My life_ my many Birthdays

my "surprise birthday"

Everyone has a birthday, the day they were born. Other birthdays are just anniversaries of their birthday. People remember their birthdays and those of their friends and children too. At the anniversaries of their children’s birthdays, they have birthday parties. Friends of their children and children of their friends are invited. Sometimes, the adults are invited to the party too, and sometimes although the party is supposed to be that of their children, the main event is for the adults, with the child’s birthday party being a sideshow. This culture of having birthdays usually stop when the child gets older and the parents cannot hold parties. But it is impressed on the children to celebrate birthdays, and many times when they become adults, they hold birthday parties as a sort of get-together or just finding an excuse to hold a party.

However, nearly all have only one birthday to celebrate, except a few, like me, who have 2 or more birthdays. Of course everyone is born only once and have only one birthday. However, many, for various reasons have a real birthday and another official one. One reason for this is wrong data entry by the clerk in school and office records or those at the immigration department. I have met several government employees who have to take retirement either earlier or later than 60 years age because of this kind of error.

Another reason is because of the person himself / herself, wanting to be younger, at least on records. It happened soon after independence, when official records have been destroyed during the war and when new records were made, these people just enter a later birth date so that they will have the opportunity to appear younger (no one can be really younger), or to be able to work longer with later retirement.

Nowadays, children who are born between August to December sometimes have their birthdays advanced by their parents so that they can enter school just before they are of 5 years age. There is a 3 months grace period and children who are born between May to July are allowed to attend kindergarten although they are not fully 5 years old. So children born Aug to Oct are under pressure by their parents to attend school earlier, and have their birthdays advanced. This is the case of my elder son Aung Ko Oo as he was born in September and as Pyone worked at School Health, Ahlone, at the time, she could get a duplicate birth certificate easily and we changed his official birthday so he could attend class early, rather than late.

As for myself, my birthday was also advanced so as to be able to sit for the 10th Standard exams directly without having to wait for another year. During my time, only those who will be of 16 years age by end of April were allowed to sit for the exam. A friend of mine, Cho Win Maw, who got into our class at the 9th Standard, being transferred from a district school was very young. He got privileges there, double promotion, and he could not sit for 10th standard exam together with us and had to do it the next year on 1970. It was because his parents did not or could not change his birth date after he got double promotion.

I got into the early class because of my brother. He is 1 year older than me, and while my father was posted in Bassein, he reached 5 years age and attended school there in 1956. However, my father got transferred to Rangoon at February 1957, and although there are many of my mother’s relatives there (even her parents were still alive then) in Bassein, she went along with my father at the same time, taking ko Khine Soe out from school, without completing the final exams.

When schools open the next academic year, we both attended the Lady Paw Tun school together, and we were in the same class till we graduated, although of course, not in the same section at all times. We were in different sections when we were in the 8th standard, and from 3rd M. B. onwards, when our roll number was rearranged by name. During our stay at the Lady Paw Tun, we met our friend ko Mya Oo and his younger brother Mya Thaung. Mya Thaung was in our class and ko Mya Oo was 1 class ahead. Also there with ko Mya Oo was Pyone and my friend Aung Thaw, who I later meet in medical school, but I did not know them at the time. Mya Oo and Mya Thaung have a sister, 1978 batch. I do not remember her name, but they lived in Sanchaung when we were in the 1st M.B. and many would remember Mya Oo driving his sister to the LeikKhone in their Opel Rekord, then back home to leave the car and then come back by bus. Mya Oo / Tony became a surgeon and is now retired.

We had to attend the Lady Paw Tun school on Halpin road till 1st standard because although my father tried entrance for us at the St. Paul’s High School right from the beginning, and every year, we were on the waiting list until then. This was in spite of the fact that the St. Paul’s High School was my father’s old school and the principal at the time, Brother Phillip, was my father’s class teacher and border in-charge, and knew each other well.

We attended St. Paul’s from the 2nd standard and although our academic results were not too good at the Lady Paw Tun (we never got first 3), both of us were top at St. Paul’s, at least in our section, “F”. The same trend continued in the 3rd standard 1st test in which I was 1st and ko Khine Soe was 2nd. My father went to the principal, his former teacher, Brother Phillip, with our report cards to ask for half year promotion for us to have ko KS make up for his class which he lost during the transfer to Rangoon. I was lucky to be ahead of him at the time and both of us were transferred to the 4th standard section D. As we were given places directly in front of the teacher, but on the 2nd row, I heard voices remarking that we will not be able to follow the curriculum. However, we were in the first half of the class that year. There in section D, we met Chit Sein and Percy who became doctors and Fong Lee, Douglas Saw Hla Pru (MOGE geologist U Tin Maung Win’s younger brother), Richard Tun Tin (marine Captain, son of Brigadier Tun Tin, Minister and later State Councilor, BSPP), Michael Yoe, Miller, among others.

