by Saya Dr. San Hla Aung
I was first introduced to U Sein Win by my friend and colleague Dr Win Thein when I got back to Yangon after my graduate studies in the U.S. and resumed my teaching job. U Sein Win got his M.S. in E.E. from the University of Michigan and had joined R.I.T. while I was away, after first working at UBARI (Union of Burma Applied Research Institute) upon his return to Myanmar. He was a brilliant student also specializing in Nuclear Power Engineering and worked for sometime at the internationally known ORNL (Oak Ridge National Lab.)
There was good chemistry among the three of us and we became very close friends in no time. U Sein Win and I also came to be famously known among our crowd to be always pulling each other’s legs and arguing about any given topic whenever we get together socially. As he always said, “we agree to disagree on everything.” Everyone enjoyed watching and hearing us gently rib each other about our chosen fields of engineering. I used to tell him A.I.E.E.E. (American Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) of which he was a member, should be renamed A.I.E.E.E.E. (American Institute of Electrical, Electronic, and Eccentric Engineers) and he retorted by saying how how dull and backward Civil (especially Structural) Engineering is. He even once brought an electrical engineering book along where he had underlined a remark in the foreword that said how retarded structural engineers are and showed it around. The author certainly must have had a very disagreeable civil engineer friend!!
One of U Sein Win’s hobbies was to tinker with and repair electrical and mechanical equipment and I served as his ‘assistant’ very often. For one thing, I was pretty good at taking things apart and he was very impressed by it. Putting things back together is quite another matter though, and that was the subject of some of his jokes about civil engineers!!
Please let me add a few things about his love of rowing and swimming. He and I used to go to RUBC (Rangoon University Boat Club) and row coxless pairs frequently. He was taking German classes at that time offered by the Goethe Institute through the German Embassy and got friendly with the language Professor and embassy first secretary, so we sometimes went out with them to row shell fours, coxed by club caretaker U Par Oo.
Now about swimming. We also used to swim regularly at the the university swimming pool and U Sein Win was a great fan of Jacques Cousteau, the famous French undersea explorer and scientist, and one day talked to me about going to Ngapali and do snorkel diving. I agreed and we planned to do the trip.
We managed to buy snorkel, mask, and flippers from Chopra Brothers Sports Store and practiced diving at the swimming pool and finally flew to Ngapali together with Dr Win Thein and a friend of his U Myint U, I think in 1964 during the summer holidays. The beach was not crowded at the time and The Strand was the only hotel there. We rented a bungalow not very far from the airport for about a week and went out everyday snorkeling at low tide. U Myint U joined U Sein Win and me, but Dr Win Thein stayed in a row boat towing 3 inflated tires for us to hang on to when we surfaced to rest. We did not have to go out far, the water was crystal clear with plenty of colorful fish around us down there. We were so happy with the experience, but U Sein Win was the most thrilled (he somehow got hold of a spear gun before we left Yangon, but it was a rather unwieldy piece of equipment for us even to practice on the ground and I managed to persuade him against bringing it along.)
U Sein Win also loved reading and western classical music, and we used to share recordings and books, some things we seemed to agree to agree on!!
U Sein Win and I remained close friends even after we got married and had our own families. The last time I met with him after I migrated to the U.S. was when I visited Yangon with my son and daughter in 2002. Not very long after that, Dr Win Thein gave me the sad news of his passing away. He was a very fine human being, always friendly, unassuming, and never talking ill about anybody. I will always remember him with a very warm heart and am sure that he reached a very happy and noble abode in his next existence.