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Monday, March 29, 2010

Myanmar people do not have surnames(family names). And this creates a lot of confusion, especially when going abroad. The title "U" or a "DAW" in front of a Myanmar person's name means like Mr. and Mrs. But many foreign Immigration Officers at international airports are mystified when nobody answers to being called Mr U but approach them to say that he is indeed Mr.........!

There is a system to the naming of Myanmar people. It goes back to ancient beliefs and astrology.
A person born , say on Monday, will have a name that starts with the corresponding alphabet of the Myanmar language. It might start with the alphabets "Kagyi" or "Hkagwe" or "Gange" or Gagyi" or "Nga".The person born on Tuesday will have the name starting with the alphabets "Salone" or "Salein" or Zagwe" or, "Zamyinzwe" or "Nya" and it goes on for all the seven days of the week.

By seeing the name of a person we can guess the day of the person's birth. U Kaung(Monday) Soe(Tuesday) would mean that this person is a Monday born and Daw Kaung Soe like wise. U Chit(Tuesday) Than(Wednesday) and Daw Chit Than are Tuesday born.

Another system is that all names must start with the first alphabet that corresponds to the day of birth and go forward. In the above example the first name begins with the corresponding alphabet for Monday and then goes to the corresponding alphabet for Tuesday.

We also belief that the names will also influence the future. U Kaung Soe will surely be a good man and will dominate as his name implies but woe be to be who is named with a less fortunate name.

But the titles are also a bit confusing. While U and Daw are for mature persons or people who are senior in standing in society or work they might be called Maung and Ma. Maung is the masculine form to address a male child and Ma for the female child. But elders will still call you Maung Kaung Soe if you are junior to them. Normally we proceed from Maung(for male child) to U and from Ma(female child) to Daw as the years progress.

So when Myanmar people travel abroad and asked to fill out the Immigration Forms many are mystified when asked the surname or family name.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Come middle of April and there will be a sweet scent in the air. A slight kiss of raindrops and the yellow Padauk blossoms will bloom. The delicate yellow petals amongst the emerald green leaves scent the air with their sweet smells and fall to the ground with every nudge of the breeze. And they also herald the coming of the Myanmar New Year. A time to wash away the misfortunes of the old days with Padauk-scented water and welcome in the New Year, fresh and revitalized.

And that is the moment that is always etched in my memory.
Padauk blossoms will unfold their petals only during this time of the year. They flower early in the morn but are gone with the evening sun. And what makes a young damsel smile but a bunch of Padauk blossoms brought to her by her Romeo.

My life is also connected with these delicate petals of Padauk blossoms. A big Padauk tree stands in front of my wife's house. It had been there before we got married and every year, since we got married 36 years ago,when the big tree burst into flowers I had taken some flowers to put in her hairs. A personal gift from me to my angel.
Now I am near my sunset years and far away from my hometown, living in a foreign land. And every year when April comes around , I still long to see the Padauk blossoms adorn my love's head.

But there are no Padauk Blossoms in the land they call "Down Under". And we pray for the day when we can go back and sit again under our own Padauk tree and look up at the twinkling stars in the sky, always together, forever.
Photos: Myanmar Polestar T&T