from Army, Navy and Air Force and medical researchers. SS Salween departed late October 1955. Due to the short notice given me for departure, I had no time to make warm clothings or western dress. I was at that time warden of Sagains Hostel and Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Modern History and Political Science. Professor Ba Nyunt was pleased to see me in full Myanmar dress – black over jacket and blue Bangkok longyi when I went to pay farewell respect to him. I was taken by my hostel students in buses to Lewis Street Jetty from where we went to SS Salween anchored in the deep sea.
The sea voyage took nearly a month passing through stormy Bay of Bengal, the Red Sea, Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar and very sickly rough waters of English channel till we reached the harbour of Liverpool. We had both good time and uneasy moments of sea sickness. I jolted down in my diary every event and experience on board and wrote on article about them and sent it to Yangon University Magazine of that year.
One striking experience was a chemistry major student who shared dinner table with me. He had trouble in using English words Yes and No because he was poor in English. I had to help him often at dinner. The funniest experience with him was at the customs of Liverpool harbour. I advised him to write down all we brought with us and submit them at the green line. While I was enquiring about the train to London, he was involved in heated argument with the customs officer.

He did write down everything he brought from his hometown – rice, cooking oil, salted fish, pea nuts, dried prawn, etc. He also brought Myanmar herbal medicines which his mother gave – such as for digesting, for muscle pain, cough, etc. Instead of writing them down under one general heading, Myanmar herbal medicines, he literally translated them one by one. So he translated licking salt avrsdK;&Spfq,fvsufqm;, into English “80 kinds of wind!”Customs officer thought it was powdered drug and he would not let him go. When I arrived on the scene, the two were almost yelling at each other. When I found out the cause of their heated debate I could help laughing.
“Customs Officer Sir, this is not powdered drug, it’s Myanmar herbal medicine, please let him go with his medicine.”
Luckily there was another customs officer nearby who overheard our commotion. He came to our rescue. He was an English man who had lived in Yangon for some years. He explained about 80 kinds of wind licking salt to his colleague. So the matter ended peacefully.
The story of mistaken identity between the two Khin Maung Nyunts began when, one day the manager of the Westminster Bank, Horbon branch, close to the L.S.E building, rung me up to remind me that I had only 5 pounds left in my credit, as I had purchased a new suit and some warm clothings. I was shocked. I told him that I had recently put into my credit my scholarship allowance and I had not bought anything. I had bought western dress and warm clothing at Aden Freeport when the ship stopped there for a day for loading and unloading. When I went to see the manager I found his mistaken identity of the two Khin Maung Nyunts. What other Khin Maung Nyunt spent were paid out from my credit and what money I put in went into his credit. When I explained that there were two Khin Maung Nyunts at the L.S.E, he refused to believe me. So I looked for the other Khin Maung Nyunt and brought him before him. The other Khin Maung Nyunt told the manager that he bought a suit and some warm clothings. He quoted his bank account No. The manager turned red, so ashamed of his serious error. When I checked my credit account, the money the other Khin Maung Nyunt spent went of my account.
“Mr Manager, you are working in bank, you should check our bank account Nos. even though we two have identical names, I shall report this matter to your boss.”
The manager apologized many times for his mistake. When the other Khin Maung Nyunt left the scene, the manager looked at me and said either sincerely or by way of flatter to atone for his mistake.
“Mr Nyunt, you look younger and more handsome than the other Khin Maung Nyunt!”
The rule of British Education Higher Department was that no one could register for Ph.D. Regardless of what degree you already had, you have to register for M.A first. Then the Board of Professors would decide if you are qualified to proceed to Ph.D. or not after they have assessed your term papers or presentations at international seminars. So we two Khin Maung Nyunts were busy with our requirements. On one occasion, my presentation and presentation of other Khin Maung Nyunt were sent to my supervisor Mr Tunstall. It was the mistaken identity of the dispatch department. My supervisor phoned me to see him first in the morning. When I turned up at his office,
“I notice now you are very clever and brilliant student doing Ph.D. in two different subjects. But you should have learnt the rules and regulations of the L.S.E before you joined it. We allow only one Ph.D in one specialization. I warn you to be a law abiding student at L.S.E.” He gave me the two presentations of the two Khin Maung Nyunts.
I explained that there were two Khin Maung Nyunts at the L.S.E and gave him telephone no. of Myanmar Embassy, 19 A Charles Street for the confirmation of what I said. He phoned and got the answer. Then he phoned the Dispatch Dept which said it by mistake sent both presentations to Mr Tunsall. When he asked me why Myanmar names are identical I explained Myanmar naming system according to the days, date and time of birth. He seemed quite pleased.
At that time in London there were three Kyaw Myints. But they belonged to different universities and resided at different boroughs. We nicknamed them to avoid mistaken identity. The Kyaw Myint who was studying Nuclear Physics at Imperial College was nicknamed Anumu Kyaw Myint. The Kyaw Myint who was studying Chartered Accountancy was called C.A Kyaw Myint and the Kyaw Myint who used to gamble at the grey hound race was called Khwepwe Kyaw Myint. Later it was shortened to Khwe Kyaw Myint. He was studying mathematics. C.A Kyaw Myint settled in Australia. Anumu Kyaw Myint became Rector of Mandalay University and Director-General of Higher Education. He passed away 2 years after his retirement. Khwe Kyaw Myint became Deputy Minister in the Department of Economic Planning and he expired after retirement.
There was another Khin Maung Nyunt with whom I had a very amusing and romantic mistaken identity. He was a young navy officer under training at a naval base somewhere in Scotland. He was a smart, tall and handsome young man, who could sing pop songs of Tommy Steel and Elvis Presley, and could dance western dances. No wonder he had many English girlfriends. One summer he made a date with one of his English girlfriends for summer vacations in London but for his address in London he told her to phone Myanmar Embassy in London. She arrived in London two days ahead, the Embassy gave my address 34 (B) Earl’s Court Square and phone. She came straight to my house. The Landlady Mrs Coleman received Pamela which was her name. Young, pretty and guitar shaped body, speaking Queen’s English though she was hailed from a village in the neighbourhood of London. Mrs Coleman made her wait in the reception hall. When I came home, Mrs Coleman knocked my door and came in:
“Mr Nyunt, how naughty you are! I thought you’re simple quiet young scholarly student. You never told me you’ve got a pretty English girlfriend. There in the reception she is waiting for you.”
She pulled my hand and led me to her.
“Oh! No. Are you Mr Khin Maung Nyunt?”
“Yes, I am. Do I know you?”
No. But I have dating with naval officer Mr Khin Maung Nyunt in London. Myanmar Embassy gave me this address.”
“Oh now I see. I’m another Khin Maung Nyunt, a scholar at the L.S.E. But I’ve seen naval officer Khin Maung Nyunt at Myanmar Embassy reception. But he did not stay in London. He was at his training quarters.”
“Yes. This summer we two made dating in London. I arrived here 2 days ahead. I got his address from Myanmar Embassy. I’ve never been in London before. So don’t know what to do before he comes.”
“Mr Nyunt, be a good boy to keep company with her. Take her around in downtown London till her boyfriend arrives. Would you do that my dear?” says Mrs Coleman to me.
Mrs Coleman appeal, the girl’s beauty and charm and my boyish romance combined to make me utter a positive answer “Yes O.K.”
(To be continued)


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