by Ko Zaw Min and Ko Ohn Khine
We were not as excited as we had been in our first year at RIT when the second year started. The novelty of attending college for the first time in our lives had worn off a bit. Still, there were some memorable moments.
Track and Field
Sai Thein Maung won the men’s 100 meters dash and the Hop, Step and Jump (Triple Jump) event at the Inter Institute Athletic competition.
In the men’s 800 meters, how can we forget the sight of Saw Mg Mg Htwe bravely trying to keep up with Ko Kyaw Khin (Old Paulian, later became National Coach) from RASU, one of the top middle distance runners in the country at that time. The heartbreak we felt when Saw Mg Mg Htwe fell down exhausted just a meter or so from the finish line remains with us to this day.
The elation we had when Ko Aung Khin (M66) won the men’s high jump over Mg Mg Mra (brother of Saya U Win Mra), the national champion from RASU, also remains embedded in our hearts. We watched as Mg Mg Mra failed to clear the bar in all his three attempts, and Ko Aung Khin made his final try. The bar was touched slightly and we watched in suspense as the bar wobbled up and down and finally, it stopped wobbling and did not come down. We all jumped for joy.
Ko Aung Khin (M66) was an outstanding RIT athlete. He was RIT volleyball selected, RIT basketball selected, RIT football B team selected and finally gold medalist at the men’s high jump in Inter Institute competition. I was lucky to be assigned the same dining table with him during the second half of our first year at RIT and got to know him well.
Ah Nu Pyinnya Ah Thin
The biggest event of the first half of our second year at RIT was the formation of the “Ah Nu Pyinnya Ah Thin”. I was not involved so I cannot write about what transpired. Saya U Tein Kyi (Head of Burmese Department, GBNF) made his pitch about the benefits of joining this organization to the students at a meeting held in the theater, which I attended. U Tein Kyi described hearing students sing while taking their showers and he commented that they would sound more pleasing to the ear if they took singing lessons. He ended his pitch with the words, “Ma Kaung Bu Lar?”. In one voice the students replied, “Ma Kaung Par Bu”.
Inter-Institute Football Champions
One of the high points of RIT sports during our second year was the winning of the Inter Institute Football Tournament.
The previous year, was a round robin tournament where the team with the highest points after playing with everyone else got to be the champion (RASU).
The tournament in our second year was a knockout tournament and RIT met the Cinderella team, Institute of Education, in the finals. RIT won by a wide margin, 6-2 I believe. Our classmates, Sai Thein Maung (C), Ko Myint Sein (M), Ko Win Zaw (A) and Ko Khin Maung Shwe (Kenneth) were in the starting line-up and greatly contributed to the victory.
B Block Experience
I was in B-20 that year. I remember Ko “Chee Bu” Soe Myint (C) and Ko Khin Nyo (M) “Hna Khan Hmway” (Student reporter) shared a room in B 22. Sai San Htwee (M) and Sai Aung Hla (M) were in B-1 and Ko Win Htut (C) and Ko Khin Mg Shwe (EP) were in B-2.
Note: I met Ko Khin Nyo again, minus his signature Hna Khan Mway, in New York city in the late 80s.
I shared my room with a certain Ko Zaw Weik. I cannot find his name on our RIT 64 intake list so he must have been one year junior. I don’t remember how I came to be paired with a person one year junior. Actually, I was in B-20 my first year at RIT also. I thought it strange I was assigned the same room for my second year. When I opened the room for the first time, I knew why. I saw a drawing paper hanging on the side I used to sleep with the words “The new education system had ruined my life” written in large block letters. I realized what had happened. My room mate during my first year had wanted to be a doctor and was very sad that he had been sent to RIT. He told me he would hand the room back when the school year ended and I had left the room before him to go to UTC camp. My wonderful room mate had put this paper up on my side of the room. The school administrators probably thought I was the bad guy that did it and assigned me the same room so that I would have to tear it down. There was no point in telling the hall tutor about it so I let it pass.
RIT English Activities
I was the secretary of the English Association for that year, at the urging of Saya Des Rodgers. I remember making the rookie mistake of collecting money for the Universities calendar before getting the calendars (trying to ensure that I would sell every calendar we bought). Turned out to be a disaster when I could get only a few calendars for distribution.
Note: “Rookie” means someone who started out in a job for the first time.
