(This article is dedicated to all teachers the author met throughout her life and to Saya U Aung Pyae in particular.)
Su Su Myint (Paoh Mu)
He is a man of versatility who had played life in a wide variety of parts. Once he had been a politician, a journalist, then, a writer, then an actor, at the same time, an artist and so on. True, he is a patron of the ‘Cherry’ magazine and also a permanent member of ‘KantkawYwar’ Art Gallery. Such is he known to the pedagogic world as Myanmarsar Saya AungPyae and also to the artistic world as Saya Aung Pyae or Saya Pyae.
I first knew him as aMyanmarsar teacher. To the best of my knowledge, he used to take on an odd appearance even from a good distance. Right inside his red bagwere blended miscellaneous of his needful items_ red pen, blue pen, black pen, a sketch-board, and pieces of his manuscripts.Under his significant pairs of black-eyebrow, his narrow eyes were keen. He was so true to a Myanmar Saya, shabbily dressed and not ceremonial.I found him never meticulous about his dress.Although others counted dress and appearance a lot in one’s personality, he was always seen in long-sleeved white shirt, including his longyi not well ironed.
When I came across his teaching, to my wonder, I came to notice that he was a guru in ways of presentation. He used to play with his highly distinctive voice depending on the context of the lessons. And that was especially apparent in storytelling. His breathtakingnarration about the story – ‘Sonutthora the Hunter and Saddan King of elephants – gotthe whole classdead silent and enchanted. Due to his eloquence, each character of the play was clearly engraved in our minds. I still remember the classroom scenario; schoolgirls verging on tears, some gulping back sobs and some boys fighting back the tears. Another remembrance still called to my mind was his teaching of how to write an essay. He said “composing an essay goes always against the way of meditation”. We must widely scatter all our thoughts. And based on an idea, we must approach towards other steps. Then, we will have to recollect all kinds of thoughts that raced through our mind and try an essay. However, I was heedless towards his excellent message and instead, I took to my own style of composition. At last, it turned out that I came to request copies of his essays to learn by heart. All of a sudden, anger flushed on his face. In the presence of the students, he yelled that there was no point in learning by heart and that I should be aware of the fact that fraudulent result had no guarantee as authentic ones did. Ashamed, I hung my head. Simply speaking, I got used to rote learning and was quite convenient with that throughout my school life. I memorized most of the lessons including Myanmar and English essays for any incoming exam. At that time, I thought he purposely cut me to the quick. I was deeply mortified.
Another point still lingered on my mind. He always kept betel quit inside his mouth and I sat aloof him. I thought he would especially English speak in ramble as my daddy once told me that the one who chewed betel would get thick tongue and delay in learning language. Sometimes, thoughts and practicality turned out to be contrary. One day, a NGO called upon our school to share the educational assistances. We students witnessed that his accent in English was incredibly nice when he appeared a fair deal with the foreigners. As time went by, I progressively came to acknowledge his gratitude. By his patience in storytelling, I learned to love Myanmarsar; with his exuberant teaching sometimes coated with a trace of discontent, writing essays could scare me no more.
By the end of the matriculation examination, we were separated. A Day in April 2006 was an unforgettable day to me.A friend called to inform me of Saya’s death. I could not believe my ears and I was at a loss for words. My sorrow knew no bounds. In fact, I thought of visiting him lately. Now, my hopes crumbled to dust. I did not know that my once-and-last paying homage to him would correspond to our last bow to him and also the last goodbye between us.
Although April used to glow in the light of the rising sun, on the day of Saya’s funeral, the clouds-in-waiting were marching the sky across towards the southwestern hemisphere. With the pouring rain, everything hesitated my going to his funeral. I wept bitter tears of sorrow remembering everything of him. Nothing can compensate for his death. I stood in silent paying homage on the road and also praying for peace in his life to come.
Later I came to realize his other sides from a friend (who is his niece) and in the journals and magazines that his real name is U Khin Maung Myint. He was a versatile writer and a great composer as well. For his mind is flower-like gentle in literature, some of his literary works such as “ၿပိဳမွာေလလား မိုုးရဲ႕”(I Wonder if Rain is Darkening) and “ေနရစ္ေတာ့ ျမသီလာ” (Adieu Mya Thi Lar!) can soften and move the readers. In the film “တျပည္သူမေရႊထား” (Htar! You’re Getting Foreign to Me), he disclosed his talent as an excellent supporting character. Being a steel-hearted politician, he devoted most part of his life to politics and most of his rebellious poems were centered on such theme. He tried to stand against all sorts of oppression. He is a renowned journalist as well. He is greatly honored as a guiding star for the junior journalists.
He expired on 28th April 2006, a gloomy Friday. Now he is no more. But I, as one of his students, feel his presence in every corner of the academic world. For me, he means a great benefactor as he has brought me to light in ways of proper learning. Every year, especially when the World Teachers’ Day is approaching, memories of his impressive personality, his exemplary behavior and his interest in all kinds of student activities come to me. In my knowledge, Saya U AungPyae is of unique character. Although he was dead, he remained unchanged in the bottom of our heart. I am definitely sure that he will be remembered in our academic society forever.