THOON HNIN EIN

Her family name is Cham Mya Mya Kyaing. She was born in August, 1977. She earned her B.Sc. in Physics in 2000. Her hobby has been … reading and writing since her childhood. Her short story debut entitled ‘Evaporated Sighs’ appeared in ‘Ahhla Thit Magazine’, issued in September, 1994. Apart from short stories, she has been writing poems. She is, however, more enthusiastic about writing short stories. She takes greater interest in writing short stories of current and emotional issues.

            Later, the interviews with celebrities, interviewed by her have been published in ‘Mahethi Magazine’. She then become an executive editor for Mahethi Magazine that highlights art and literature. While she was mainly editing Entertainment Section, she co-edited the short stories, at the first stage, to be published in Mahethi Magazine.

            She also won special literary awards for her short stories at the 1997-1998 literary contests in commemoration of the late woman writer Moe Moe (Inya). The short story entitled ‘Laughters and Smiles on the Red Lips’, was first literally awarded in 1997 and appeared in the Collective Works of Myanmar Women Short Story Writers in Japanese Version published by Daido foundation, Japan. Her other short stories are also published in about seven collective works of short stories.

            She was an editor for Mahethi Magazine until June, 2005. She is now living at No. Gha/2, Bank Yeittha, Thingangyune Township, Yangon.

A Small Ward And Its Viruses

THOON HNIN EIN

            The rays of the sun are warmly shining on a small ward. The viruses are also dancing in those rays though they are invisible to the naked eye. A gust of wind, mingled with a smell of cowdung, blows from the gloomy cowshed of the Indian. The viruses hang in the air. But nobody sees them through the naked eye. Before the clusters of huts in the ward are the meandering drains which smell sour and there are foams bubbling up. The viruses are swimming happily in those drains. But nobody sees them through the naked eye.

            The ward lives with the viruses invisible to the naked eye.

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            There is a crystal clear and bluish surface of water on the Island of Hawaii in one of the places of the world. There is salty, fresh sea breeze. There is sweet and strong coconut juice. But in the small ward, it has bad drainage. There is the stink of very sour smell hanging in the atmosphere. There are viruses too.

            Money bags from all over the globe spend their vacations on the Island of Hawaii. For summer vacations, for health, for honeymoon, for …………., for ………….., for ……….

            People in the small ward live with viruses in their place in all seasons. They neither belong to Budwizer beer tins nor iced champagne bottles. They never belong to modernistic theatres. They belong to mini-video theatres where there has been frequent videos that star Wailukyaw. The people in the small ward have neither been to Hawaii nor Bali. They don’t have any idea of what roller coaster or starcola is exactly like. They have neither salami nor sauna. They don’t know buffet style. They don’t know the viruses in their environment too.

            They are satisfied to live with viruses, lack of knowledge, and the small show- house Love-Leave-and Meet videos are show in this small ward.

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            When the rain stops, the muddy and dirty streams of water carried the trash from both sides on its back along the uneven path of the small ward, revealing more of the wounded parts of its back. A latest designed car, that is worth ten thousand dollars, may not come in and stop on the badly damaged and old path. And when the door on the side of the car opens with a click, a pair of white and soft legs, the nails of which are painted silver ink, may not also tread on it.

            The legs of a teen, a glutinous rice dough, have trodden the paths of the small ward before. His glutinous rice dough is stuffed with much more super suger than suger. The bare feet of a milkmaid, shouting out with long and shrill voice, ‘Milk’s available, here’, have also trodden the paths. The ratio of water and milk that contains in her bottles of milk is 2 by 3. The dragging legs of housewife, going to the ward-market, have also trodden the paths. There is a small empty consumers’ oil container in her shopping basket. There is no more than two hundred kyats in cash in her clenched fist. Her too much shrinking head bears the modern conflict between the present day commodity prices and her shopping list. A pair of a little dirty and brown legs of a child with scars on them, wearing a green school uniform, has also trodden the paths of the small ward. There are a good handwriting practice book with a torn cover and maths sums with wrong answers in his seamed bag.

            And then on the old paths of the small ward are viruses, running and playing back and forth. They are invisible to the naked eye.

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            At dawn, the chirps of the birds, the cries of the chickens, the pigs, the goats, and the cows always wake up the small ward. At the entrance of the small ward is a small cafeteria with no given name but it is famed for its fried dough sticks, Ikyakway (but people from the small ward have named it ‘Shwethwahsaing’ (Mr. Gold-coated tooth shop) as the owner has two glittering gold-coated front teeth. The cup of tea they usually make, like the nearby cafeterias, consists of some strong reddish brewed tea and a spoonful of domestically produced condensed milk with too much sugar served in a broken-rimmed glass. People of the small ward (i.e. some who can afford to spend extra money for breakfast and some manual labourers who can work harder only when they are actually full) finish their morning mission by breaking a stick of ikyakway into bits dipping them in the Shwethwa cloyingly sweet tea, and chewing them with the accompaniment of hot and astringent plain tea into which they keep blowing to get cool. Some order a parcel (pack) of sweet and rich tea, take it away, and share it among the family members when they are back home.

