- By Maung Aung Mon
When grown-up, it is natural for youths to find marriage partners. Mon national lads and maids meet with each other while fetching water or firewood, enjoying entertainment shows and contributing voluntary labor. At that time, they have an access to chat or introduce to each other, thence trying to be acquainted and to get the affection of the maid the lad falls in love, in accord with their traditions or by visiting the belle’s house to convey words of betrothal to the maid’s parents, according to the traditional ethics.Now, let us take a glimpse at the ways of courting/wooing of Mon national youths in former times. Ways of the then courting are totally different from the present situations. Though based on direct contact between youths, wedlock must be said to mainly depend upon parents’ attitudes. Every national ethnic living in the Union lays great stress on monogamy, living in separation with parents, in the sphere of social relation. Only if parents marry their adolescent offspring to suitable spouses, will their lineage be no longer extinct. Parents of sons will find brides of virtues, as will parents of daughters. In trying to woo belles of Mon nationals, lads would have already known that they would have to undergo the test of parents-in-law-to-be. For this they have already prepared. Having already known that they will have sons-in-law one day, parents of the maids usually accept the proposals for betrothal from the lads’ sides just after careful study about sons-in-law-to-be so that their daughters can enter wedlock based on pleasant monogamy. It is very interesting to see as to how the girls’ parents assess whether the boys are fit to be chosen as sons-in-law or not. As usual, a lad has to pay a visit to the maid he loves for courting. Provided that he is not yet acquainted with the girl he has affection toward, firstly he has to find boys who are familiar with the girl. Accompanying these boys, the lad has to visit the girl. The very first visit may be paying the mere call, that is, at this time the boy may not be introduced to the girl. Just by a visit, the girl may not recognize him. But several visits will make her recognize the lad for sure. Had they met frequently at entertainment shows or at religious ceremonies or at Thingyan festivals the lad may have ventured to visit the girl alone.
The girl usually receives the boy with hospitality out of decorum, regardless like or dislike. Every parent of a grown-up daughter would have expected for such an occasion of wooing toward their daughter, preparing for this beforehand. A suitable location for a boy coming to woo their daughter to chat with the girl has to be arranged, for example a living room or a couch/bamboo bedstead in front of the resident with a betel box for the lad to chew and cigars to smoke. The lad can be satisfied with being near to the maid while chewing betel or smoking on one condition—that the lad needs to notice a sharp knife, thin bamboo strips for weaving mats or baskets placed nearby. Usually, the girl’s father is not at home at the time when a lad visits. Had he been at home, if ever he usually left home when the lad came, whereas the mother would perhaps work a chore or something nearby. While weaving a mat or yarning threads, her senses of hearing and seeing were wandering near to the couple. In fact, the mother is marking the answer paper of the lad, in the wooing exam. It is incumbent upon the lad to get high marks. If he had to chew despite himself, she would have laugh at him. If he had to smoke despite himself, she would have frowned. If he had talked excessively, she would have noted that the lad preferred talks to work. If so, he unfortunately failed in the first test, it must be assumed. In case he had picked up the knife to strip the bamboo after cutting it, the mother would have been satisfied with the lad. Provided that he continued to weave a mat or a basket, the mother would have been more satisfied with him. On his return home back, the mother would examine his craft and recount to her husband to negotiate with him. By exposing his skills, the son-in-law would have disclosed to himself in him that he could manage to lead a family. Here, someone may question if a person can become a good leader of a house just by learning to strip a bamboo or to weave a mat. They may think that it will be enough for them just by knowing how to strip or how to weave. Youths in former times are very simple and their guardians as well are very astute. Since ancient times Mon nationals eked out their living by farming. Striping and weaving mats and baskets can be done just by manipulating the bamboo craft, which was regarded to be a part of farming. Parents always want their daughters to live in better conditions of life. Accordingly, they are required to carefully ponder economic situations which are vital for a family, that is, careful consideration as to whether a man is capable of earning money to support a family or not. A lad needs to be good at speaking, humble, polite and prudent because the maid’s mother is always within the audible reach. He also needs to be knowledgeable. At the time of wooing, a girl always talked in riddles to the boy. Mon nationals used to have been fond of talking in riddles, according to records. In talking riddles a girl questioned in verses, not in colloquial style. And, verses are spoken out randomly. The lad who knew answers had to reply in verses. One cannot regard himself to have got affection from the maid just by getting an access to woo. It can be said to be at the stage of having an access to sit for the exam. As regards talking in riddles, there may be ambiguous answers. Though one thinks that his answer is right, it is not sure which answer the girl will choose as the right answer. Right answers need to be given consecutively. In this way, he should try to get her love through impression. As the second step, he must try hard on to get the consent of the parents. It is endless to say about betrothal and wedding. It must be separately written. Now is only about courting or wooing for a lad toward a maid to get permission to get married. In fact, every race has its particular way of courting. Among Myanmar ethnic races, it is said that Chin’s way of wooing is the most exiting one. According to a researcher’s records, patterns of Mon youths’ courting can be categorized into six. More researches should be made. Now, let us return to talking in riddles. Not only the couple—the lad and the belle but also many relatives and colleagues are eagerly waiting for the results which will come out of a lad’s courting to a maid, especially their peers. Other fellow girls will perhaps have known the result later, but male fellows are waiting for their mate’s return, itching to know whether his return is the victory or retreat. If he won victory, they will enjoy the pleasure of the victory. Or otherwise, some may be eager to substitute his place.The lad who replied to the riddle will be excited. Had the maid been satisfied with his answer he has to carry a flat circular stone for grinding “Thanakha,” feeling ambivalent about the result—success or failure, joy or sorrow. If the belle tells him to coat Thanakha on her cheeks, he has done it as said by her and left the place with his smiling face, which is as if saying to others, to feel happy for his success, or to give up their intention to woo in substitution for him. He has become the winner of the belle’s love!
Translated by Khin Maung Oo