The Darkness

The Darkness

The Darkness

Darkness loomed eerily as far as the eye could see. The mighty Irrawaddy River flowed, oblivious to the thick gray clouds. The cargo steamer trudged on, in defiance of the impending thunderstorm. Fishermen in small canoes rushed to find refuge. Water birds soared and plunged frantically, as if warning each other about the approaching gale.

A boat on the water

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The gusting wind seemed sure to obliterate the flimsy hut, built precariously on the sandbank. The sandbank was typically tranquil, but the wind had transformed it to a mound of frenetic activity, with people dashing in all directions. The eldest collected the kitchen utensils that lay outside the hut. Two older boys ran to secure their fishing net, which extended between the island and the opposite sand block. They tied the net tighter to make sure that the fast-moving current would not wash it away. One coaxed the mother hen and chicks into a bamboo basket, while two naked tots joyfully improvised a rain song and dance. In a corner of the hut, the youngest slept, in blissful serenity, in a cradle fashioned from an old longyi (sarong). Altogether there were seven brothers and sisters, ranging in age from fifteen to one.  Their parents were nowhere to be found.

When the downpour came it soaked everything in its path, sparing nothing and no one. The delighted youngsters continued to sing and dance gleefully. Frightened chicks took refuge under their mother-bird’s breast. Frogs frolicked. Jumping fish, sensing the disturbance, lept into the air. Farmers drove their cattle to plough the paddy fields, paying no mind to the thundershower. This is a typical scene in rural Burma’s rainy season.

A person walking on a wooden bridge

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A fisherman struggled to navigate his canoe, but the choppy river put up considerable resistance. Still, the man rowed with all his might. A woman crouched under a plastic sheet looked pale and worried.  They were on their way home to their seven children, but the weather was conspiring against them.  Although she constantly scooped rainwater from the canoe with an old plastic cup, it filled faster than she could bail. Her hands and feet were numb from the cold. Her vision was blurred and she looked pale.  They needed to take shelter urgently.

 

He barely managed to row to the nearest village to seek help for his ailing wife.  A helpful child shepherded them to the midwife, who confirmed their suspicion. The wife had suffered a miscarriage. They were advised to go to the nearest hospital, which was a two hour ride by bullock cart or an hour ride by motorbike. As there was no motor road from the village to the hospital, they chose to travel by motorbike.  They piled on with the driver, three passengers and no helmets, and set off. When they arrived at the hospital just before dusk, she was almost unconscious.

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As night fell and the rain stopped, the children still had no idea of their parents’ whereabouts, nor what adversity might have befallen them. The eldest sister prepared cooked rice with roasted chili and fish paste gravy. The youngsters ate their dinner, and once their tummies were full, they fell asleep. The hungry baby cried, but refused to eat the congee that her sister tried to feed her. Under dim candlelit, the second eldest brother read his old school textbook. Among the siblings, he was the only one who had been to school, so he was able to teach his younger siblings some basic reading and writing.

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When the family income was insufficient to support the growing household, he had to quit school. Still, he considered himself luckier than his other siblings who had never been to school.  They had no notion of school life, and they had never proudly worn a school uniform. He tried not to forget all he learnt. Mother said he was the only hope for the family, and she wanted him to be a good teacher. She did not want her boys to become fishermen. As a Buddhist, she was taught that fishing is not a proper livelihood. She also knew that her husband was not happy making a living by catching fish.

A group of people rowing a boat

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The new silver moon and the gray clouds played hide and seek in the sky. The stars twinkled, shedding benign light on the earth. The night was cold and quiet, except for the soothing whisper of big sister to her baby sister, who comforted herself by sucking her thumb, and finally fell asleep. After the baby was safe in her cradle, the brother blew out the candle. The two children looked at each other in the dark, but said nothing.  They were worried about their parents, but could do nothing until the morning.

By midnight the sky was clear and the new moon shined brightly. She regained consciousness, but still felt dizzy and disoriented in this unfamiliar place. Her husband sat beside her bed, half asleep.

“Where are we?” she whispered. Her husband rubbed his eyes and replied wearily, “We are in the Nyaung Kan Township hospital.”

“Nyaung Kan Town?!” she exclaimed.  It was so far from home! She thought of her children and tried to get up. “We must go home.” she said.

However she was not allowed to leave, because she needed to rest, regain her strength and take further treatment. A nurse gave her some pills. She grasped the nurse’s warm hand and asked nervously, “The baby?”

The nurse stood silent. The patient took a deep breath, looked directly into the nurse’s compassionate, dark brown eyes and repeated her question. “We saved you in time, sister. For now the most important thing is to get some rest and take good care of yourself.” With that advice, the kind nurse left them alone.

Miscarriage! She was not sad, but quietly relieved. In fact, she was tired of pregnancy and did not want any more babies. Childbirth had taken a toll on her, and she was not as healthy and strong as before. She was in her mid-thirties, but looked and felt much older. However, both she and her husband felt uneasy and embarrassed to discuss contraception, and neither of them was comfortable using a condom. She had tried birth control pills, but between child rearing and daily chores, she often forgot to take them. She tried injections, which made her ill.  Most importantly, all of these methods cost money that they could ill afford.

This was her tenth pregnancy and her first miscarriage. Two of her babies died just after birth. She looked at her husband wearily and said, “We shall go home as soon as the day breaks. The children will worry and the baby must be starving”.

