Beyond Being Strange

Yin Nwe Ko (Linn)

National Day falls on 16 November, this year. The ceremony of pay homage to the ex-teachers who have served in No. 1, Basic Education High School, Kyaunggon in which Ko Kyaw Kha lives is often held on every National Day that falls in November. As that year’s ceremony turns 25th anniversary of Silver Jubilee, it is magnificently held. Many ex-students of the school come back to the town in order to attend the ceremony.
As Ko Kyaw Kha is in poor health, he cannot attend it. He is the one who makes himself pleased with paying homage to his teachers from his home being meant for. To say vividly it has been for ten years Ko Kyaw Kha cannot attend this ceremony.
At about 10:30 a.m., while Ko Kyaw Kha is sitting in the easy chair in front of the altar, he hears a man’s voice from the front of his house.
“Hey, do you remember me, I’m looking for again and again. It has been three or four times about here. I learnt No. 61, Yadanarbon Street by heart.”
When Ko Kyaw Kha looks at the front door, he sees a man of about the same of his age wearing rather faded clothes, holding an umbrella in one hand and the other a small bag and smiling at him. Ko Kyaw Kha does not know him. No remembering may be more than not knowing. Ko Kyaw Kha knows well that the ex-students far and near often come back to the town on such day. The man must have also been an ex-student. Besides he must have known Ko Kyaw Kha very well. Thus he must have got to the front door Ko Kyaw Kha safe and sound greeted him.
Meanwhile, Ko Kyaw Kha tries hard to remember the man’s name in his memory. However, he cannot. However, it is not suitable for Ko Kyaw Kha to talk to a guest at the very door. So, he invites him to come in. Ko Kyaw Kha’s living room is not splendid. There are three old single wooden chairs and a small dwarf plastic table only. Ko Kyaw Kha waves him to sit in a chair and makes a chat with him whose name he has not remembered yet.
After about ten minutes, Ko Kyaw Kha begins to remember the name of the guest’s elder brother.
“Are you along with Ko Tin Myint in coming to the ex-teachers paying homage ceremony now ?” said Ko Kyaw Kha revealing his brother’s name first. Only after that, Ko Kyaw Kha remembers the man’s name.
“Ko Tin Myint is along with the ex-teachers from Yangon and has already gone to the school. I come here to meet you. The address I remembered was No. 61, Yadanarbon Street. But it now is No. 43. So I’ve spanned round and round about here.”
“You are Ko Tin Soe, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I am Tin Soe, right.”
Ko Kyaw Kha has just remembered him well. Ko Kyaw Kha looks at his alive friend with whom both of them had been separated since he was in Grade VII, half surprised and half happy. Ko Tin Soe’s family with seven family members was well-known. This was because his father was a Township Cooperative Officer who had five children – the eldest, Ko Tin Myint, Ma Khin Lay, Ma Khin Hnin, Ko Tin Soe and Ma Khin Mar in order respectively.
Being well-known to his family in the town was not because his father was a Township Cooperative Officer but because his two elder sisters and a younger sister were very beautiful ladies. The two brothers – Ko Tin Myint and Ko Tin Soe were themselves handsome with fair complexion. Among their family members, Ko Kyaw Kha was the most familiar to Ko Tin Soe as they were in the same Grade.
Ko Tin Soe also got on well with Ko Kyaw Kha’s family but he never invited Ko Kyaw Kha to his house. Ko Kyaw Kha also never asked Ko Tin Soe who had beautiful sisters for a chance of visit aware of existing circumstances.
Ko Kyaw Kha and Ko Tin Soe often went to Kyar Inn lake behind their High School in order to shoot birds with a atapult each at weekends as they both were in playing-age. Ko Tin Soe spent most of the time playing with Ko Kyaw Kha.
In the year in which Kop Kyaw Kha had sat the Grade VII examination, Ko Tin Soe’s father had to transfer to Yangon. Both two friends happened to meet a cause to be separated. Before about a week of transfer, Ko Tin Soe came to stay at Ko Kyaw Kha’s house. Ko Kyaw Kha’s parents accepted him and took responsibility for his food. He slept with Ko Kyaw Kha, too. After the whole family of Ko Tin Soe had moved to Yangon, there were in regular contacts by mail between the two friends for a year. Later, their contacts got less and less and finally they have been losing their contact up to now.
