A Diverse Childhood
by Nargis Kelley
Diwali brings back such happy memories of my childhood in Rangoon. We lived on a street occupied by Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. You can imagine the celebrations that went on throughout the year.
Maung Taulay Street is one of the broader streets of midtown Rangoon and it is lined on both sides with apartment buildings and shop houses. Those days, most of the ground floor premises were occupied by businesses, both wholesale and retail, so by 5 p.m they were closed for the day and traffic trickled down to a bare minimum. That is the time when kids from each building would gradually gather on the sidewalks and when each age group had enough of their friends around them, a decision would be made as to which game to play that day. More than likely it would be football (soccer) for the boys and hopscotch for the girls with no rules or regulations and every now and then we would hear a whoopie shout of “goal”..... Parents were totally at ease knowing that their child were out there playing and totally safe from any harm except maybe for a bruised knee or so at times.
Starting October there are celebrations almost every other week until the New Year. It begins with Thadingyut which marks the end of Buddhist Lent and is celebrated with street lighting and fireworks along with many street fairs, plays and concerts lasting all night long where one can also indulge on all kinds of delicious snacks. Then comes Diwali where children play with fireworks and sparkles well into the night while sweetmeats are distributed amongst friends and neighbors regardless of your ethnic or religious background. Soon after Tazaundaing is another Buddhist festival celebrated with lights and fireworks and a lot of eats. Then comes Christmas and New Year celebrated with pomp and splendor by everyone. The round starts again with Chinese New year, Easter, Water Festival (Buddhist New Year), the two Eid holidays not to mention the different national holidays and so much in between.
Since leaving Burma I have lived in quite a few different countries but have never experienced the diversity we've had growing up in Burma which had such an impact on molding our characters into what we are today. Now that I'm almost in my last semester of my life, I look back and realize that my love of fellow humans, my religious and social tolerance and my positive outlook on life stemmed from those happy days of my childhood which began and took shape in Maung Taulay Street, Rangoon, Burma.
On this note I am sure my dear friend Chandroo will agree with me........