My two days with Captain Khin Maung Nyunt’s English girlfriend Pamela in London reminded me of the hit film I had seen thrice. It is Roman Holiday in which the hero is a handsome commoner and heroine is a royal princess who escaped herself from the palace, incognito and posed herself as a rural girl. The two met each other at the public fountains. They had a brief period of romantic adventure in Rome. But the heroine returned to where she belonged, the hero became a forsaken lover. In the same vein, my two days affair with Pamela deserved another romantic film “London Holiday”. But we two kept our morals and our meetings did not go beyond the limit of brotherhood. I took her to places of interest and cultural education such as the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Gallery and Royal Festival Hall and Opera house. She learned a lot from me regarding English history and culture.
On the third day, early morning her boyfriend Navy Khin Maung Nyunt appeared. He and Pamela came to me to thank and to bid goodbye. Her boyfriend must have heard my kindness to her. Navy Khin Maung Nyunt heartily shook hands with me and hugged me. I told him in Burmese teasingly but meaningfully:
“I always observe five moral precepts of the Buddha. You believe me”
“Of course, I do. I do.”
I did not know whether their love affair bloomed into a flower of marriage. But what I did know was the tragic news of Navy Khin Maung Nyunt. Three months after I returned with my Ph.D degree and rejoined my Alma Mater, Yangon University, the fatal accident Navy Khin Maung Nyunt met with, while practicing a torpedo boat in the Danube River, was reported in the then English Daily “The Nation”.
Readers, please follow me back to the story of mistaken identity with my L.S.E Khin Maung Nyunt. One summer evening in the year 1959, when I returned home, the landlady Mrs. Coleman and local medical doctor physician Taylor-Walker were watching me with strange looks at the entrance of the house. Mrs. Coleman began to yell at me:
“Hellow, Mr. Nyunt, are you alright?”
“Of course, I’m. Why you ask so?”
Both the landlady and the physician retorted together:
“No, no, no Mr Nyunt, you are sick. We know you’ve run away from the hospital. Come, come, we’ll take you back for treatment till you are O.K.”
Both of them tried to get hold of me and push me into a taxi.
“I’m O.K. Why you two force me to go to hospital. Get your hands off. I’ll call the police to help me.”
I yelled and I wept.
Mrs. Coleman then explained what had happened. She got a phone call from Myanmar Embassy that Mr. KM Nyunt broke down at the Hyde Park Corner in the early morning and lay unconscious on the meadow. The patrol police found him and took him to St. Georges Hospital. When they found out his identity they phoned Myanmar Embassy and the Myanmar Embassy phoned the lady. Mrs. Coleman could not believe as she never heard any health complaint from me. She went to see Physician Taylor-Walker who was a specialist in Tropical Diseases. She learnt from him that a temporary mental breakdown can occur to a student too much absorbed in studies. So she and the physician were about to visit me in hospital. When they saw me return they thought I had run away from my ward and so they were sending me back to St. Georges.
“Oh! I see now, another mistaken identity. I told them there were two Khin Maung Nyunts at the L.S.E. “If you don’t believe me, you ring up St. Georges hospital to check if there was patient KHin Maung Nyunt in the ward No. G.”
Mrs. Coleman rang up. After five minutes, she got the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. The other Khin Maung Nyunt was undergoing treatment in that ward No. 6.
Mrs. Coleman kissed me many times with “Sorry” repeated endlessly. Physician gave me his apology but he could not understand two Myanmar scholars at L.S.E with identical names.
Dear readers, please keep track with me because my story of mistaken identity did not end in London. It continued in Myanmar when both of us came back after we got Ph.D. degrees from the L.S.E. In June 1960 I rejoined my University of Yangon. A new department International Relations [IR] was already opened and I became lecturer there. A year later in 1961, on May 7th my wedding ceremony was held at the grand hall of Yangon Municipal Town Hall. My bride was Hla Hla Khin, whom I met in London. She was now the principal of Ady Nursery School, the British Embassy. The other Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt came to my wedding and greeted us. He jokingly asked us to find a pretty girl for him as he could not find one by himself. A few weeks later, a close friend of mine in Mandalay rang me up if I liked his silk acheik longyi he gave as wedding present. I replied I did not get any from him. He said he sent the gift to the Economics Department! When I went to Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt’s home to claim my present, he produced nearly 20 wedding presents for me, mis-delivered to his house. He apologized for not informing me about it. When I phoned my Mandalay friend that I got his present from my name sake, as it was mis-delivered he made a very apt naughty and jokey remark:
“Oh, Thank God, only wedding present was mis-delivered to him. Should you bride also was mis-delivered to him what would happen?!!”
In addition to this, D. Khin Maung Nyunt I had cases of mistaken identity with other Khin Maung Nyunts in Yangon. Medical doctor Khin Maung Nyunt, and famous singer Hpo Soe Gyin Khin Maung Nyunt [ဖုိးဆိုခ်င္ ခင္ေမာင္ညႊန္႔].
One winter night, at ungodly hour of 12.pm. my phone rang very loudly.
“Hellow, Dr. Please help us. My wife is about to give birth. But she is screaming and about to die. Delivery is not easy. It’s perhaps miscarriage. I’ve no car, cannot get a taxi. Please come to us, the address is ….”.
“You’re mistaken. I’m not that kind of a doctor I,m ….”
Before I finished my explanation he made the following remark and dropped the phone:
“Oh! I see, I see, you are Taleiksan Saya Wun. [တိရိစၧာန္ဆရာ၀န္]”. Instead of Vet doctor [Taleiksan Saya Wun [တိရိစၧာန္ေဆးကုဆရာ၀န္], he shortened it Animal doctor [တိရိစၧာန္ဆရာ၀န္f]. So I became animal.