If the contact-loss period is counted, there has been over 40 years. Not only Ko Kyaw Kha but also Ko Tin Soe encountered with new experiences of life and hard pounds of the way of the mundane world. To say the truth, under such circunstances, Ko Kyaw Kha entirely forgot Ko Tin Soe.
In today’s chat, Ko Tin Soe tells Ko Kyaw Kha that he graduated and served as government staff in Custom Department in Yangon – for the first nine years as a clerk, for the second nine years as a Junior P.O. and for the third nine years as a P.O. After that he was arrested and sent to prison. After four months of imprisonment, he earned his living by the income of his better-half only. He is now learning the Dhamma of Lord Buddha. He also says that all the worldly business lead to Apãya, when death. So he concentrated his mind on Dhamma. He again asks which line of Dhamma Ko Kyaw Kha is now learning.
Ko Kyaw Kha answers he is studying the Dhamma as much as he can reach. At this moment, he is listening the sermons preached by Ashin Nandamãlãbivumsa and during the past year, he was listening to the sermons of Mogoke Sayardawgyi, Ashin Ñãnissara and Ashin Javana.
Ko Tin Soe says he studies various strong dependences and likes the sermons of Ashin Okkatha, Venerable Mon of ‘The-inn-gu’. He also says he is glad to hear that Ko Kyaw Kha is also practising Dhamma and gives two CDs of ‘The-inn-gu’ sermons which he has already brought. He, then, takes his hand phone out of his shirt pocket and says some selected sermons are copied from CD into the hand phone and it is easy to bring wherever he goes. Then, he asks the phone number of Ko Kyaw Kha and they exchange their numbers each other.
As the practicing methods of ‘The-inn-gu’, Ko Tin Soe explained are unfamiliar to Ko Kyaw Kha, they become the new knowledge for Ko Kyaw Kha. Ko Kyaw Kha decides to listen to the sermons from the CDs he gets as a present the next day. The paying homage ceremony for the ex-teachers will be started at 1 p.m., and Ko Tin Soe leaves for the school at about fifteen to one. Ko Kyaw Kha sends Ko Tin Soe off to the entrance of his house compound and remembers their younger days’ playing vaguely gazing Ko Tin Soe’s back.
At about the finished time of the ceremony, Ko Kyaw Kha makes a call to Ko Tin Soe. Ko Tin Soe answers the phone that he is on the way to Yangon-Pathein High way riding on a Tri-show. Ko Kyaw Kha tells him to make him a call without fail when he gets to his home.
However, Ko Tin Soe does not make a call about his arrival to Yangon that night. The next
Day, Ko Kyaw Kha waits for his friend’s ring the whole day. But in vain. The next day, he again waits for it but in vain. Ko Kyaw Kha wants to make a call to Ko Tin Soe but he has lower credit in his phone and so he does not want to make a call first because if they get contact, their chat may be rather long.
In this manner, Ko Kyaw Kha does not make a call to Ko Tin Soe up to tenth day. Ko Kyaw Kha tops up the bill of his phone today and so he decides to make a call to Ko Tin Soe first. He has been upset to the loss of contact for ten days after just an hour re-meeting of an old friend, who has been separated for over four decades.
Choosing the number of Ko Tin Soe in his contact list, he makes a call first. His call gets engaged with its destination instantly.
On the other side of the line…
“Hello” a woman answers.
“Hello…it is Ko Tin Soe’s number, isn’t it ?” asks Ko Kyaw Kha.
“Yeah, who is on the line of that side ?”
“I’m one of Ko Tin Soe’s friends. Ko Tin Soe got to my house on National Day as he came to the ceremony of paying homage to the ex-teachers of our school. As he went back to Yangon, he did not make me a call. I am worried if he is fine or not. So I make this call.”
“Repeat me on which day, please.”
“On National Day, 16 November.”
There is a silence for a while and Ko Kyaw Kha is waiting for the answer. After that …..
“Something is going wrong with Ah Ko Gyi who is now on the line. I’m Ko Tin Soe’s spouse. 16 November is the day that turns exactly a month of Ko Tin Soe’s death.
“Oh….how…and how….”
“Yeah, Ah Ko Gyi, on 16 November, we put on alms-food into a monk’s bowl for his very turn of first month death. I can’t consider it.”
Ko Kyaw Kha is greatly shocked and amazed holding his hand phone in his hand. Going to the altar, he holds the CDs Ko Tin Soe gave. One of them is on the altar and the other one is in his laptop which is still being listened. One of the sermons for that CD is much liked and copied and saved in Ko Kyaw kha’s hand phone.

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