For archive (Updated on February 17, 2019)
The year was 1952, the year you started your first year intermediate (pre-engineering) at Rangoon University. On hindsight I could probably say, those were the young and restless years. Those early years, there was some student political uprising at Rangoon University. I was gassed while staying at the dormitory at Pinya Hall. A week later it was calm and peaceful. Nevertheless, years went by very peacefully. To the upstart, like me, all we knew was to get good grade and some day become a scientist like Albert Einstein. The interest in science was so great that I set my goal to be a great physicist. So with my mind set to become a scientist, I tried very hard to get good grade. Subject in science were all taught by science Lecturers from India. Those were the days when Burmese Lecturer in Science was a rare commodity. The only Burmese Mathematics Saya was U Ba Toke. His Upper Burman ascent was so pronounced and unique it was and is giving a ringing sound to my ears even to this days. Well, my assumption was if I get a couple of distinctions in science subjects, I could probably register for an Honor class in Physics and then proceed on to get a PhD degree at some foreign University. So two years past by very easily by keeping my interest in Science. My dream was all shattered when I register to start my honor class in Physics, I was the only one registered for the class. Loneliness overwhelmed me. I went on to join my friends for the first year engineering at BOC College. They say BOC college was a desolate place to be for young man.
My First Year Class (1954) (BOC)
It was like hell to start the first year engineering. The day started with the first year black smith course. Lifting a ten-pound hammer was some effort, needless to say pounding the ten-pound hammer at the heated iron rod. The same day, I thought I have made the biggest mistake in my life starting on engineering course. In the back of my mind, I thought of changing back to Physics Honor Course. My physique was not much of a type to do any blue collar work like black smith. However, my family encouraged me to be an engineer, like some our family friends, like U Kyaw Myint who eventually became a railway commissioner. Again, with some kind and friendly persuasions from friends I stick on with the Engineering School. Some Burmese Sayas that came to my mind were U Num Kok, U Eng Hock (Cl. 1955) and U Kyaw Tun. Well, I passed my first year very smoothly with distinction on all subjects. Courses for all first year students were common to all disciplines. U Kyaw Tun was teaching Electro technology and the rest of the courses were by Sayas from East and West Bengal, India. These were the years when picking up Bengali accent English was considered perfect King’s English. The differential calculus was taught by Dr. Sircar and the projectile solution took several pages. Advanced algebra was taught by Saya U Ba Toke and Saya U Ko Ko Lay.
My Second Year Class (1954) (BOC)
My second year course was a little heavier and all my concentration was in my study hoping that some day I could pickup a scholarship to study in foreign University. Those days, to study in foreign University was just an impossible dream to my country folks, so I was prevented from applying for a state scholarship. There were a few Colombo-Plan lecturers from New Zealand and England teaching engineering courses, so I elected to major in Electrical Engineering. Textbooks from McMillan and Longman publishers were easy to obtain, then. A little while later, I witnessed the first wave of Burmese Scholar came back (U Sein Hlaing , U Tin Swe and U Ba Than) to replace some Bengali Sayas. There after, another wave of scholars arrived to take up their respective staff positions (U Aung Gyi, U Min Wun, U Khin Aung Kyi). The inspiration to study abroad was so great then, that it pushed me to concentrate on my study with high hope that I may be fortunate to be on the staff of Dean U Ba Hli. So I passed my second year very smoothly with distinction on all subjects.
My Third Year Class (1956) (Leik Khone)
So I passed halfway mark and started my third year course. We started at the new facility Leik Khone constructed under Colombo plan. The lecturers Mr. Neale, MIEE and U Kyaw Tun, AMIEE , Mr Redpath, AMIMech.E and U Ba Than teaching styles were very much oriented to British style. I admired their logical teaching method; unlike U Sein Hlaing who taught us Communication theory, Dr. Freddy Ba Hli who taught us Vacuum tube circuit theory and U Tin Swe who taught us the Symmetrical Component theory for solving three-phase circuit theory. The third year passed by with mostly academically courses oriented for graduate school, with the exception of electro technology taught by Mr. Neale. Well, I passed my third year with distinction on all subjects. These were the years when we still use the K&E slide rules to solve problems in class and in examinations. Still, if I were to design a small building wiring, then, I could have selected a wire size very much non-code wire sides.
My Fourth Year Class (1957) (Leik Khone)
To me even in my final year, my goal was to proceed on for further study in foreign University. Even though we were in the final year, we never knew that there existed a Burmese National Electrical Code of Practice, equivalent to National Electric Code (NEC in USA). With majority of my class mate concentrating on getting a position in one of the many government departments, my concentration of the academic study become much easier and so I passed my final year with distinction on all subjects. Well, I do not want to be a Wun Dauk Min, anyway. Well, I picked up two gold medals on completion of my final year. Todarmal Talwal Gold Medal and J.A Hills Gold Medal. Well, these medals were all subsidized by my family. The Registrar U Yu Khin sent me a notice that if I should elect to receive a real gold medal, I should submit Kyats 150 for each of these medals, since the price of gold had risen higher than when the cash endowments were made. So my family pitched in Kyats 300 for me to receive the two Gold Medals from Chancellor Bogyoke Ne Win. This achievement honor bought me an invitation from the President Bogyoke Ne Win to attend the presidential dinner party at President Palace. Very soon after, I joined the staff of Dean U Ba Hli. The years of young and restless thus ended.
