· Yangon, Burma ·
An online friend posted a photo of present day West Yankin on her Facebook page today. This brings back sweet memories of the place where I lived four decades ago in those four-storeyed buildings behind what is now the Sedona Hotel.I wrote about the place in the 13 June 1970 issue of the then Guardian Daily English language newspaper in my column SIDE GLANCES under my pen name PO THA KHWA(not to be confused with a later similar name of another person). I am reproducing my article of the time below, and you will see that the present day scenario of those buildings and the environment has changed totally.
This West of Yankin
Meat-safes, oceanliners, doll-houses, showcases, stage-props, Disneyland. A constellation of views from a galaxy of people ! One enthusiast remarked somewhat exuberantly that the place resembles an ultra-modern kibbutz — a transplanted piece of Israel.
West Yankin housing estate with its own peculiarities has invited an array of remarks from some well-intentioned souls. The estate with its entrance leading off from the Kaba Aye Pagoda Road has little in common with the rest of Yankin. Imaginatively positioned buildings with lots of open spaces in between give the residents a feeling of being in the countryside.
Even the cultural aspect of the countryside is there. Preserving those good old traditions is a part of life at West Yankin. The monks on their soon–gathering rounds are still heralded by that age-old sound from the kyesi — a fast fading sight in downtown Rangoon.
Water, there’s aplenty.Sunshine?Enough for a TB sanatorium. Fresh air? A thousand and one lungfuls !
A note of warning though. The twenty-four room four-storeyed buildings with their common corridors are strictly for love-thy-neighbour people. For those people the housing estate is something of a Utopia-come-true. For people with an otherwise turn of mind, the place is otherwise. But of course we are not concerned with those otherwises — those honourable men.
Come to think of it, the estate could well be an ideal testing ground for those self-proclaimed community spirit imbued people. A month in West Yankin would separate the goose from the gander.
Civic sense is an essential ingredient of patriotism. And patriotism minus civic sense is no patriotism.
More housing projects on the West Yankin pattern would mean more training grounds for good citizenship.
At a time when the drive is towards cooperation and coordination, we could very well do with more West Yankins.
A revival of the traditional neighbourliness in each basic unit of society — the family — would not be an irrelevant factor.
West Yankin is an experience, not just another housing project.One has to be a resident to get the feel of it.It’s a strange and exhilarating experience. There is something splendidly alluring about the place.
West Yankin is like a woman in a way. You know she has charm. What that exactly is, you know not. All you know is that she grows on you.
The friendliness and esprit de corps of its people have that touch of the countryside — a helping hand, a word of encouragement, an understanding nod.
“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm” — this West of Yankin !