Who Is To Blame?

Who Is To Blame?

Who Is To Blame?

Last night the sky turned blood red and it poured. When I heard the ear piercing roar from the south I thought it was the earth crying out in pain. My grandmother used to tell us that such an outcry from nature warned of an injustice against humanity committed by an omnipotent ruler. I feared that the raging storm would lay waste to our flimsy hut. I lay awake all night, unable to sleep. In the morning the sky was gloomy and the environs flooded.

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“Stop talking nonsense, Maung Thein, and mind your hammer. If you drop it again and hit someone or break something, you will meet my fist,” said Ko San Min. Maung Thein winked and continued talking, knowing that Ko San Min wouldn’t actually follow through on the threat. “I’m not talking rubbish. According to the Jataka tales and chronicles, this kind of warning sign often foretells the future.”

“Maung Thein, I’m in a foul mood this morning. If you don’t stop talking right now, I will hit you upside the head.”

“Fine. I will zip up my mouth. Am I allowed to open it again at lunchtime? Better yet, before lunch time please, because I’d love a sip of green tea and a chew of betel nut.”

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“MAUNG THEIN!!”

Ko San Min’s angry voice startled Maung Thein, and he realized that his boss meant business. He had been apprenticing for more than a year, and he had never seen his superior so short-tempered. Arriving to the job site where they were to install mosquito nets on the windows, he wondered what had caused this outburst in a man who was, by nature, soft-spoken and even-tempered. He works hard then goes straight home. He does not drink or smoke, and maintains that a simple lifestyle is the key to contentment. As a senior carpenter, he earns 4,000 kyat per day. It’s barely a living wage to support himself, his wife and five children, but he never complains.

This morning their employer assigned them to this site located on the outskirts of Yangon. While Maung Thein hauled the building materials from the truck, the employer led Ko San Min into a room. He noticed the odd configuration of the buildings: a cottage and a barracks of four rooms. It did not resemble a residence. Through the windows he saw children playing in the cottage. When he finished transferring the materials, Ko San Min joined him. He still couldn’t help wondering about the ill humor of this morning, which was completely out of character.

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At eleven in the morning Maung Thein watched two women carry food trays to the cottage. It was an idle distraction, as he was bored to the bones, because he was not allowed to talk. Wow! Meat curry, stir-fried green vegetables, lentil soup, white steamed rice and mangoes. It all looked so delicious! He looked expectantly at Ko San Min. Had his mood improved? No, it had not. His expression was still melancholy, bewildered and aggrieved.

Maung Thein kept quiet and peered next door, where children in beautiful bright clothes were having their delicious, healthy lunch. They were carefree and giggly, as children are when they are loved and cared for. The scene made Maung Thein hungry, but he dared not say anything. To his relief, Ko San Min, with sad eyes, said quietly, “Let’s eat.” Compared to the children’s lunch, theirs was basic: yellowish, cold dry rice, fried crushed chilly, raw watercress and fermented bean sprouts. There was no soup, no meat, no fruit. Maung Thein needed water to wash down dry. Ko San Min ate a few bites, and gave the rest of his food to Maung Thein.

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Although the usual lunch break is one hour, Ko San Min returned to work immediately, and Maung Thein noticed his growing annoyance, lips pursed tighter and the lines in his forehead growing deeper. Puzzled by his peculiar behavior, Maung Thein’s curiosity also grew deeper.

A luxurious car pulled into the yard and an elegantly dressed middle aged couple got out. They looked disoriented, suggesting that this was their first visit. They were greeted by an older woman who seemed to be in charge. The visitors were led to the cottage, where the children were napping. The two women who had fed the children walked to the car and spoke with the driver, who then handed them several plastic shopping bags. Maung Thein watched curiously as the women returned to the cottage with the parcels. Meanwhile, Ko San Min continued installing the mosquito nets onto the window frames.

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A few minutes later the visitors and the older woman emerged from the cottage, and proceeded to tour each room of the barracks. When they reached the room where Maung Thein and Ko San Min were working, the older woman smiled broadly at them as she explained to the visitors.

