by C. D.
One night I had a dream and it took me back to my younger days. Such is my brain when at times I can never remember what I ate yesterday but it does goes back into my memory bank while I am sleeping and recalls a past experience in my dreams. So here is my unforgettable past experience.
During mid 50’s, when I was just around 12 years old in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar), my father was invited by his Marwari friend to attend his son’s wedding in Taunggyi. Taunggyi is the fifth largest city of Myanmar and situated at an elevation of 4,712 feet and so is quite cool. The name Taunggyi means "huge mountain" During earlier years, the British moved their administration office there for health and geographical reasons. The city is 635 kilometres from Rangoon (now Yangon) by road.
My father asked if I wanted to join him and without hesitation, I answered “Yes”. At that age, anything to do with travelling and exciting was fine with me.
We were not the only ones invited. The host had invited many other friends and relatives to join also. We were around 50 in a group. The planned schedule was to take a train from Yangon to Taunggyi via Bago, a transit stop. There was no direct train to Taunggyi from Yangon. We started our journey during afternoon and arrived Bago station in the evening.
We all got off at Bago station. The next train to Taunggyi was the following day around noon so we had to sleep over at the station platform. Most of the travellers had brought in snacks and meals to serve as dinner. Out came the Indian cots and beddings, probably supplied by a vendor or station master. These beds ('char' 'pai') were woven with cotton strings. Some luckily slept on them and some, including me, on the ground. It was the first time, I slept under the stars, amid the background snoring sounds of some of the heavy travellers. This I cannot forget till today.
Early morning, the barking of dogs, crow of a rooster and a vendor selling hot masala ginger tea woke us all up one by one. For instant toothbrushes, we used Neem Chew Sticks and gargled with water. Now the best part is, how do we take a shower or bath and freshen up. Right at the end of the railway platform was a deep well. I and a few younger generation sauntered up to it and decided to draw up a bucket of water from the well and take a bath with a tea cup. The water from the well had an earthy musty taste and smell. I never ever wore a pyjama those days and instead wore a typical Burmese longyi (a single piece of cylindrical cloth) round my waist and so all I did was remove it and took an icy cold bath in my underwear.
Soon the train to Taunggyi arrived. Interestingly the route from Bago to Taunggyi is uphill all the way and I noticed there was a steam engine in the front and another one at the back of train to ensure that we don’t roll back the track. The trip was longer than the last journey and I slept off listening to the clickity clackity sound of the train wheels moving over the railway tracks. The sound drowned away the gossiping of the group around me.
On arrival in Taunggyi, we were greeted by the bride’s family and a colourful Indian band playing to the tunes of Bollywood songs.
After that all I can recollect was nothing but fun dancing on the streets following the groom on the horse and the delicious spread of dishes during every wedding occasion and not to forget occasional tummy aches.
The return journey was not so tiresome as we did not have to sleep over at Bago railway station since the connecting train back to Yangon was within a few hours.
Perhaps one day, once again, I will dream of another past experience and write another memorable article.