My narrative about my birthdays has gone off tangentially and I must pick up my threads again carefully, or I will lose sight of my roadmap. Speaking of roadmap, we once had a Goal / PannDine, the socialist goal, which was said to be near, and that one could see it, yet the goal was elusive and we did not reach it, having lost our roadmap on the way.

To continue my narrative, it was due to my parents concern that my brother get back to his class that I got ahead of my class together with him and had to change my birthday by advancing 4 months to 16-Feb. I have a true birthday on 16-Jun, and an official birthday 16-Feb, since then.

In the evening of the most recent Burmese new year’s day on 17-Apr, I was in clinic after dinner when Moe Zaw Tint, Sr. Engg. came and told me U Zaw Min, Field Manager, wanted me to attend a meeting. On the way to office, I asked him whether the operations meeting has been finished and whether the Technical Manager is still in office. I learned that the purpose of calling me was not related to the operations as the operations meeting was over and the Technical Manager had left.

There were all Myanmar attendees of the operations meeting still seated in the office meeting table, about 20 engineers and technicians, with the Field Manager, not at his usual place, the head of the meeting table, but at the side. As I walked towards him, all clapped and I saw a cake with candles lighted. I was surprised and had a near shock (not really, just literally speaking). It was 17th April, nowhere near my birthdays. I explained that someone must have made a mistake and told them my 2 birthdays and that both of them are quite far. U Zaw Min told me to blow the candles anyway, and I blew them out and cut the cake and distributed the pieces to all. We each of us got a piece. When it was over, Moe Zaw Tint showed me on his laptop, the article I had written “Are you prepared to face Death” in which I mentioned that I will be 58 on 17th April this year.

Yes, recently, I wrote that blog “Are you prepared to face Death” and distributed it to my friends by e-mail and posted on my blog “Nyiwin’s Blog” at https://nyiwin.wordpress.com. It was about doing the best for your next life or afterlife while one has time and the ability. I was 57, officially (actually, 56 and only will be 57 on 16-Jun) at the time, but I wanted to appear as being older, so I used the Myanmar way of describing one’s age as the number of new year days passed since birth, as when mothers replied Thone Khar Lae Shi. Pye when asked about her child, meaning that 3 Thingyans has passed since the child’s birth. Another way of describing one’s age in Myanmar is to say 5 Hnit Htae Hmar (in the 5th year of life), when one has passed the 4th birthday.

I wrote I would be 58 on 17-Apr, rather than I am in my 58th year of age, or I am 57. Moe Zaw Tint took it to mean that 17-Apr is my birthday and he arranged my “surprise birthday”.

The next morning, while I was having breakfast we were discussing about it again, and ko Khin Maung Lin remarked that it is 2 months till my real birthday and 2 months from my official one. I then remarked that the 17-Apr would be my “average birthday”, and that as the Myanmar new year day which mostly falls on 17-Apr and sometimes on 18-Apr, (when there is Ah.Kyat 2 days in Thingyan), will be my average birthday. Now I have a third birthday, my average birthday in addition to my real birthday and official birthday.

Later, the thought of having to treat those here on my coming real birthday came to my mind and I decided to treat them now, on the occasion of my average birthday. I asked Camp Boss to order ice cream to be served at dinner so all can have it. Several staff on day duty cannot return to Base camp for lunch and lunch has to be sent to them. It will be impossible to send ice-cream to them.

Now, I have an average birthday in addition to my earlier actual birthday and official birthday. Of course, I also have a Burmese birthday, like all other Myanmars, and I will have to find the exact date, as I only know that it was some day in WarHso 1315.

ps

I got my exact Myanmar birthday from my geologist friend here, who has electronic 100 year Myanmar – English calendar. It is 1315 WarHso LaHsan 5 Yet. the 5th waxing day of WarHso, 1315

While I was in office getting my Burmese date of birth, an engineer told me he has many many birthdays, so many.

He had a real birthday, in both standard and Myanmar calendars, like others. When he got in school, his parents had it changed earlier to be able to sit for the 10th standard exams directly, as he was underage. But it is not with this birthday that he passed his 10th standard exam. Somebody made an error. When he attended the GTI, clerks made error and the date of birth in his completion certificate was wrong. He attended BE course and his birthday in his graduation certificate is another. He has 6 birthdays, a record.

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