ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE BBS By Tekkatho Shwe Yi Win
( Translated by Dr Khin Maung Win . From Ah Twe A Myin ( Thought Magazine ,May, 2016 )
It used to be called BBS,Burma Broadcasting Service.That ‘s now history, as people today say.This year,2016 the BBS celebrates its 70 th anniversary,which coincides with my own anniversary.It shows that I am old – quite old.Being old,I have come across many anniversaries like the centential,the bi-centential, the 25 th anniveryary.
Having come across these anniversaries also makes me realize that I am no longer young.
Not so long ago in 2015 , our family has celebrated the 100 th anniversary of my parents-in-law Saya U Khin Maung Latt and Daw Khin Myo Chit.Returning
to the subject of BBS , as I have said at the beginning,the anniversary of the 70 th anniversary of BBS which is 2016 coincides with my own.So obviously I was born on the same year that the BBS was established.
To-day the the English alphabet is used everywhere and by everyone.Whenever they talk about what they do,where they go , what school
they are attending , what work they do ,they use the alphabets A,B,C ,…. which makes me confused. Couldn’t understand what they meant.That’ part of getting old,I guess.This is the 21 st century.
In our time also we must have used the words that the old people could not understand . It’s natural.We too have used the words like BBS,VOA, All India, and so on.
Now,regarding the BBS, it is known the that the parents of my husband Dr. Khin Maung Win have been very intimate with the BBS.The whole family used to do a lot of play-reading in the English programme.( My husband expresses his view that no one except the players and their intimate friends and family really listened to these programmes.) Intimate friends,family, members of the staff of the English Department of Rangoon University and students of my father-in-law participated.
One of the most well-known radio plays ( to the participants and families) was ‘Oggasena’.I have heard my parents-in-law talk about it all the time.The play is about a rich man’s son who married a dancer .
In the radio play U Khin Maung Latt played the role of the dancer’s father ,sayama Daw Khin May ,lecturer of English Department played the dancer and my husband played Oggasena . At first my husband was a bit shy because the one who played the dancer had been his teacher.But he managed to overcome his shyness and according to his own admission,he gave his greatest (and only) performance for the BBS.The narrator of the play
who plays a vital part was U Win Pe,writer Mya Zin, who also wrote the play.My husband says that the audience of the radio plays in English was not as great as that of those in Myanmar language.But the enthusiasm of those who participate are the same.
During my time I used to listen to the radio plays in English language read by Win Oo,Nyunt Win,Tin Moe Khine, and others.
The BBS also had other interesting programmes like :story-time for children,rural radio plays in which the names of rural characters like Ko Say Yoe,Ko Thar San lived in the hearts of the listeners.There was also the programme called ‘Let me tell you something’ by Daw Yi Kyein which had a lot of listeners.There was also “thiri gayhar” a family saga,birthday songs,theatre plays,dramatization of stories in which all parts are assumed by a single narrator and other programmes.These programmes were played during our time.There must have been many other interesting programmes during the time of our parents. During their time,the director of BBS was U Khin Zaw (K), and later U Pe Thaw, dear friends of my parents as well as my in-laws.I heard my parents-in –law talk about U Khin Zaw,his wife Daw Than Hnit,U Pe Thaw,Daw Yi Kyein,Bo Ba Ko, and others.
In those times there were programmes of talks on various subjects.I have heard about talks of U Gon Ban on Burmese music.There were also talks on Buddhism by Sunlun Shin U Viniya.
When the BBS was first established the location was Wintermere Cresent.The elders talked about that location in remembrance. Later in our time,the location was moved to Pyay Road.For me,I still remember that U Khin Zaw lived in the house at Wintermere Cresent.I remember visiting the house with my parents-in-law.At that time my twin children,boy and girl,were sitting for the 8 th standard examination.The examination was at Mayangyan school which was near U Khin Zaw’s house.At that time we alse visited Aunty Saw Mon Nyin’s house.
I don’t know what they have done with the old BBS building at Wintermere Cresent.The last time I visited there was when U Khin Zaw passed away.During my time,I remember U Kyaw Nyein( Mardali),U Kyaw San,U Tin Oo, U Than Myint which were once great names in the BBS.My father was also a great friend of U Khin Zaw.I remember my father asking U Khin Zaw a birthday song for me.I also remember U Kyay Nyein’s daughter Than Than Nyein telling stories for children on the BBS.I also remember that our family friend Shwegu May Hnin used to work for the BBS.In the English Programme,Allyson Tun Wai,Joyce Win (Nwe Yi Win) are also names to remember.
In the time of my youngest brother Mg Soe Nyunt,the stereo songs and music became very popular and Bo Bo Han, Thein Dan,Soe Paing,L Khun Yi,Tin Moe Khine,Kayjar Nu,Saing Hti Saing, etc … were names to remember.So, in addition to classical songs,modern songs, stereo songs became part of the BBS.However I must admit that we have little appreciation for stereo music which made my youngest brother displeased.He said that one needs to listen again and again ,and you will come to appreciate it. And so it came to pass that the number times it is needed to listen to a stereo song to be appreciated became a method of categorizing the steoro song.It proves that what my youngest brother said was true.Some songs needed three times of listening to get appreciated ,some needed more.So we categorize the stereo songs as 3-time song,4-time song …… and so on.Now we have come to like all the stereo songs although we have forgotten the number times it had taken to appreciate a particular song.