We also had a ‘Loke Arr Pay‘, and I teamed up with Ko Thaung Sein (EC) to clear up the drain by the place where the RIT trucks were parked. The English Dept. head, Sayama Daw Yin Yin Mya (Terry) mentioned the hard work which Ko Thaung Sein and myself did in the Loke Arr Pay. After the Loke Arr Pay, we had a singing by turns in the English Dept. room. I had never learned the full words of any song except “Outsider” by Cliff Richards. Actually, I would have preferred to sing “My Darling Clementine”, but unfortunately I knew only 2 of the 6 or so verses. Saya Des Rodgers sang “Forget Him” and Saya U Win Mra sang “No More”. At the conclusion, one smart aleck student blurted out, “Saya Rodgers, forget him. Saya Win Mra, no more”.
Note: Saya U Win Mra later became Myanmar Ambassador to the United Nations. At that time, we were living in New York State and our house was about 15 minutes drive away from U Win Mra’s residence in Westchester County, just north of New York city. My wife and U Win Mra’s wife (Marjorie) were very good friends and we spent many happy memorable hours with U Win Mra’s family.
The English department also held the annual debate during our 2nd year. Apart from the topic “Are we happier than our forefathers?”, and the fact that I was on the losing team, I don’t remember anything else, not even the names of the other participants.
I remember going to two picnics with the English department. We went to the bank housing across the Inya Lake from the Universities boat club both times. Saya Des Rodgers was the organizer of these two picnics. In one of them, we were playing a game called “Simon says”. You were supposed to obey Saya Rodgers command only if he says “Simon says” first. For example, we would be standing in two rows, Saya Rodgers would yell, “Sit down”. Anyone who sat down had to leave the game. Finally there were only two of us left in the game, Ma Than Than Yi (T), 65 intake, and I. We were standing facing each other and Saya Rodgers said “Simon says smile” and we both smiled. Suddenly, Saya Rodgers yelled, “Stop smiling”. I stopped smiling and lost.
Note: Years later, after I got married, I found out that Ma Than Than Yi was my wife’s classmate from St. John’s Convent.
In another game, male and female students were paired together. One slipper or shoe from each female was collected and piled in a heap a distance off. The task of the male students was to run and find the footwear of his partner and the first person that could bring his partner’s footwear back won. I was paired with Merlin D’Vauz (from Maymyo, younger sister of Hector D’Vauz, who was my geography teacher in 4th Std. at St. Alberts). Ko Kyaw Phone Myint (M) got to the pile of footwear before me, and as he bent down to look for his partner’s footwear, my animal instinct took over and I pushed him to the ground. I saw Merlin’s slipper, grabbed it, and ran back to be the first person that brought back his partner’s slipper. Merlin got a prize and the only thing I got was the satisfaction of seeing her receive the prize.
There was also a brief class on the latest dance “Casablanca”, which Ma Phyu Phyu Latt (Christine, A) kindly taught us.
Memories tend to be selective. My mind sometimes does not register a name if there were no associated events that I can relate to with. In 1980, I met a person called U Kyaw Lwin Hla, “Ko Ni” as we called him, who was working at the UNDP as a P4 (Profession Level 4) in New York city. We became very good friends with him and his wife Daw Nay Nwe Ba Swe, and our children would play together sometimes. Only in 1994, when Ma Thynn Thynn Khaing (Janet, EP) told me he used to be a Saya in the English dept. did I find out he had worked at the RIT English dept. That came as a total surprise to me.
Two UTC Camps
The two UTC camps we went to during our second year at RIT were dull affairs. We were sent to the “Taing Baho” near Taikkyi. The Taing Baho was meant to be a training center for soldiers who had completed their basic training. We had two PTs a day, one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. Those PTs were tough and after a week, the time was reduced to about 45 minutes for each PT session. Ko Khin Mg Lay (M), Albert Trutwein, Ko Myint Sein (M), were in our platoon, and so were Roland Thein (EP) and Ko Hla Kyaing (M) both one year senior. Ko Kyaw Phone Myint (M), Ko Kyaw Min Aung, Ko Sein Win (EC) and Ko Soe Tint (Chinlon) were in the squad leader program and became NCOs after 3 weeks of hard training. In addition to being NCOs, Ko Kyaw Phone Myint and Ko Soe Tint were also RPs (Regimental Police). For the rest of us, we practiced the mantra of the UTC students, “Ate Chin, Ngiet Chin, Free Yike Chin” whenever we could.
One time, the “Pyi Saunt Tat Nyun Kyar Ye Hmu” came to inspect us. Later, we learned that the commanding officer of the Taing Baho had requested his presence because of the unruly behavior (in the CO’s mind) of the 2nd year UTC students. This director came to our platoon, and disappointed the Taing Baho CO by telling us tales instead of reprimanding us.