“This room will serve as a clinic, where we can care for sick children. As you know, these youngsters are very sensitive compared to others. Just last month, one of the orphans who suffers from congenital lung and heart weakness, had to go to the hospital, because we do not have proper medical support. Although I’m a retired nurse, I can do very little for her. Worst of all, it happened in the middle of the night, so we had no means of communication or transportation. If only we’d had an oxygen concentrator, we could have spared her a night of suffering. The most challenging is that we never know when nor how these children will fall sick. Good nutrition vitally important to keep them healthy. Malnutrition weakens them and make them vulnerable to disease and serious illness. That is why we are so grateful to you for bringing milk and healthy snacks. Their recovery time is also slow, if they recover at all. The HIV virus depletes their energy reserves, making it difficult to fight the disease. Happiness is also crucial to their health. I’m very proud and very sad at the same time, that we are the first and only orphanage in the country for children with HIV. Because of limited funding, we can only accept twelve children at a time, yet there are so many more that urgently need our help.”

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She paused and sighed heavily as her sorrowful eyes welled up with tears. The visitors just listened attentively, obviously touched by what they had seen and heard.

Maung Thein’s heart beat faster and a lightbulb went on in his head, upon realizing where he was. The unusual atmosphere of this curious place finally made sense. He wanted to flee as quickly as possible, and resented his employer for not disclosing the nature of the place he was compelled to work. He also now understood the reason for Ko San Min’s sulky mood. What he didn’t understand was why Ko San Min hadn’t clued him in, as clearly, he’d known since this morning.

Once the visitors and the retired nurse were out of earshot, Maung Thein confronted Ko San Min. “So you knew about this, brother?” Noticing that Ko San Min was more at ease, he pressed on. “Why didn’t tell the boss that we wanted to leave this shocking place at once?! He should never have sent us here! He is now responsible for our lives!

“Why do you say that?” asked Ko San Min.

“Because he made us work in such a place!” replied Maung Thein indignantly.

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, my dear good god, this is an orphanage for HIV positive children. We can contract HIV from them and die the worst possible death.”

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“That is simply not true. There is no danger at all unless a child gets cut and starts bleeding, and the blood gets into a cut on our hands. I learnt about it at the hospital last week,” Ko San Min explained patiently.

“So you knew about this place since we arrived this morning and you did not tell me. You even told me to shut up. Weren’t you shocked when you found out? Aren’t you at all nervous to be here? Then why you are in such a bad mood?” Maung Thein persisted in his interrogation, without taking a breath.

Maung Thein had worked himself into a state of agitation, which Ko San Min ignored as he replied thoughtfully.

“Well, I did not actually know that this is an HIV orphanage until I overheard the nurse aunty tell the visitors. I had thought that it must be an exclusive orphanage or child care centre for a small handful of very lucky children. This morning in the office I saw a meal program schedule, a list of children with appointments at a clinic, and signs that said “No Pictures Allowed” and “Please Respect the Children’s Rights.” At first I didn’t understand why photography is forbidden. Now I do, and…” He paused for a second, then continued slowly. “And now I understand the reason for the abundant meal program for the children.”

Maung Thein still did not understand Ko San Min’s bad temperament this morning, and he was not pleased that he had to suffer because of it. Moreover, he was annoyed by Ko San Min’s reaction to working in an HIV orphanage. He just kept working, installing mosquito nets on window frame, as if this were just a typical day. As far as Maung Thein was concerned, it was anything but.

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Now it was Muang Thein who put his nose to the grindstone, eager to finish the work and get out of this place as soon as possible. There wasn’t a minute to spare in singing or daydreaming. He jumped in and helped Ko San Min as much as he possibly could. Just as they were about to finish, the retired nurse appeared at the door carrying a tray. Her smile was heartfelt and sincere. She offered them a jar of sweet tea and some biscuits. Maung Thein was delighted with the treats.

“Please take a break, sons. You have been working hard all day. Are you nearly finished?” she asked.

.

“Yes, almost. Thank you very much for the tea, aunty.” Maung Thein replied cheerfully, forgetting about his grievances.

“Well, take your time, sons. Please excuse me. It’s study time for my little princesses and princes. Their banana and hot milk snack energizes them to enthusiastically recite their lessons.”

cid:713B968A-70E9-44D9-A418-BE0EEC85A64C Maung Thein voraciously devoured the tea and biscuits. Ko San Min drank the tea and looked hungrily at the biscuits, but didn’t touch them. He thought of his children, who would love them. However, he was too timid to ask the nurse if he could take his portion home. He finally decided to buy some for his children on his way home, although he knew that his wife would chastise him for wasting money.