Twice I was summoned to the office of Income Tax Officer of my township and reminded me of my failure to report on the income of my private clinic. Only when my old history student who was an I.T.O turned up the matter was settled. In England medical doctors are called physicians. Only Ph.D. degree holders are called doctor.
At the 12th Anniversary State Performing Arts Competitions held at the National Theatre, Dagon Township, judges, including me, veteran dancer U Sein Aung Min and other wellknown singers were present to supervise and judge the competitions. Before the programme began, a young lady and her old mother from the Ayeyawady Division came to me and paid me respect with Mon longyi. They said:
“We admired you very much before we saw you. We are the fans of hit songs of Hpo Soe Gyin Khin Maung Nyunt.”
“Oh, no, no, I’m not Hpo Soe Gyin Khin Maung Nyunt. Take your gift back. Hpo Soe Gyin Khin Maung Nyunt may come later. Give it to him.”
“Oh, is that so. Then please accept it sir, we have another longyi for real Hpo Soe Gyin Khin Maung Nyunt.”
When I insisted them to bake back the gift, they became tearful. U Sein Aung Min whispered to me:
“Please accept it. They gave it to you. They are now weeping.” The other two Khin Maung Nyunts with whom I had the mistaken identity were (1) Pleader U Khin Maung Nyunt and (2) Film star Khin Maung Nyunt who co-starred with film actress Kyi Kyi Htay in the film “Aung Gyin Shitpa”.
When I was Director-General of the Fine Arts Department, Historical Research Department and Archaeology Department, the other Khin Maung Nyunt was the Rector of Economics Institute of Yangon. Often correspondences were misdelivered and seats were misarranged at the meetings and receptions.
The two worst cases occurred – one at the Mandalay University and the other in Yangon. I was transferred to Mandalay University as Professor of History when Dr. Than Tun retired. A year later a new department International Relations was opened and I concurrently was the professor of that department. My family was left in Yangon. I resided alone with some students who could not get room at the hostels. One afternoon in late February, two nicely dressed, and bedecked with diamond jewelleries early mid aged ladies came to me in a very grand car. The brought many presents. Introducing themselves as jewelers with a shop in E building of Zey Gyo Daw, Mandalay, said softly”
“Well Sayagyi Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt, we know all about you, before we meet and see you. You are a good professor, learned, and good in teaching, students like you. But you need one thing very badly. We know that you are handsome because perhaps you’ve not found a good life-long partner. So we come to give what you badly need. Our niece is a pretty young lady. She is selling jewellery with us, the only daughter in the family. She is qualified to be your life partner. Regarding your wedding, we’ll arrange it. It would be very grand in our Mandalay. Myo Ma music band is ready. Regarding the dress and diamond jewelleries for you and your bride, we’ll do best to your satisfaction. The only thing we want from you is Yes from you.”
I had no chance to interrupt her. She spoke so much and non-stopped. Finally, I asked her:
“What degree your niece had?”
“Oh, Sayagyi, you’ve forgotten your pupil. She got B.Com. She worked for four years under your teaching!”
Now, light dawned on this extreme case of mistaken identity. I explained at length that I was a married man with 5 children. I left my family in Yangon. I showed them my family photo and the other Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt was the Rector of Economics Institute, a bachelor residing in Yangon. Crestfallen and ashamed of their mistakes they two ladies paid me homage and left. I told them to take back their presents, they refused. They said that I deserved them.
When they left, students living with me, who overheard all, said to me:
“Sayagyi, you miss good chance. You should accept that tribute of a young girl [orD;unmqufo] brought to the king. You keep your first wife in Yangon and have a good time with a new one in Mandalay. How wonderful your life would become!”
“Shut up. You stupid fellows. Never know the evil consequences of such kind of affairs.”
They enjoyed the food-staff left by the two ladies – noodles, vermicelli, moon-cake, Hto moke etc. etc.
I told him about the event. He did not answer. He only joked that because people thought I was a bachelor and he a married man he missed chances.
The next case was the mistaken identity at the banquet given by Minister Bogyoke Abel, who had held meetings with trade delegation from Japan. At the end of the meetings, he held a dinner at his office in their honour. The Japanese delegation could not visit Bagan as the schedule was tight. But they wanted to know about Bagan. So Minister Abel invited me to his dinner to talk about Bagan. The invitation he sent to me was misdelivered to other Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt who thought he received his invitation and he never informed me. When the minister did not see me at the dinner, he phoned me and sent his car to bring me to dinner. At the table the minister placed the two Dr. Khin Maung Nyunts, me on his right and the other on his left, telling the Japanese guests to ask about Bagan from the right side Dr Khin Maung Nyunt, pointing at me.
The following day, I phoned up Rector Dr Khin Maung Nyunt and said:
“This mistaken identity between us seems endless. So I suggest that we take the solution of the two writers with identical names in settling their mistaken identity. In the late Konbaung Period there were two brilliant poets with identical names U Min. Both composed poems and verses of high quality. But which U Min composed which poems the king and the people were confused. The two U Mins settled. One U Min made himself an Acolyte (Hpo Thu Daw) and he became Hpo Thu Daw U Min and the other U Min came to be called Lu U Min [U Min, the layman]. Since you are a very pious and almost a confirmed bachelor, why don’t you become a monk, Ko Khin Maung Nyunt?”
“Sometimes I think of becoming a monk in my late age. But Ko Khin Maung Nyunt, though I’m a bachelor and have no family I have sisters living with me. I’m so attached to them. I can’t leave them.”, he replied.
When I got the news of his passing away, I rushed to the shrine and prayed. I struck the Kyesi three times, calling upon the late Rector Dr Khin Maung Nyunt to share my merits and telling that he had gone out of this life ahead of me and that when I join him later let us not repeat our mistaken identity in our next existence!