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Story of my life: Zay Latt, my classmate

My father’s main reason to choose the largest city of Burma as our final settlement is to get a good education for his children. All the children went to good schools for learning and they also enjoyed good lives as Rangoon was the place where everything was modernized and updated. And another important thing was our family need not go to Rangoon for pilgrimage to Shwedagon Pagoda once a year. It was a long way to get to Rangoon from Keng Tung, Shan State, and one must take airway if he or she wants to visit Rangoon. After we moved to Rangoon we can simply ride a bus to get to the great pagoda. It takes only a few minutes to get to Shwedagon from our residence. And the school I am attending is not far away from my home. In this school I came to know Zay Latt who is also a close neighbour to us.

“Kyaw Win, come to school tomorrow without pant.  I mean just wear longyi (sarong).  It will be better if you can put on taikpon ( national overcoat) and a pair of khonephanut (wooden slippers) rather than shoe,”  Zay Latt reminds me once again as the school bell is ringing. It is time to go home.   

We are attending fourth grade at Sacred Heart High School.  Though the school is run by two elderly Catholics named Mr. Larzaro and Mrs. Mary the school is not particularly meant for Catholic students.  It also accept students who are diversified in religion.

I am a Buddhist.  So is Zay Latt.  But there are also other students who are Hindu and Muslim. Of students, 60 per cent are Christians and Catholics in our school.

I am astounded when my classmate want me to wear our national costume and put on a pair of wooden slipper instead of shoes for tomorrow. Not only to me Zay Latt also remind other four other classmates who are close friends like me to do the same thing. What he is up to?

Tomorrow is our National Day.  Since, our school is not closed on the Gazetted holiday Zay Latt assumes that this school should respect our national day which is a significant event in Burmese political history. In 1920 on this day students of yesteryear rose up against the British administration as their rights were not recognized by the ruler.

Zay Latt wants to show at least a sign of protest against the school administration for not letting the students enjoy the holiday. His protest was simple. On the National Day he will wear national costume and come to school. He said it will be more appropriate to put on a pair of wooden slipper on the day which we consider as a national concern.

Our school uniform are white shirt and blue pant for boys and white shirt and Crimsom coloured gown for girls. Both boys and girls have to wear shoes. In fact, it is not easy to change our school uniform.  It is not easy to break the strict rules of the school, either. I did not follow Zay Latt’s suggestion not because I do not like his idea and his patriotic spirit but because I cannot go against the strict rules of our school.

I still remember the only student who wears national costume on the National Day was Zay Latt  and eventually he was not allowed to enter his class room. The headmaster was informed by someone on his dress.  The headmaster sent him home so early on that day.  He was the only student in our school to get holiday on National Day. But the next day he had to bring his parents to school as they need to request the headmaster not to expel their son from the school. He complied with Mr. Larzaro’s  order and, fortunately,  he was not expelled but he had to stay at school for an hour after the classes were over and every student goes home.

Our school has a special class at which students from various classes have to stay after the classes are over.  They are considered by their respective teachers as students who fail to follow the example of a good student.  For an instance, they do not properly follow the instructions of their teachers.  As a penalty for their failure they have to stay behind while other students go home.  Though Zay Latt’s case is a different one there is no exception for him who is not well behaved — to breach the rules and regulations of the school.

Zay Latt is a peculiar type among the studens.  Though he may be adamant, he has a kind heart and helpful to students.  He is also known as our hero because when a student is bullied by other student who is a tough guy he never tolerate and call a challenge to the bully student.  His challenge is a fair fight, one by one.

The showdown is taken place after the classes are over.  The venue of the fighting place is an eight feet square area in a cemetery which is close to our school.  The bully student and Zay Latt march to the cemetery and some students including myself follow behind them.  We are audience of the fair fight.  Once the two fighters enter the arena. They throw away their school bags on the ground and started to fight.  After two or three minutes the loser surrender to the victorious fighter and we witness Zay Latt is the winner.  The loser get up from the ground, picking up his bag and walk away from the battleground. (To be continued)