When Ko San Min got home, dinner was ready and the entire family was waiting for him. He took a quick cold water bucket shower, feeling grateful that the tank was filled with rain, thus sparing his twelve year old son from carrying the water from the tap at the end of their narrow, swampy street. His wife and thirteen year old had laid out the usual dishes on the low wooden table: fish paste sauce, a few raw vegetables, some fried chilly and steamed rice. They sat on the floor around the table, washed their hands in the tin bowl of water, and they were ready for supper. Ko San Min looked proudly at his children, who ate the same meager meal every day, yet never complained. He thought about his eldest daughter, who had been hospitalized the week before, because she had fainted in her classroom. She was too thin and too pale. The physician had given him a list of foods and medicines to keep her healthy and well nourished, which he could not afford.

After dinner he took five small packets of biscuits out of his tattered washed bag, to the children’s great delight. They asked whether they were allowed to eat them now or had to save them for breakfast the next day. He said it was up to them. Of course no one wanted to wait. The look of sheer joy on their faces filled him with happiness.

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The two youngest children were sent to bed, while the three older one did their homework under the dim light of a single bulb. Ko San Min thought that the bulb looked like a tomato. Luckily there was no power cut this evening, so the children did not have to do their homework by candlelight.

As Ko San Min lay on a mat near the children, he closed his eyes and pictured the meal schedule from the orphanage office, which he had memorized. The more he tried to shake off the image, the more vividly it appeared.

Time 7AM 9AM 11AM 2PM 5PM 8PM
Sunday Steamed soy bean
and rice
Biscuits + banana Chicken curry, soup
and vegetable
Milk + fruit chicken curry, soup
and vegetable
egg + banana
or biscuits
Monday Noodle Biscuits + banana Fish curry, soup and
vegetable
Milk + fruit Fish curry, soup and
vegetable
egg + banana
or biscuits
Tuesday Steamed soy bean
and rice
Biscuits + banana Beef curry, soup and
vegetable
Milk + fruit Beef curry, soup and
vegetable
egg + banana
or biscuits
Wednesday Noodle Biscuits + banana Duck egg curry, soup
and vegetable
Milk + fruit Duck egg curry, soup
and vegetable
egg + banana
or biscuits
Thursday Steamed soy bean
and rice
Biscuits + banana Fish curry, soup and
vegetable
Milk + fruit Fish curry, soup and
vegetable
egg + banana
or biscuits
Friday Noodle Biscuits + banana Beef curry, soup and
vegetable
Milk + fruit Beef curry, soup and
vegetable
egg + banana
or biscuits
Saturday Steamed soy bean
and rice
Biscuits + banana Pork curry, soup and
vegetable
Milk + fruit Pork curry, soup and
vegetable
egg + banana
or biscuits

cid:163653EB-B66A-4CD2-9FDD-3B784F5CCF92 cid:A41C1303-A875-42CE-8324-6739FC4030F4

If only he could provide a fraction of that nutrition for his children! He felt jealous, but of whom? He wanted to blame someone, but whom? He had mixed feelings about the orphans. On one hand they are unlucky because they are parentless and victims of a terrible disease. On the other hand, they are well looked after, without a care in the world. All they have to do is eat, sleep, play and learn. They do not even have chores, like washing clothes or dishes.

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This is quite the opposite of his children, who have many responsibilities. They cook, clean, wash clothes, carry water, take care of their younger siblings, and help their mother grow bean sprouts to sell at the vegetable market. And what do they get in return for all that hard work? He shuddered at the thought that his children might think they’d be better off as orphans. He drew a chart to contrast his children’s dietary regimen with that of the orphans.

Times 7AM 9AM 12PM 2PM 5PM 7PM
Everyday

Cold rice left from previous day + salt and chilly, sometimes boiled rice

None

Rice + fish past + chilly + stirred fried or boiled or fermented bean sprout + some raw vegetable occasionally small fishes or shrimps or eggs

None None Same as lunch time

If his wife did not grow bean sprouts, they wouldn’t even be on the chart.

A few months later, his eldest daughter left them forever. The cause of death was malnutrition. The meal chart from the HIV orphanage haunted Ko San Min for the rest of his life, as did a question that went unasked for all eternity. It remained in the deepest, most private part of his heart.

Notes

Kyat is the currency of Myanmar. The exchange rate in 2006-2007 was around 1200Kyat for 1US$.

Both mobile phones and land lines were scarce and too expensive for the general public until 2011.

 

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192 thoughts on “Who Is To Blame?