“No, you should stay in the hospital, as the nurse suggests,” he insisted in his usual soft-spoken tone.

“Impossible. First, we have no money. Second, who will take care of the children?” she said bitterly.

He tried to tell her his plan. “We can send the little ones to your aunt, the second son can go to work as a helper to other fishermen, the eldest daughter can stay with you in the hospital, I shall work harder to earn more money…”  She closed her eyes and turned away from him, indicating that she did not have the strength to argue.

She woke up feeling dizzy. The sun was shining through the window and the birds twittered. She heard the nurse talking to her husband.

“Your wife needs further treatment and good rest. I would suggest that she stay a few more days in the hospital. I know that your children are home alone, you don’t have money, and you don’t know anyone in this town. Why don’t you go now and do what needs to be done? Come back before dark if you could, or tomorrow morning. I promise to take good care of her.”

In the end, she agreed to comply with the nurse’s advice. While her husband rushed back home, the nurse nourished her with hot rice, steamed soybeans and vegetables. She thought how nice it would be if one of her daughters became a nurse like this kind-hearted caregiver. Tears started to stream down her pale, hollow cheeks. She felt guilty for not being able to send her children to school, for bringing children into a life of poverty, and for having more children than they could support. She felt as if she and her husband were digging a hole, crawling into its darkness, and pulling their children down with them. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, my children.” She murmured and sobbed.

Outside the hospital, paradoxically, a group of carefree children romped and played merrily under the big banyan tree.

A group of people playing outside

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275 thoughts on “The Darkness

  1. I don’t not know, what to write in comment for this article ….(˘・_・˘)

    That’s really darkness!!

      1. ညို ဒီမှာပဲတွေ့ရတယ် appတွေထဲမှာတော့ december 19နောက်ဆုံးမန့်ပဲတွေ့ရတယ် i miss u nyo😘

  2. Sad Story. When I read it, I remember of comics what I read before.
    There is 2 moms with baby girls go to school. On the spot they found one cleaner on the way.
    The 1st mom said her girl “look! If you don’t want to go school, you’ll become like him.”
    And the other mom said her girl “See little one, if you educated, you can effort to give them better life”
    I hope for those educated ppl who can lift our life up. But…..we r still in d darkness.

  3. The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. Life is a long lesson in humility. Live life to the fullest and focus on the positive. Stay strong.

  4. I wish the darkness of our country will overcome soon. Fighting with unity. Of course every pain to lead our victory.

  5. Nice articles. Many darkness due to Military Dictatorship.
    We have to finish it once in for all, staying strong!!

  6. So sad to read about story. A lot poor family face these problems. Hope their lives will get better near future.

    1. It is sad. There a lot of issues that politicians need to raise up in mm. We need basic human right for nation.

  7. In my life, I’ve seen so many people like her, but I failed to try to understand their lives…I feel sad & miss my workplace…

  8. When the family income was insufficient to support the growing household, he had to quit school. Still, he considered himself luckier than his other siblings who had never been to school. 🙁

  9. We are not straw fires. If you are sad, you must be more courageous. We must believe in one thing. We will fight with the belief that we must win this battle.

  10. One day, I’d like to sail along the Irrawaddy river care the people living on it.
    Now, start making for care, for one day ..

  11. The stars twinkled, shedding benign light on the earth. The night was cold and quiet, except for the soothing whisper of big sister to her baby sister, who comforted herself by sucking her thumb, and finally fell asleep

  12. Who is the author? This is a great short story. Bravo to the author. There are many poor families out there with many children just like in this story, which is sad, across mm.

    1. Of course you can help. By reading this story, you are already helping. If you want to help, please read more stories on this site. Then tell your friends to read the stories on this site. Awareness is the key. Education is the essential.

  13. Hope that all the darkness will over soon. Strongly believe that too.
    keep moving with that hope.

  14. Life is struggle, Stay Strong.

    “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”

    -Desmond Tu Tu

  15. One day, we could remove all the darkness over us. Strongly believe that and supporting what we believe too.

  16. After we reform/rebuild the better system, all ppl must have benefits. At least 4 human basic rights.

  17. Good article. Now is darkness in our myanmar country 😒 wishes all the sunshine will come out soon💪💪💪

  18. When the darkness is over there always beautiful blue sky. And rainbows.
    Currently going to rain here. Hope to see rainbow after the rain. But I didn’t see rainbow quite along time when living in Yangon.

    1. Wanna run away from the darkness over me!
      I’m sick to talk with my mom everyday! She killed me by words that I’m useless ever. Even I tried to ignore all the words but I’m depressed.

      1. Keep yourself busy with one way or other. Don’t let the meaningless words bite you. She might think it is the way to encourage you to work harder. This is the old fashion of parents tried to make their children working hard. My parents did it to me too when I was young.

  19. I try not to thinks about last year…..and till now
    All the darkenss ….nightmares…..
    Wanna delete from memories too..

  20. My father passed away tonight. It is raining day.
    (When my bro passed away, raining the whole day too….) I scare & hate when it’s raining.

    1. Asonethatကကြော်ငြာမတတ်ဘူးကွာyouတို့တတ်လား

  21. Thanks for the precious one. The darkness is still with us up to now. Let’s try together to get out of the rainy days.

  22. If there is one man in the world who needs knowledge, it is he who does the world’s most needful work and gets least return because he lacks knowledge. — Jack Lawson

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