With the coming of stereo songs there came cassettes the owning of which became a kind of status symbol for the young.Then came stereo radio plays,and also such songs and plays in cassette tapes and also talks on Buddhism . Among the stereo radio plays , the one we still remember is one called ‘ The hunter becomes the prey,and the prey also the hunter’.It was ,I think , back in 7974.In it ,we could hear the voices of our favourite singers like BoBo Han,Kayja Nu,Soe Paing, Tin Moe Khine and others.
In 1970 the age of radio was still in full swing( which is now ancient history).
Every Sunday our family ( me,my husband and twins,Mg Yit and Yunior Win) used to visit my parents’ house in South Okkalapa. We stayed there the whole day.When we hear the old-time favourites programme on the radio,it meant the time had come to return home.We heard the old songs of Pyay Hla Pe,May Shin,Khin Mg Yin,and many others.This happened every Sunday.
I still remember hearing the songs of Mar Mar Aye,Ko Mya Gyi , Ko Than Hlaing,Tin Tin Mya,Htar,Yi Yi Thant,Cho Pyone .When We were young we still ‘ remember how we liked Mar Mar Aye’s song ‘Let’s play on the rainbow’.I still remember singing and copying that song on the tape recorder . That was back in the 1960s
,another ancient history .There was also the broadcasting of reading topics like Tekkatho Phone Naing’s ‘Moe Nya Ein Met Nyo’(Rainy-night Dream).I can still remember hearing the words like ‘Of course,Ma Ma Yi,you do not know,but how can Mg Nyo Hmaing who knows you ever forget?’ In one of the radio plays called ‘The One I Love’, I can still hear the words ‘ Impossible ? But no, I killed my brother myself,don’t you see ? ‘
All that is now ancient history,and I am not even sure if the modern young people of to-day will understand my felings.I have heard old students of father –in –law
reciting the English quotations that they have learnt during their student days.In the same way I find myself reciting what I have heard on the radio.I have a feeling of shyness in doing so.But I enjoy doing it.
To-day it is time of my children.I can hear the BBS broadcasting the childrens’s stories with the voices of children from the Social Welfare Department.My children love these stories.We also listened to the weather report regularly.It was around 1974 to 1976.
When the songs of the BBS became very popular they were made into gramophone records .( Young people of to-day may not even know what they are.) People loved to listen to the records.There were also special programmes for indigenous races,letters to the soldiers on the frontline,songs most loved by the people,songs for the birthday. We loved to listen to them .
Regarding the programme for birthday songs,there is one incident I still remember.My father once asked Director U Khin Zaw to broadcast a birthday song
for me. U Khin Zaw not only arranged a special birthday song to be broadcasted but also sent a card with birthday wishes written by his own hand.The card would have made a good item to be shown in Junior Win’s book A Memory of My Grandparents.I also remember that in the time of my parents,they used English language in writing.
At that time,our house used to be at Newlyn Road(now Zagawar Road),near that road there used to be the Rangoon central jail,facing our road was Pegu Club , at the crossing of our road and Prome Road(Pyay Road) was the Foreign office,as one continues to the north along Pyay Road,one arrives at what used to be place of the marching ceremony on the west of Shwe Dagon Pagoda, then came Myenigone , Hanthawadi roundabout (which is still there),on the south- west of which used to be Sarpaybeikman office building, then came the new BBS building,and then the building which used to be known as tortoise back roof building,what used to be medical college (1),later Institute of medicine,as one continues there used to be workers’ appartments,then Yangon University .
Some of these are ancient history. These are the memories of whats’s left of the 70 th anniversary of BBS.
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Translator’s note ; –
Now I want to relate to the readers the play “Oggasena” .
The radio play began with a soliloquy by Oggesana , the rich mans’s son.With a soft music in the background the soliloquy ran as follows ;-“The air is her element.As she dances in the skiey spaces on the tip of the pole ,she does not leap ,dwells like a high cloud on a summer morning.How she manages her supple body with grace and skill just as she manages this heart of mine to throb with the ache of longing.” The girl in question was Maya,the top dancer of a travelling troupe of performers. Maya agreed to marry Oggasane under the conditions that he come and stay with her and travel with the troupe and she be free to continue her dancing career.
One of the highlights of the performance was dancing on top of a thirty foot pole performed by Maya. To prove to the world that he was the greatest,Oggasena decided that he would dance on a sixty foot pole.The final climax of the play came the day Oggesane gave his greatest performance.At the very moment when he was about to give his gretest performance,the Lord Buddha came.Everyone who was watching the show went to pay respects to the Buddha.Oggasena thought : why at this very moment does the Lord Buddha have to come to spoil what would have been his greatest performance? The Lord Buddha whose wisdom is infinite,unbounded and without limit ,knew what was passing is the mind of Oggasena addressed to him thus :- “ Oggasena,tumbler of mighty strength,king of the performers,Oggasena the Great,perform for the crowd, perform for Me,for I am one of your audience .”Hearing these words,Oggsena performed as he had never done fefore.Oggasena turned fourteen summersaults in the air,lighting on his feet on the top of the pole,balanced himself once more. Even while Oggasena was performing his act,The Lord Buddha addressed to him as follows :-
“ A far greater glory awaits you , my son,
Touch and awareness ,be mindful of these two,
For that is the way to end all suffering,
For he who is mindful
Of the awareness of touch,sensation and knowing,
Shall be free,
Never to be reborn
Never to suffer,
Never to die. “
Hearing these wordsmOggasena became of the awareness of the touch of his foot on the top of the pole , and the touch, the sensation .The mindfulness,sensation and knowing all integrated into one.He became free from desire,anger,ignorance and attained Enlightenment . The play ended with the Dhamma music.