Than Myint Aung
She was born of U Chit Aung and Daw Yin Shwe on 25th of September in 1953 in Kyaikhto, Thahton District, Mon State. She started her literary career in 1987. She made her literary debut, ‘The Passion for Television’, a short story published in Tineyinmay Journal. Her compilation of short stories, ‘Thick and Thin’ was published in 1995. Her short story, ‘Thick and Thin’ was translated into Japanese by Dido Foundation, Japan, and included and printed in the Collective short stories entitled, ‘Thick and Thin and other short stories’, that was published in Japan. She has written and published eleven collective books of her magazine short stories, three novels and collective articles, books of and over ten novelettes co-written with other writers. Her collective book of short stories entitled, ‘A Mass With No Definate Shape’, won the National Literary Award for short stories in 2002.
As she is very enthusiastic about social and philanthropic activities and she has established orphanage, organized campaigns for the prevention of leprosy, the care of the families who previously had that, the prevention of HIV/AIDS, helping find the new therapy at the hospitals for mental health, establishing free-education centres, blood-donations, providing organization for obsequies (Yangon), and environmental conservation. She is now starting a project of ‘Hsizayeik’ (The shade for the sun-setting old-aged) activities for nursing the sick and homeless elder.
She went to Thailand, Cambodia, Malasia, and India to do some courses on prevention of HIV/AIDS, micro-loaning and saving, the economic system of sustainability and regional development, safty of food and commodities, and environmental conservation.
Translated by Maung Win War
The Enthusiastic Responses Of The
Wayfarers Who Lack Normal Sense
THA MYINT AUNG
This is about the first meeting of the cartoonists and the artists of our art and literary circle and U Zaw Sein Lwin, the Assistant Medical Superintendent of the Special Hospital for Mental Health, who is earnestly seeking new therapies to cure those who are isolated on account of their mental disorders caused by their different situations just within a short span of life although they belong to the same humanity that exists in the same century and to replace the disordered mind with the normal consciousness in balance with the sensibility of average men.
Those, some of the mentally disordered persons, mean the insane men and women who are grief-stricken due to their different backgrounds, feelings, and phenomena. Now, there are altogether 650 internal patients, being isolated from their families, at the Special Mental hospital where the wayfarers, unmeasurably violating the boundary of the mundane world, that is said to be the place where every worldly man is insane as mentioned in the saying, do exist.
They have been considered abnormal and harshly labeled as ‘insane persons’. They are already in lack of normal sense, lonely, and humiliated. Moreover, they are mentally tortured by a failure in life-being abandoned. Well, then, their journey in future?
× × × × ×
To prove that ‘a mentally-ill person is also a normal person’, the line of words written on the wall of hospital, the Chief Medical Superintendent and the Assistant Doctor, U Zaw Sein Lwin, who both shoulder the responsibilities of taking care of their food, shelter, and clothing, security, health, and mental rehabilitation, receive aids from the government and co-operation of voluntary working people to seek new therapies. It is to be said that this (short story) has sprung from it.
Doctor U Zaw Sein Lwin thought that it would be successful to a certain extent if the new therapy of art entertainment, that every living being can enjoy and comprehend, can revive the sense of his patients who even though they are of the same humanity, have become mentally ill due to an altered state of consciousness. At the first phase, he found it successful.
It is known that the patients became more interested because of the new theraputive activity in which the musicians heartily participated. The patients themselves happily sang and danced. Later they were found easy to live with others. There were less violence and more restraint. Tensions were relieved. And then progress was made in other ways.
He tried to take one step forward by consulting us, the writers and the artists, to use cartoon and painting, as a new therapy of the rehabilitation of mental health, in measuring, examining, and curing the sense of the patients. It is known that the new therapy was initiated by Myanmar and we have to take pride in it as a Myanmar national.
For those who have altered states of consciousness, lack of normal senses, and suffered from stress and strain because of being lonely and isolated from their society, the above mentioned is the technique that revives the sense-perceptions and explores the responses to reaction in order to vivify the deep inner mind. In exploring the reaction, artists, and cartoonists have an important role to play. First, they drew illustrations. Then, there was an exchange of queries and answers. If there was something suppressed within their inner mind, they were also allowed to draw or colour. In this way, the technique was to make them find an outlet by doing so.
That new therapy of mental rehabilitation was carried out in expectation of including the patients the first group of whom consisted of those incapable of knowing whether it was a drawing or a colour or those capable of knowing which sort of drawing it was or which sort of colour it was, the second group of whom consisted of those who were able to thoughtfully appreciate the illustrations drawn by an artist or a cartoonist, and the third group of whom consisted of those capable of thinking and drawing shapes, colours portraying the stresses and inner minds that were suppressed, in a variety of ways by themselves.
× × × × × × × ×
It was on Friday, the 3rd of March, 2000 when the new therapy was tested. The writers and the artists who were there with Doctor U Zaw Sein Lwin at the Mental Rehabititation Ward of the Mental Health Hospital were Saya Ikyakway, Saya Soe Myint Lat, Saya Aung Kyi Soe Myint, cartoon Maung Maung Aung, Swe Min (Danubyu), Ko Shwe Htoo (Pyi), Soe Thawdar, Harmony, Cartoon Hla Pe, Mi Mann Lay (Taunggu), Ohnmar Lin (artist of Myanmar Broadcasting Service) and myself.