  1. It’s interesting and sad. True story or short story?. In any case, this is really happening in Myanmar. Who are we to blame?

  2. This is sad but real current situations in Myanmar.
    Health and education sectors are urgently needed to maintain, upgraded and should be reach out by each and every citizen.
    This is a very useful topic and thanks for highlighting the important areas. I just can’t wait for upcoming topics!

  3. Blame to sakasa (Military Junta).Where is human right for our nation? Near future, we are going to face famine too.

  4. The person might be incorrigible that the person doesn’t respond well to criticism or admit fault.

  5. That’s sad true story and what is really happening in Myanmar. Now the situation has worsened due to the military dictatorship. Who is to blame? The answer is Military Dictatorships that have ruled for generations.

  6. A very sad story. The Coup and Military Dictatorship are the root causes of such problem. We have to finish them all at one time.

  7. Of course! “Who is to blame?”
    Some people said ” It was fate”.
    Sometimes they said “Due to the punishments for the commitments in their past lives”.
    So why not be like that present punishments for present commitments? Why does it continue going to next and next lives? Why should they be suffered in their present lives for the things they didn’t remember what they did in their past lives? For what?
    Is it fair?
    Even if they have to be suffered from those, should they need to be reminded about their mistakes/doings in their past lives? Will they be actually good and clever in their future lives due to the punishments for the past commitments which they didn’t remember?
    Who made that kinda system?
    Who has the authority to let them suffered like that?
    “Who is to blame” will be the everlasting question mark in the deepest place of my heart.
    That’s why I want to change the system.

  8. That’s sad true story and what is really happening in Myanmar. Now the situation has worsened due to the military dictatorship. Who is to blame? The answer is Military Dictatorships that have ruled for generations.

  9. Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail.

  10. Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who to blame?

  11. 12032022
    Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who to blame?

  12. 14032022
    Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who to blame?

  13. 15032022
    Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who is to blame?

  14. Our lives are miserable in its own way. Of course, not all of the miserable things are our fault. But who to blame?

  15. 1032022

    Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who is to blame?

  16. 2132022

    Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who is to blame?

  17. 2232022

    Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who is to blame?

  18. 2332022

    Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who is to blame?

  19. 2532022

    Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who is to blame?

  20. 2932022

    Heartbreaking story.

    Really happening in MYANMAR now. The International Criminal Court must prosecuted human rights abuses by a military Myanmar for crimes against humanity. Myanmar Coup Must Fail. who is to blame?

  21. တော်လှန်သကြႅန်နော်သဲလေးတို့ရေအားလုံးပါဝင်ကြစို့✊

  22. Very touching and heartbreaking story, thnak you for sharing – hopefully this will raise awareness about the daily lives of so many in Myanmar.

  23. Now the weather is so hot, electricity is frequently cutoff, all market price is up like rockets, no secure income for ordinary ppl like us, etc….all I wanna blame to Ma A La and partners elites group. They are become richer and richer till go before the hell.

  24. ဘယ်တော့မှ အရုှံးမပေးဘူး တစ်နေ့နိုင်ရမယ်

  25. Sometime, I’m very disappointed current situation in Myanmar. But in other hand, we could rebuild/reform better united nation, better education, better healthcare system etc….
    so keep moving fwd for ours hope.

    1. You are absolutely right. Let’s move forward and take the opportunity to change our country a better nation.

  26. Thanks for sharing this article.

    Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

    -Helen Keller

  27. Thanks for sharing.
    Most of us are living far away from basic human needs (4 basic human rights). However ppl are thankful for living (thinking as kama)
    Sad but true.

  28. Read with tears 😭 . Who is to blame? wishes our myanmar people to get normal life like other democracy countries 🙏🙏🙏

  29. Who to Blame? Blame to those egocentric dictators who only care their own benefits. From MaAhLa Ne Win to MaAhLa Min Ag Hlaing, thieves GENERATIONS!

  30. Do i need meditation? Why i’m so easily to get angery these days. And everything are messy in my eyes and head. I lost myself

  31. I should blame myself. Why I chose to live in here? Why I run away from the enviroment who trust my ability/strength. Why I chose the environment who never believe me and pushing me as useless.

  32. Who is to blame? The answer is Military Dictatorships that have ruled for generations.

  33. I will blame to God. Why did send me to here? Not elsewhere?
    But cozof this situation let me know the person who I admire most. (C2D admin).

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