I still remember one tale he told us. It was about a young boy who was the favorite of the Sayadaw in a monastery. The Sayadaw taught the boy to say, “Bae Thu Ma Yor, Ba Thar Chaw”. The Kappiya, not liking it, taught the boy, “Yor Mi Yor Yar Ngar Lei Par.” Not to be outdone, the Sayadaw asked the boy to say additionally, “Par Pin Par Nyarr Ngar Ga Myarr”.
The only good thing I can remember we enjoyed at the summer UTC was the time we spent at the canteen after dark. Ko Kyaw Min Aung showed me that mixing cream soda with milk created a great drink. I was hooked on that drink from that time onward.
Our classmates that did not go to UTC camp had to undergo Red Cross training at RIT campus. I hope one or more of the participants in this Red cross program share his or her experiences about it.
For the second UTC camp of our 2nd year at RIT, we were again sent to the same Taing Baho near Taikkyi. This time, we were housed in barracks that had individual beds. We spent more time doing fun things, like running the obstacle course. Lee Wee Kee (C) was the best rope climber in our unit. There was also a jump we had to take from a platform about 10 feet high. It looked quite low when we looked up at it from the ground. Once you are up there ready to jump, since our eyes are more than 5 feet higher than the platform, the ground looked very far below. There was no time to be afraid and we all jumped when the time came for us to do so. There was also the obstacle where you had to grab a rope and swing across a ditch about 15 to 20 feet wide. If you didn’t push off hard enough, you would not get to the other side and you ended up swinging back and forth over the ditch, listening to the jeers of your friends. And then there was the wall 10 feet high. The instructor showed us how to kick the wall so that you were using the side of the vertical wall as a step to get to the top and over the wall. Looked easy when he showed us. I got a bruised knee hitting the wall with my knee when I kicked the wall to step up to the top. Somehow, I made it over the top. Those that could not make it over the top were allowed to go around it. There was also one obstacle where one of our friends showed off his skills. There was a deep ditch with the trunk of a tree lying across it. We were shown how to sit with our legs dangling from opposite sides of this trunk and slowly move our bodies forward by using our hands to push down on the trunk and move our butts forward in small jumps. The instructor watched with his mouth open when Ko Thar Kyaw Zan (C) nickname “Tarzan”, calmly walked across the tree trunk! For the rest of us, since we did not have Ko Thar Kyaw Zan’s courage, crossed using the method the instructor showed us.
The most dangerous obstacle was the one where you were supposed to go from one tree to the next, using the rope that had been strung across those two trees. The rope was only an inch in diameter and was strung about 15 feet above the ground. The way to cross was to lie on this one inch diameter Manila rope, hook one leg on it, dangle the other leg and pull yourself forward using your hands. Since it was dangerous, the instructor said he would only let one student do this. Sai Aung Min (M) bravely volunteered. Half way across, his leg that was in the dangling position started to swing back and forth like a pendulum. We watch in stunned silence as his body rolled down from the rope. But Sai Aung Min had the presence of mind to hold on to the rope with his two hands and got to the other tree moving his hands one hand at a time, while his whole body was hanging down.
The small arms we were taught were the BA 52 (also called the Ne Win Sten) similar to the German machine pistol (sub machine gun) that you see in WW2 movies, and the British Bren gun. The Bren gun was heavy and nobody wanted to carry it. Luckily, we had Sai Loke Khan (Mn) in our platoon and he volunteered to carry it most of the time. I remember Ko Kyaw Nyein (M) was in our platoon also. Target shooting was fun. With the BA 52, we were told to shoot at a shape of a man (yoke pone pyit hmat) about 50 yards away, from a standing position with the butt of the BA 52 against our shoulders. We were asked to set the BA 52 on single fire and shoot 5 rounds, one after another. 50 yards is quite close, yet I managed to miss the target all 5 times. I could hear the instructor cursing under his breath. Next, we were asked to set the BA 52 on automatic fire and shoot 10 rounds. We had been taught to control our fire and shoot a disciplined 2 shots – 3 shots – 2 shots – 3 shots. Fortunately, I hit the target 2 times with this controlled automatic fire. One thing about the BA 52 is that the bullet casing was ejected upwards. This caused the barrel of the gun to move up every time you fire, since part of the recoil force was diverted upwards for the ejection of the cartridge. Ko Myint Sein (M, GBNF), being of small stature and not controlling his automatic fire, letting out all 10 shots automatically, ended up shooting all his rounds into the sky.
In contrast, the Bren gun ejected the bullet casing downwards and since you fire the Bren while lying on the ground and with your two elbows propping up the butt end of gun, (and two mechanical props propping up the barrel)the barrel remained stable and didn’t move or shake at all during automatic fire. The only problem we encountered was the distance to the target, 200 yards.