The cartoonists who drew on the first day were Maung Maung Aung, Swe Min (Danubyu), Ko Shwe Htoo (Pyi), and Soe Thawdar.
It was intriguing to see the eyes and responses of the patients while they were watching with interest and were immersed in conversation with the cartoonists.
As for me, I was reading the faces of the patients who got together in the hall. Their doctor U Zaw Sein Lwin, like me, was also anxiously observing the opening and closing moments of their mind-doors.
It was sure that the drawing was the thing that caused their in quisitive eyes that sought what the things were while they were looking at the amusing cartoons drawn by the cartoonists one after another, their lips with a small smile on it the one who burst out laughing the one who hung his head with shame, the one who was staring with a blank expression on his face, and the one who was seeking and feeling something.
When the doctor saw that his patients’ sense-perception had much improved, his eyes lit up with the rays of hope. He was very excited to know about their sense-perception, thoughtfulness, and responses to these figures and shapes.
As aroused by the sharp artwork created by the cartoonist, one of the female patients came and showed his feeling by drawing a picture of a house, in Shan State, where he lived in his child-hood. Another patient, from Mrauk-Oo in Rakhine, drew an abstract design of the word ‘Crown’ based on one of the ideas that had been within his heart, the doctor seemed to understand some of his patients very well. While being in a blissful state of mind, in sympathetic-joy, and satisfied with those who drew pictures and those who applied colours among the patients, I felt as if I were listening to an echo of a response of a patient who seemed to the most hopeful, sensible, and thoughtful.
‘Now, look at these pictures. What pictures are they?’
Cartoonist Maung Maung Aung asked while drawing a picture of a young and cute girl and another picture of a fat woman with a soft pen on the paper stuck on the blackboard.
‘Pictures of women’
‘A young girl and a fat woman’
‘A thin woman and a fat woman’
The responses made in disharmony. Some of their eyes were pale and some bright.
‘Let’s say those two woman come down the street and some of you want to chase and talk, which one will you choose?
A bemused smile and a questioning look.
A glimpse and a face lowered in shame.
There were more than one response enthusiastically made.
‘The slim one on the left’
‘Well, do you like the slim one? Why?’
‘Is it that?’ She is poor though beautiful and cute.’
‘May be poor. But It’s OK’
‘She may be poor. But I like her.’
The voices of the men.
‘The fat woman on the other side is rich. If you marry her, you will have a lot of possessions. Just sit and enjoy them.’
‘If she is rich, she must be ornamented with bracelets and rings. Look, she is not weraring anything.’
Another voice came from a woman.
‘Um! It’s true. I’ll put them on the pictures’, said the cartoonist.
While the cartoonist was putting bracelets and necklaces on his fat sister in the picture with a softpen, someone shouted, ‘A hand-chain (actually an anklet) worn around the ankle’. So he applied some strokes on the ankle.
Afterwards he said, ‘Well she is now a very rich woman with the glitter of gold. How do you like it?’
There was a quiet pause.
‘No, I don’t like’.
The word heavily said arose.
‘If you have to marry that fat woman….’
‘I’ll run away.’
‘Oh! What a bitter reply! Well, then you guys like only this slim one. Is that right?
‘Yes, we do like only the slim one.’
‘She may be poor. But we like her.’
The responses became noisy again.
The cartoonist added the pictures of two children on both sides of the young girl.
‘This girl is a divorcee. She’s got two children with her. That fat woman is smile and rich too. It is to be considered.’
When it was said, the voices in eagerness quietened.
By that time I caught the looks on their faces without fail. Some looked gloomy. Some were annoyed and discouraged. Some sighed, turning their faces to the other side.
Some were, in doubt, staring into space.
One or two of them felt no remorse excited and were still finding ways.
‘Do you feel like possessing a divorcee with two children?
You’ll have to think about it’.
An unexpected response arose at that time.
‘Have they got a divorce bond, Sir?’
Though it was not an unusual query for a common person, the response, made by the thought flashed through the mind of a mentally-illed man who is recognized as the one in lack of normal consciousness, seemed to us, the doctor as well as the group of the writers and the artist, a part of success achieved to our satisfaction.
Whe he was said, “I’m not sure for that. You mayhave some problems if they were not legally dioorced. You have to think of it”, that man’s eyes faded and he dropped his head. Looking at him, some mentally-illed patients around him beamed. He seemed to be terribly discouraged and never rehabilitated.
He might have a situation that he had to stop making effort and remain silent as he had a slight tendency towards not committing adultery, the basic precept of Buddhist culture.
“Well, then. Is there anyone who wants to marry the divorcee with two children?”
The cartoonist observed them while asking this question.
By then, we heard a response sprung up from the unexpected thought.
It is said to be the strength of thoughtfullness of those who persevere in achieving what they want to grasp at.
He felt that he could never really accept step child. He did not want to be a secondly married husband of a divorced woman.
His pair of eyes, the thresholds of mind, through which he was gazing at the picture of the woman with two children for a while and thinking hard of how he could not quit winning that woman’s heart.
Afterwards, there arose a response made sluggishly.
“Is it possible that the husband that divorced that woman is I, Sir?”
Let me say that voice of forceful reaction is truly memorable crowning success of our very first day when we launched a new psychiatric treatment with the hope of something to achieve.
(The short story, published in the Medical Science Magazine
issued on the World Health Day on 7th April 2001)
Translated into English- Maung Win War