By Ko Zaw Min and Ko Ohn Khine
We felt we were veteran students when we entered the fourth year classes. After all, if we had been at RASU, that would have been the final year.
We had Sayagyi U Ba Than for “Strength of Materials”. Back in our third year, we had all been “stressed” and “strained” by this subject. After listening to Sayagyi U Ba Than’s first lecture, we knew we had nothing to be afraid of. Sayagyi U Ba Than had a unique way of teaching. He would go through the text book, word by word, and explained everything slowly and calmly in very clear terms. If I have to vote for the best lecturer at RIT during our days, Sayagyi U Ba Than has my vote. I have no doubt all the Sayas and Sayamas taught with Cetana in their hearts. Perhaps it was due to our inattentiveness or lack of fundamental understanding that prevented us from fully understanding what was being taught. With Sayagyi U Ba Than, for some reason, everything he taught registered in our minds.
Saya U Maung Maung Win (M) and Saya U Soe Paing (E) were two other Sayas that were also excellent teachers (in my opinion). Of course there may have been other Sayas in other disciplines that were excellent teachers but I have no way of knowing.
Years later, after I got married, I was told about the kind “Uncle Gwan” that lived next door to my wife’s house in Windermere. My wife told me her parents bought that house from “Uncle Gwan”. Imagine my surprise when I found out that “Uncle Gwan” was Sayagyi U Ba Than. Many years later, in the USA, I met and became very good friends with Sayagyi U Ba Than’s younger brothers, U Tin Htoon (A60) and U Myo Min (B.Com, Chartered Accountant, former Manager at UCC). U Myo Min is married to Sayama Daw Khin Khin Chit Mg (English), who turned out to be my wife’s classmate since Kindergarten at St John’s Convent. U Tin Htoon (A60) mentioned to me he had designed the house that my In-Laws bought from Sayagyi U Ba Than.
I was the Ah Saung Athwin Ye Hmu for C and D blocks for that year. A decision was made to have a “Sa Dhu Dee Tha” for Tazaungdaing. We wanted to have it done near the RASU campus in Kamayut (in order to attract students from other Institutes), but the final decision came down with the Shwe Dagon Phaya Yin Pyin Daw as the venue. Ko Tha Htay (M), Ko Aung Min (Ch) and I took care of asking for donations from the hostel students.
Ko Kyaw Win Maung (Ch) worked hard to ensure things get done in the Paun Mont Ohn Noe San preparation. I don’t know the details. I hope Ko Kyaw Win Maung (Ch) will write about them. Ma Tin Tin Hla (A) took charge of buying the coconuts, with Ko Mg Mg Swe (M) showing the way (using the RIT truck) to the market that sells coconuts wholesale. After the Sa Dhu Dee Tha, we spent the night on the Phaya Yin Pyin and waited for the Ma Tho Thin Gan to be presented to the Sangha.
Need Anger Management?
The next day, I did something that I regret doing to this day. I got physical with a student from the 2nd yr class. He was putting up a cartoon critical about the behavior of some student volunteers that worked at the previous night’s event. I did something I should never have done, hitting that student with my fists. I was totally wrong to do this sort of thing. If I have the chance to redo things in my life again, this is one thing I would have liked to correct. But, unfortunately, what’s done is done and the past can never be undone.
The Registrar, Saya U Hla, was very understanding, and called a meeting of both parties in his meeting room. Our 64 intake students sat down with the 66 intake students, with Saya U Hla and Sayagyi Dr Aung Gyi (C) mediating and resolving the issue. Sayagyi Dr Aung Gyi told me to count to 100 the next time I got angry so that my anger would die down. Unfortunately, that would not have worked with me. I had waited over 2 hours to get my hands on the person responsible for the cartoons. My problem being that once I set my mind to do something, I would do it regardless of the consequences, and even if I had to wait a long time to do so.
This incident came back to haunt me three years later when I was about to get married. My wife’s father, a retired Dy. I. G. of Police, asked for a police report on me from his former colleagues in the police force. This incident was mentioned in that report. My wife’s mother, after reading the police report, asked her daughter to call off the wedding. Fortunately (or unfortunately), my wife had the habit of doing the exact opposite of what her mother wished, and went through with her wedding plans.
Make RIT Beautiful
I had another of my Kauk Yoe Mee projects that year. Using my position as Ah Saung Ahtwin Ye Hmu for C and D blocks, I initiated a “make RIT beautiful” drive. With Ko Phone Thwin (Mn), Ko Aung Min (Ch) and others, we started by cleaning up the grass near the pedestrian entrance to RIT from the BPI bus stop.
Saya U Myo Win (Agri) came with his tractor and cut down the heavy foliage all the way to the sheds, L1 to L4. Sayagyi U Yone Moe came out to talk to us and mentioned he did not like the way the cactuses that were already growing in the big lawn in front of the Hostels had been planted, since they were not planted uniformly.
Here, I made a mistake. Ko Aung Min (Ch) advised that we should think about planting more cactuses rather than remove the ones that seemed to be planted oddly out of place. I did not take his good advice and tried to remove a cactus tree. I found out the hard way why these plants grow even in desert conditions. It was next to impossible to remove them. So, instead of making RIT beautiful, I created an eye sore by mutilating one of the cactuses.