Personally for me, in sports, the second closest thing I came to achieving something was during the second half of our second year. (The closest thing was in my final year at RIT, which I will write about when I get to the final year portion). In the Inter Block football competition, I was the goalkeeper for B block. The best players we had on our team were Ko “Sight” Soe Myint (C) and Ko Yan Shin. No player good enough to become RIT selected was on our B block team. In the semi finals, we beat “A” block, which had Sai Thein Maung (C), Ko Win Zaw (A), and Ko Khin Maung Shwe (Kenneth) all three of them the stalwarts of the RIT selected football team. The outcome was decided on penalties after we played to a 1-1 or 0-0 draw after overtime. In the finals, we played against the powerful day scholar team, with Ko Than Hla (C, 65 intake), Ko Soe Myint Lwin, (Ep, 2 years senior), Ko Mg Mg Gyi (T, 2 years senior, Ko Kyaw Myint (C, 2 years senior), Ko Khin Mg Lay (M) and Ko Myint Sein (M). We held them to a goalless draw until about 15 minutes from the end when they scored 3 goals in rapid succession. All three goals were due to my errors. The first goal was due to my mental error. When you are diving for a ball, you cannot let your eyes off the ball for a split second. I made the mental mistake of looking to see how I will hit the ground when I tried to intercept a cross and missed catching the ball.
Ko Yan Shin, rushing back, inadvertently put the ball into our own goal. The second goal was due to a judgemental error. I tried to jump up and catch a ball that was wet and spiraling down, instead of punching it away. The wet spinning ball slipped through my hands. The last goal was due to my inexperience. I did not challenge the opposing player aggressively in a one on one situation.
Not so memorable events
There were some not so memorable moments also at RIT. RIT lost to RASU in the Inter Institute Basketball finals held at the Recreation Center in RASU. Ko Tin Aye (M) from our 64 intake class was one of the RIT players. I remember seeing Ko Aung Khin (M 66) playing in it too. The good thing about losing, we did not get stones hurled at us when we left the RC.
The heart breaker was the loss to RASU in the volleyball tournament. RIT jumped to a 7-1 lead due to the abilities of Ko Aung Khin (M66) and Ko Pe Oo (M66) to smash balls down into the other side. Salai Myo Myint (C) set up perfect “lifts” for Ko Aung Khin and Ko Pe Oo to smash. RASU played defence and tried hard to block or prevent the ball from landing. After about 10 minutes, with RIT leading 7-1, our leading smashers got tired and could not send the ball smashing down with enough force. RASU took over command of the game and defeated RIT in 3 straight games.
During our first year at RIT, since I was a “Taw Tha” from the hills east of Mandalay, I did not venture out much from RIT hostels. Not once did I go to see a movie at the cinemas on Sule Pagoda road. I did go to Lanmadaw for Tazaungdine with Ko Win Htut (C), Ko Khin Mg Shwe (Ep) Ko Aung Kyi (M), Ko George Ko Ko Gyi (Ch), Ko Kyaw Win (?) senior to us, and a few others (Ko Ohn Khine might be one of those that I went with). I can also count on the fingers of one hand how many times I went to Aung San Stadium, a whopping 3 times. Once for Universities vs P&T, another time for Universities vs Navy, and the last time for the Burma selected against FC Nurnberg (the German team won 6 nil).
Apart from those times, the only times I would venture out from RIT was to go to Tagaung Hall once a month to pick up my monthly allowance and money to pay the hostel fees from my sister, and sometimes to the Aung Min Gaung section of Winderemere to visit a high school friend. Sometimes, while visiting this friend, I got to go to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda when he had to drive his father to it.
Second year at RIT was different in that I began to stretch my legs more. Ko Han Kyu Pe (A, GBNF), was the person who showed me “the ropes”. We would try and see new foreign movies on the 6.30pm show of the first Friday of the new showing. Before going to the cinemas, we would have dinner at the La Ha Pyin Zay, located at that time on Sule Pagoda road, across from the Maha Bandoola Pan Chan.
Although Ko Han Kyu Pe (A) was from Min Hla, he had been a boarder at St Paul’s and knew his way around. He would order Ah Thar Kin, Ah Khauk Kin, 50 Pyas worth each, Ah Tae Kin 25 Pyas worth, and Bae Thar Kyam Sai 2 Kyats worth. We would guzzle everything down with bowls of rice.
One time, we could not get the tickets for the 6.30pm show on the first day of showing of “Spartacus” and we waited for the 9.30pm show. We walked to RIT hostels from Thamada Cinema Hall after the movie, arriving back at the RIT hostels around 3am in the morning.