            On the left of the Shwethwa Cafeteria is the salad shop the owner of which is the girl whose hair is made of tiny braids, on whose cheeks are round patches of thanatkkha (the cheek lotion or traditional make-up made from the bark of thanakkha tree-limonia acidissima) and whose lips are painted red. When the day breaks, children and their mothers in the small ward, bringing the bowls of left-over rice, come to the girl’s salad shop. Their daily breakfast consists of the girls’s salad and the reddish nga-sein rice left over last night.

            Both the salad shop and the cafeteria are at the entrance of the small ward. Besides there is a big trash pit that overflows with rubbish. The big trash pit swarming with buzzing flies in three seasons gets dirty and stinky. Lingering in the air is that awful stink that a gust of wind blows off into the small ward. In the rainy season, the rain drops poured into the trash and the stinking sour liquid overflows onto the road. And then the freekles carried are seattered on the road.

            The regenerated flies in green colour, circling around the trash pile, also enjoy playing in the salad tray of the girl. They also amuse themselves with playing games on the snack-plates lying face up in the cafeteria. They fall in love with each other while they are on the pile of dishes to be washed at the back of the shop. The people of the small ward devour multi-ingredients salad of the girl with round patches of thanakkha as well as the ikyakway of the Shwethwa cafeteria, holding their breath in fear of breathing the stink of the trash pile.

            There are viruses in the mouths of the people who are eating the multi-ingredients salad and the ikyakway dipped in the tea. The viruses play along the route from the mouth to the throat, the next route from the thrwat to the food passage, another routs from the food passage to the stomach and finally the route from the stomach to every part of their bodies. Those viruses are invisible to the naked eye.

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            In the earlier days of the rainy seasons, the common diseases influenza and cholera came into the small ward, faithfully greeted them and paid a friendly visit there. By then the busiest person in the small ward was a young doctor of co-operative clinic next to the ward administration office (once the young doctor of respect to Norman Bethorn and took Dr. Myint Maung as his role model. But he is now trying his best to become an assistant to his teacher, the specialist who has opened a clinic in downtown because it is currently the hard times. During his scheduled working hours from 9 am to 12 noon, there were too many patients for him to sit and rest. He became increasingly worried. For these reasons, after consulting with the elders, he arranged a talk, educating health at the primary school next to his clinic. And then he suggested the elders to erect a self-help sign board with the writing about health education at the entrance of the small ward. He also advised to clean up blocked drains, sprinkle insecticide, remove the garbage pile, not to eat the food with flies on it, and to sleep in the mosquito-net at night. But all of them are not done. The people of the small ward astonishingly listened to the words of the young doctor with wide eyes. First the young doctor considered them to be narrow-minded and felt sympathetic anger. Later he came to realize that they were not narrow-minded but they had only superficial knowledge.

            It was sure the young doctor could not successfully fight back the viruses in the small ward through his medical knowledge. Though he completely comprehended the viruses that infect the people in the small ward. He also knew that it was too difficult to remove the viruses that are invisible to the naked eye.

×                   ×                 ×

            The small ward has always been weak and sick as it is being consumed and attacked by the viruses. There is no library except silly little video show-houses in the small ward. Neither is a decent Dhammayone, a community hall for religious purpose. But these are illegal liquor houses. There are no private swimming pools. But there are two common water tanks. There isn’t a tennis court. Instead there are billiard-boards all over the ward.

            The people in the small ward have no idea of who Enstein is and what the theory relativity is. They have no knowledge of Issaac Newtan or action and reaction. They know neither Napoleon nor waterloo; neither Richard Burke nor Jonahthan Livingstan Seagull; neither Omarkayam nor Rubiiyat; neither Alexandra Grahambell nor Florence Nightingale; neither Mother Taresa nor Nawadday; neither U Paw Oo nor Mya Than Tint. But they are familiar with Mithoru, the hand some Indian film actor, Wai Lu Kyaw, Yan Aung, Ye Min Paing and Kyan Chaung. In addition, they have the information of the rise and fall of the prices of daily basic commodities. They also know about getting married and giving birth to children.

            The men in the small ward have no least idea of stock and exchange market. They, however, have the message of where they can get more daily wages at what construction sites. The women in the small ward have no knowledge of Ikebana. They know they get more money if they make more hand-sewn clothes. The children in the small ward have no knowledge of Pythagorus. But they know how to turn a top swiftly in a round and proportionate circle on the ground they draw.

