Life Story for the Special Initiative “Living the Coup: Collective Diary of Daily Life in Myanmar” by SEA Junction and Partners.
|Title:||Duties and Responsibilities!|
I let out another long, heavy sigh.
I am tired of praying for an uncertain future in the midst of an unpredictable life. I guess it is normal to feel insecure and unworthy when you are taking refuge at someone’s place. It also does not make it easier whether the person who took you in is a stranger, relative, ordinary citizen, or monk. I always have to make sure that I do not overstay my welcome. It will be one year since I got here on the 13th of May, and I cannot believe that I have been taking refuge with a group of strangers for almost a year now.
Some people still refuse to participate in CDM, and they continue to stay silent about the injustices happening around them. I believe they still turn a blind eye to the injustices because they have not experienced them firsthand. They also won’t stop making baseless claims about some of us who chose to participate in CDM. According to them, we joined CDM because we want to receive support money from the people. We were already dissatisfied working as subordinates, and CDM gave us a good reason to leave our jobs behind. Some spread rumors that our families are well-off, our children have already grown up, and we have our own houses to live in if we get evicted from government housing. The list would go on, and their usual excuse is that they would allegedly join CDM if they were in a privileged position like us.
I do not have time to pay attention to the words that came out of them. I am a civil servant who joined CDM, and I prefer to celebrate and pay respect to the tremendous courage that other CDM civil servants have demonstrated. They expressed their objection to the military dictatorship loud and clear, gave up their government-issued homes, and took refuge anywhere that offered to shelter them. They used to look so esteemed in their uniforms, but they traded them for the outfits of security guards, delivery men, market vendors, and manual laborers. They work tirelessly day in and day out to make ends meet, and they are truly our heroes.
It is the rainy season, so it rains as expected.
I remember the times I would open the windows when it was raining outside and felt the gush of a cool breeze while enjoying a nice cup of coffee. It is all in the past now. Now, I feel restless and anxious whenever the sky looks like it is going to rain. We have a proverb in Myanmar that says, “A good tree can lodge ten thousand birds.” A monk agreed to take all of us in about a year ago, and he allowed us to take refuge at his monastery. There are 60 of us altogether, 25 are civil servants, and I cannot express how grateful I am to live here. This monastery is, to me, the magnificent, nurturing tree described in the proverb.
The monastery is a two-story building, and those who arrived first got their own space upstairs. Some cleaned up vacant spaces downstairs and moved into them. We picked a spot downstairs at the far corner of the building, and an older CDM couple moved in next to us. They are already 55 years old and only a few years away from retiring, but they decided to leave their jobs behind to stand up for what is right. Some arrived by themselves, and they took up available spaces just large enough for them to lie down and sleep at night.
Then along came the rainy season and the trouble that usually accompanies it.
The rainy season did what it does best. The rain poured heavily, the winds were strong, the lights went out, and the mosquitoes were everywhere. The nights were long, and I was occupied with the thought that I might not be able to get any sleep here. We live in a two-story building, and there is a sturdy roof above us, so we do not have to worry about the rain leaking through the ceiling. The ground floor, however, was uninhabited before we moved in, and it did not have any walls, so all of us had to sleep out in the open. It was disheartening to hear people whining and infants crying at night. With the help of the monk who took us in, we received plastic vinyl sheets from a charity organization soon afterward. They came over and hung them as curtains on the ground floor. Since then, we could draw the curtains when it started raining heavily outside, and we were able to sleep better at night.
Then the winter came along, and the curtains did their best to keep us warm. The curtains also came in handy whenever the monastery next to ours had a ceremony. We would draw the curtains to keep ourselves hidden from the view and keep everyone away from snooping around. The curtains are now worn out, and I know they will become unusable one day, but they have already fulfilled their duties, and I will remember the help that they provided in times of need.
The rainy season returned a year later, and it does what it does best as usual. We were hit by a storm on the first day of Myanmar’s New Year, and it was a chaotic day for all of us. The winds were strong, the rain poured heavily, and we lost electricity. We had the curtains for almost a year at that point, so they were already worn out, and they could not protect us from the wind anymore. The stronger the wind became, the more violently the curtains would swirl around in the air, and the rain would start blowing into the building. The longer the rain lasted, the less space we had in the building to keep ourselves dry, and we had to start moving our belongings away from the rain. It was as if the rain and the wind were trying to outdo one another in tormenting us. By the end of the night, we moved our belongings to the middle of the room, and we sat down next to them feeling exhausted. We were overwhelmed with emotions, and I felt sad, heartbroken, and depressed at the same time. The only thing I could wish for at that moment was for the revolution to be over as quickly as possible.
My father is the head of the household in my family, and he is also a civil servant who joined CDM. But more importantly, he is a hero and a role model for me. He is currently working as a construction worker to support us, and he works very hard to fulfill his duties at his new job. Most CDM families around us are in a similar situation, and they do what they can to get by. While it is true that they are struggling to make ends meet, I know for sure that they will never turn back on their decision to participate in CDM, and I know that they will not give up on their dream to leave behind a better place for the next generation.
Civil servants like us cannot pay around one lakh each month to rent a house, so I am fortunate that I got a chance to take refuge at a place like this that makes me feel safe and at peace. I do not want to complain about my life no matter how tough it gets because I do not want to discourage those who left their homes and families behind to join the People’s Defense Force (PDF). They are ready to lay down their lives fighting for their country, and they are truly our heroes. The Civil Disobedience Movement is still going strong to this day, and I am grateful for all the help we received from our supporters.
In conclusion, I have no doubt that we are going to win this revolution. We have many good folks on our side who understand that they have the responsibility to step up and help out in any way they can in this revolution. I would also like to remind everyone to be more patient and continue resisting the military dictatorship. Victory is within our reach, the day we have all been waiting for will undoubtedly come, and it will be the happiest day of our lives.
This story is first published on the art4cdm Facebook page here. art4cdm is an online community that
provides a system of care and a safe space for civil servants from Myanmar who joined the Civil
Disobedience Movement. Their information could be found on WordPress here and also be found
on Facebook , Instagram, and Youtube.
“Living the Coup: Collective Diary of Daily Life in Myanmar” is a special initiative of SEA Junction in collaboration with Asia Justice Rights (AJAR) to document how people are living in present-day Myanmar and their coping with daily security, economic and health challenges. We are asking for short stories in the form of written, photo essays or art illustration, in Burmese Language (to be later translated into English) or in English. For more background and other stories click here.
SEA Junction, established under the Thai non-profit organization Foundation for Southeast Asia Studies (ForSEA), aims to foster understanding and appreciation of Southeast Asia in all its socio-cultural dimensions- from arts and lifestyles to economy and development. Conveniently located at Room 408 of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center or BACC (across MBK, BTS National Stadium), SEA Junction facilitates public access to knowledge resources and exchanges among students, practitioners and Southeast Asia lovers. For more information see www.seajunction.org, join the Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/1693058870976440/ and follow us on twitter and Instagram @seajunction
Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
AJAR is a non-profit organization, based in Jakarta, Indonesia, whose aim is to contribute to the strengthening of human rights and the alleviation of entrenched impunity in the Asia-Pacific region. Its work focuses on countries involved in transition from a context of mass human rights violations to democracy, where it strives to build cultures based on accountability, justice and a willingness to learn from the root causes of human rights violations to help prevent the recurrence of state-sanctioned human rights violations. For more information, see https://asia-ajar.org.