Near the Final Exams
When the final exams neared, Ko Nyunt Mg San (C) came up with the idea to study together at one of the Zayats located near the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. (I believe he had access to the keys of that zayat).
Ko Win Htut (C), Ko Kyaw Phone Myint (M), Ko Phone Thwin (Mn) and Ko Nyunt Mg San (C) were there. Studying together never was a good idea since we started to horse around after a few hours. Ko Nyunt Mg San and Ko Phone Thwin tried jousting at each other with one leg held up behind them, resulting in Ko Nyunt Mg San falling down and hurting his hand. Actually he told me that was really a blessing in disguise since he got the assistance of an instructor to move his Tee Square in the Engineering Drawing exam as his arm was in a swing.
Since these first two years at RIT was full of memories of fun times, it may seem I was at RIT to have fun only. I did learn some things which I remember to this day.
For Engineering Drawing, we had Saya U Maung Maung Win, an excellent lecturer. This was one subject I did not ever forget. I can still make an isometric drawing out of either first angle or third angle projections. I found out that knowing how to read engineering drawings was a necessity when I passed the final year exams and started working.
I don’t think we can forget Saya U Shwe Hlaing’s free body diagrams and arrows showing the direction of the forces acting on it. Also, I still remember how to do differentiation and integration that was taught by the late Saya U Sein Shan.
Another thing that is forever in my memory are the first four lines and the last 8 lines of the Ya Za Dar Tu Kalya prose, written by Nat Shin Naung, and read to us by Saya U Tein Kyi to explain how beautiful the words were.
There were also courses that the only thing I remember is, “Any questions? No questions. You may go”, or “From station A to station B is twenty feet”. There are of course two things I remembered from the Surveying course apart from the “Station A to Station B”. It was the calculated value of the length of my step. (I believe everyone will remember walking from the bench mark near the carports to the bench mark by the Electrical Dept. and back, counting the steps taken and dividing it into the distance walked between the bench marks). The other one being how to calculate “cut and fill”.
I cannot place the exact date of when the following happened. Either the second half of our 2nd year at RIT or the first half of our 3rd year.
Farewell to a highly regarded Saya
Saya U Shwe Hlaing was well regarded by the students as he taught mathematics in a way that we believed engineering students should be taught. Everyone was dismayed when news came out that he was going to be transferred to Mandalay.
Students from our 64 batch, in conjuction with students from one year senior to us, were in the forefront of arranging a suitable going away present for Saya U Shwe Hlaing. I wrote a letter (in English) praising his work at RIT and how much the students appreciate his teachings. I remember going around the RIT hostels, room to room, asking for donations and for the students to sign on a sheet (to show their support for what was in the letter). Ko Thar Htay (M) suggested that we should also have another letter in Burmese or we might be open to criticism if we were to read a letter in English only. Ko Thar Htay wrote up a letter in Burmese praising Saya U Shwe Hlaing’s work at RIT. Someone took care of asking for donations at G Hall and some others took charge of getting donations from the day students. The money collected, about K300, was given to Ko Myo Khin (C) one yr. senior, who placed an order (with his contacts in the city), for a desk to be given as going away present to Saya U Shwe Hlaing. On the evening of the occasion of presenting the going away present, held in the Assembly hall, Ko Khin Maung Win (Roland) (Ep) one year senior, read the letter in English that I wrote. (Since Roland was a better English speaker than me, I asked him to read the letter). Ko Thar Htay (M) read the letter he wrote in Burmese, and in addition to the desk, both letters were presented to the Saya along with the papers that had the signatures of all the students.
75% Attendance Policy
The second year final exams also meant some heartbreak for us when we learned that some of our friends would be barred from taking the final exams because of their failure to have the required attendance. I have mixed feelings about this policy. Although I do understand this was done to ensure the students attend classes, exams were there to gauge what the students had learned. Attendance does not ensure the students had learned anything. Of course, when it comes to the Practicals, the students definitely need to do all of them.
A Rough Patch
I also ran into a rough patch in Physics. We were told by the Lecturer, Sayama Daw May Than Nwe (GBNF) not to study certain topics for the Finals. I must be the only fool that took her word for it and did not study those topics. I found out much later that when Sayama Daw May Than Nwe said ‘do not study‘, it meant she was going to ask them in the exam. I was unpleasantly surprised to see questions about all the topics she told us not to study being asked in the final exam. I was fortunate I knew how to answer the other questions or I would have flunked the exam. I only blame myself for this debacle. As a student, I should have studied all the subjects in the text book, regardless of whether I was told to study or not.