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E-Pao! EI - Road to Yunan Part III

Road to Yunan - Part III
Yumnam Rupachandra Singh *



Journey to Mandalay by road from Tamu via Kalemeyo was a mixed experience of the best and the worst. Indo-Myanmar friendship road built by Indian agency the BRTF was the best part while the stretched beyond Myntha bridge to Mandalay was road in wilderness.

It was dusty, winding and sparsely populated. We crossed hundreds of wooden bridge and another several hundred culverts. The wooden bridges were in dilapidated state and had just lent its service to tens of Indo-Asean Rally. The Myanmar military junta responding to international trade opportunity have started getting the roads ready for the trans-Asian Highway, which it would ultimately become.

There were workers under supervision of military officers in the process of black-topping the road - which for most part were fair weather. All road building equipments come from more advance south east Asian countries like Singapore, Korea. But the size of the contingent did not convey a message of a country in a hurry for any trading season.

Most part of the highway - if one could call it, was also without power or communication cables. Besides unlike on this side of the border there were not many town or villages lining it. It meant, if you are stuck with break down, you wait for next vehicle that come along to get a lift or send a message.

This however did not deter the group of Muse bound 27. Through the dust and heat each had their interest to focus on.

There are several Meitei villages in Mandalay and around. The Meitei Bamon Leikai in proper Mandalay is inhabited by more prosperous of the Meiteis. Mainly Meitei Brahmin they have taken on the Burmeses names as is required of every citizens of Myanmar and some of them have risen to high positions. They have become doctors and businessmen and still retain their mother tongue and tradition.

But there are others who have lost their mother tongue and are more like Burmese. They continue their age old traditional profession of weaving and some have even made a name for themselves. But there were also others living a life of ghetto, merely surviving and managing to retain their heritage and profession.

At Amarapur we walked into their village across a stream. There were signs of long lost prosperity, when the kings were the patron of their exquisite products. The mandaps were in ruins.

Many from Manipur have shown interest in these displaced people - if you can call them, and are trying to re-establish the link that has till the recent time remains broken. There were others in group looking for business opportunities. There were still others trying to figure out where we came from.

But whatever the reasons the opening up of the "bamboo curtain", India’s look east policy and resurgent view of legendary "Nongpok Thong hangba" or opening of the eastern door, are all juxtaposed as things stand today to give everyone a hope. Hope for a better tomorrow.

Read Part I | Part II | Part II |


* The writer is currently serving as a Correspondent of The Statesman and contributes regularly to Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on 19th April 2005


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