Pardon My Memory
I do not remember whether the following took place during our fourth year or fifth year. The Inter Institute football tournament was held to include Institutes, Universities and Colleges from the whole country. RIT faced RASU in the semi finals. This competition was held during the summer recess so that not many students were aware of the games.
The semi final game was held in Aung San stadium. RIT was the better team, with Ko Khin Mg Shwe on the front left wing, Ko Win Zaw (A), right blender, Sai Thein Maung (C) the goalkeeper and Ko Myint Sein (M), outer right back. Ko Win Zaw thrilled the crowd with his runs down the center of the field. He looked exciting as he ran with the ball, dribbling past opposing players. At times, it seemed no one could stop him. I have no doubt Ko Win Zaw would have been a great Universities selected player had he gone and practiced at the Universities football field under the Universities coach Saya U Nyein. I believe Ko Win Zaw only wanted to play for RIT and did not go. The score was tied 2-2 at full time and the outcome was decided by tossing the coin. Unfortunately, RIT lost the toss and RASU advanced to the finals. In addition, Ko Khin Mg Shwe got a broken rib when a RASU player jumped up and “Knee-ed” him during the match. Going back to RIT, Sayagyi U Maung Maung Than kindly allowed us to ride with the football team on the Hino bus (Sin Phyu Daw Hmee, Kyan Sote).
Ko La Min (EP) was the secretary of the Electrical association that year. I was an EC member. One day, Ko La Min told me he had been asked by Saya U Moe Aung to publish the Electrical magazine. He asked me to speak out against doing the publication. At the meeting, I argued against publishing the magazine. Saya U Sein Win and Saya U Moe Aung spoke for publishing the magazine. A vote was called for. Only I and Ko Ye Myint (EP, 65 intake) were against it. We lost the vote.
A couple of months later, I asked Ko La Min when the magazine will come out. He said “Never” and told me what he did. He insisted on having his room number as the place where articles can be submitted on the announcement, in addition to Saya U Moe Aung’s room. He put away all, but two of the articles, under his bed. When Saya U Moe Aung asked him for the submitted articles, he showed Saya U Moe Aung only the two he did not throw away under his bed. You cannot publish a magazine with two articles only so that was the end of the Electrical magazine.
For summer training in our fourth year at RIT, I went to the small appliance manufacture and repair departments of the small scale industries. Ko La Min (EP) was with me. At the assembly plant of “Sein” radio in Pazundaung, we were asked to solder the circuit boards for the radios.
For the second part of the training program, we were assigned to the small appliance repair shop located on either Merchant St or Anawratha St, near 38th street. Here, we were shown how to test the electric irons that were sent there for repairs. After a week, the supervisor there told us that although he appreciated our work, he wished we would never get posted to his department after we graduate, since we “worked too hard”.
Summer time also meant attending the “Research Congress” held in the RASU campus. Not that we were interested in any engineering research. Our main interest were the papers presented by well known writers of that era, like Tekkatho Phone Naing.
Don’t even think for a minute that we had any literary interests. Our attention was on the large number of the fairer sex that were listening at those meetings.
Sayas’ Football Team
We also had a football match between the Ah Saung Thar Yar Ye Athin and the Saya’s team. I did not tend the goal for this match and played in midfield instead. I did something I was not proud of in this game. Sayagyi Dr Aung Gyi and I were running for the ball. Sayagyi was surprisingly swift and beat me to the ball. My animal instincts took over and I pushed Sayagyi to the ground and took the ball away. Sorry, Sayagyi. I know I shouldn’t have done that. I acted really bad that time.
The winning goal was scored by Ko Aung Min (Ch) from a ball I pushed forward. To the onlooker from a distance, it might seem that I passed forward for Ko Aung Min to score. In actual fact, I was taking a shot at goal, the ball fell short and got stuck in the mud. Ko Aung Min was nearby to take advantage of the situation and kicked in the winning goal.
Another activity I was involved was as secretary of the Mathematics Association. The only thing we did was to have a Hor Pyor Pwe. I don’t remember who the guest speaker was. The only thing I remember is that I had to go and get the Zee Phyaw Ye concentrate and ice for the attendees.
Russian Language Class
During summer training, either in our fourth year or fifth year, Ko Myo Khin (C, one year senior in 64), and I took lessons in Russian language at the Leik Khone in the evenings. Mrs Marinsky was the instructor. Except for a few words of Russian, I don’t remember much except for the song “Sol Nich Nay Druk”.
After the Finals
After the final exams in our 4th year, I took the “Ah Myan” train back to Mandalay. The train started out from Yangon Central Station at 6am and arrived in Mandalay at 6pm. It was like traveling in an RIT train, since a lot of our fellow RIT students were on it. I had the habit of never letting my parents know when I was coming back. I was prepared to find my way around when I got to Mandalay. Since I did not tell my father I was coming, when I went to his Say Gan on 84th St (Zaygyo) near 32nd St, I found the door locked from the outside. It was about 6.30pm and starting to get dark so I decided to go and spent the night at Ko Ye Myint’s (EP, 65 intake) parents’ house in the Mandalay University compound. I jumped into a “Side Car” for the ride to the Mandalay University compound that cost me 3 Kyats. Ko Ye Myint was not at home when I got to his house, but Sayagadaw Aunty Khin warmly welcomed me and made me feel at home. The next day, I took my brother’s car that was in my father’s Say Gan garage and drove to Maymyo.