My First Year as Teaching Staff (1958-1959)
Among the graduating classmates Ko Ba Nyunt (Burmah Oil Company) and I joined the staff of Dean U Ba Hli. Soon there after there were some political wind blowing in the horizon from the staff. The up rising started among the staff was on the subject of setting the criteria for promotion to the lecturer ship at the college of engineering. As an upstart staff member I was also involved in the meeting at Shwedagon Pagoda to scheme up an engineering staff strike. The personal matter was the subject of contention, then. Some how it was resolved peacefully thus avoiding a strike. I was much happier when I picked up a scholarship for further study in USA. It might just be due to Dean U Ba Hli’s letter of recommendation or my academic achievement in obtaining two gold medals and a straight A grade average that bought me a scholarship to do my further study in USA. So I left Rangoon in 1959 for USA to study at University of Michigan.
Years as an Engineer
The year was 1958, I was a young Assistant Lecturer at the Engineering Faculty. Electro-technology Laboratory course was assigned to my colleague U Ba Nyunt and myself. Well, those days, student don’t think much of newly minted young graduate: there were some instances where some students even wrote nasty comments when their Laboratory Reports were not graded at the level they expected. Well, they say, maturity takes years to culture, but in my mind I thought I was not good enough to be their instructor, so these happened. Like a young maturing child, I will take up the issues with Saya Gyi U Ba Hli, who will reprimand the subject students. A few months into the faculty we are to find ourselves to apply for foreign scholarship. To my disappointment there were no scholarships allotted for the engineering college. I went to see Saya Gyi and presented my deep interest to continue serving in the Department. That year, there was no budget provision to staff up the college. As fate would have it, I took the scholarship allotted for UBARI.
Preparation for Foreign Study in 1958
My student year life at BOC College was more of a bookworm. Yes, I did achieved what I aimed for, but I was behind in my social aspect. So my Mum said, now that you have graduated and is leaving for foreign land, I need to fix you up for good to ensure that you would be back at home after your study in USA. Here in Rangoon, I soon found myself betrothed to my present wife. Yes, where is my dream to reach out for the top notch Ph.D degree, I asked myself ? With this marriage knot tied to me, my mind was to get my first graduate Engineering degree and return home. Since I was not to continue with the academic career at the University, my graduate degree would not buy me a good position at the Government Departments. So this was my fate and there was my disappointment in life.
Years at Graduate School in University of Michigan
My Mum had good intention in starting up my matrimonial career; but did hamper all my drive to go further to completing a Ph.D degree. Although, I could achieve the highest honor in my bachelor years, I found myself not so brilliant in doing my graduate study. Nevertheless, I managed to complete my Master Degree in June of 1960 and returned home to work at UBARI.
Years at UBARI
In 1960, I started work at UBARI. I was not doing much engineering, then. So I thought I could do some real engineering work. After three years at UBARI, I moved to work for the Department of Electrical Inspectorate in Secretariat, Rangoon.
Years at Electrical Inspectorate
This department governed the “The Electrical Rules and Regulation“ of Burma. I found Testing and inspecting electrical construction projects to be very challenging. I traveled far into remote areas across entire Burma. I was privileged to be assigned to give a taste of Electricity Rules and Regulations of Burma to the senior year electrical class at RIT. Bringing the graduating year class to get a taste of “National Electric Code“ was a great honor even as a part-time staff faculty member. In 1967, my outlook in life started to change so dramatically.
In some way, the work is a challenge. You do a lot of testing and calibration of protective relays and commissioning of small and large power station. You also do a lot of facility industrial facility commissioning. In addition, you are also chasing electrocution incidents all over Burma.
Editor’s notes :
- Saya migrated to the US.
- Saya co-founded BEA and served as its President.
- Saya attended the First RIT Grand Reunion and SPZP. He have to leave early because his spouse was not feeling well. She passed away after several years of ill health.
- Saya served as President of TBSA (Theravada Buddhist Society of America). When Sayama Dr. Julie Han (Past VP & fund raiser of TBSA) passed away, Saya donated $2000 to TBSA in her memory.
- Saya is the elder brother of U Tun Thein (A67) and the maternal uncle of U Hla Thein (Robert, M72).
- Saya passed away a few years back.
- Saya’s only son, Dr. Barry Paw (MD, PhD, outstanding researcher), passed away at the tender age of 55. He suffered a heart attack on the plane on the way back from Australia to the US.