            The viruses scratch the walls of the abdomen of all adults, young children, men, and women in the small ward. Besides the viruses bite and devour the heart and the viscera. They spread to the brain and attack it. Finally, they collapse the whole bio-physical process. But the people in the small ward are too ignorant to make sense the infection and the attack of the viruses. They have passed their fully contented lives.

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            The rays of the sun was warmly shining through the small ward. Under the warm sun rays, the viruses were jumping and dancing.

            This morning a news spread in the small ward that Pho Ni, the son of the blacksmith Ko Mya Maung, had died. Pho Ni was a nine-year old child. A week ago, before his death, he shouted out a school lesson that sun rays can kill viruses until he learned it by heart and his shouts drifted from his dark and gloomy house on to the road. But Pho Ni had died today only when the sunrays were warmly cascading. He died of dengue hemorrhagic fever. He had never learnt about the viruses that cause dengue hemorrhagic fever and it finally attacked him to death.

            The gleam of warm sun rays was lighting up the Shwethwar tea shop at the entrance of the small ward. The short legged stools of the teashop were already occupied with so many customers that the shop was crowded. They were talking about how Pho Ni was clever and active, cute, and hard-working. He had recently been seen with his mother, going out as street vendors. They also talked about Zaw Htun, the road worker, who died of jaundice, and then, about the death of Mi Aye, the grocer, soon after Zaw Htun.

            They were talking about the recent deaths in the small ward, starting from Pho Ni. But nobody said something about the viruses, the source of those deaths. They had no idea of what occurred was due to the viruses. For them, everything that happened to them was the consequences of what they did in their past existences.

            The young doctor went to little Pho Ni’s house immediately after he heard about little Pho Ni when he arrived at his clinic just to open it this morning. He had actually prophesied that it would happen like that. He sadly understood that only the medical science he had learned could not save a man’s life in the world.

            When he got to Pho Ni’s house, his arrival was coincident with Pho Ni’s class teacher’s presence. More coincidently, he and Pho Ni’s teacher were class mates when they were high school students. The teacher earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology two years earlier than the doctor.

            After saying good bye to Pho Ni’s parents, both of them went out of the dark and gloomy hut walked along an old, narrow and badly trodden foot-path, and finally reached the shwe-thwar tea shop. After they were seated, the doctor ordered a cup of tea and drank it. They happened to talk about Pho Ni, the small ward, and the viruses and they themselves were in ignorance of the stink of the trash pile and the buzzing files.

            The teacher stared at the doctor who gulped down the whole cup of tea and appeared to “Why do you drink the cup of tea available beside the trash pile even though you know about the viruses and how they can infect people?” He flashed a smile as if he grasped the silent query through the teacher’s eyes. But he gave no answer. The teacher sighed, revealing his unease. Then he said, “It cannot be said that the viruses are genuinely living. It has only half of the genetic characteristic of a living being. Don’t you know that? I studied it in zoology. It has only DNA and no RNA. But the viruses surprisingly get into the body and attack the cells. The cells are in disorder and harm their body. When the body’s resistance deteriorates, they can easily come into the body.”

            The doctor nodded, gazing into a long distance. The teacher continued, “Ah! We’re relieved to know that they are genuinely non-living. The people in the small ward are unbearably suffering from being engulfed by the viruses. Just pretend to see how those viruses will be swarming over the cells until they reach their blood, viscera, and brain. I itch all over to see it.”

            The doctor listened to him quietly and smiled gravely. After that he observed the teacher’s face and said the words one after another.

            “Do you know, school teacher, that the word virus has another meaning. It means poison in Latin? Do you know that?”

            At the end of the doctor’s words, the teacher dramatically came to be in wide-eyed bewilderment and hung his head.

After a little while, they became normal and chattered away. Then the doctor went off to his clinic and the teacher to his primary school respectively. The attention of the people in the small ward were not drawn to those two fellows. They did not know about the viruses about which both of them had an intense conversation. They forgot everything except their daily struggle to survive that they were engrossed in.

The doctor, while strolling towards his clinic, was deeply thinking about the viruses all the way. On arrival back to his clinic, he saw the patients sitting and waiting for him as usual. By looking at their thin and fragile bodies and pale and worn faces, he thought of their poor resistance. He also worried about the fact that the viruses can easily infect them when their resistance gets lowered.

×                     ×                     ×

            The rays of the sun is warmly shining into the small ward. A gust of wind, mingled with a smell of cowdung and the stink of drains, blows from the the gloomy cowshed. Under the warm rays of the sun, the viruses are jumping and dancing in the dump and wet streams of water. They are invisible to the naked eye.

            The small ward satisfactorily lives with the viruses, with ignorance, watching melodramas on video exaggerated depictions of love, leave and Meet.

 

Translated by Maung Win War

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