A Friendly Voice

It was like hiking the highest mountain on earth for me to pass these days. Day by day , I was undergoing an exhausted routine schedule. The Lawkaniti (the encyclopedia about the norms of social contract in Burmese religion) said, “Nights are longer for those who couldn’t sleep.” For those who missed home so much, days were much longer than that,if I might add. Meantime, our minds were getting bitter preparing to defend the tricks of the ruthless wardens and authorities in the prison. Anyone of us in the prisons had to suffer some sort of psychological impact by the prison authorities. Thses included the crunchy or sensitive mind like a psychological abuse. It would be called “Frustration & anger”, according to Buddha’s philosophy. Kindness and postive thinking even in the worst situation was the only mechanism to overcome this situation. The practice of this habbit could soften people’s mind. And, that’s the reason I had decided to practice love in accordance with Buddha’s teaching as soon as I stepped into the prison. After that, I did what I decided. When I had to face with the atrocities and ruthlessness by the prison officials, the practice of kindness upon them was like digging the hardest possible stone with a rotten screwdriver. My practice of positive thinking and realization of every situation during these days could be washed away overnight by confronting the guards with anger. Though, love and kindness upon enemy was very powerful. It could put out the brushing fire. Still, it required more practice to defend the frequent interruption of anger. Hence, knowing the power of love, I practiced more time that could also easily consume my days in the prison just like climbing up a mountain with an elevator. Perhaps, one mind worrying about how to spend the times in the prison was swallowed by the other mind practicing of love. Still, the chaotic mind wrestling between the anger and resentment out of being tortured and repression on one hand and forgiveness with love that could offer a peace of mind would pop up in the mind from time to time. Regardless, I could regain my peace of mind by thinking about the pleasant events happening around me in stead. The prison officials were the ones who supposed to get more in touch with the prisoners daily. The stories of their personal lives could be heard among the prisoners. We had to help them out the best we could when they expressed their difficulties among us. I remembered a story of one of them. He used to get drunk every afternoon. Even though the prison rule didn’t allow drinking on duty, he was always drunk due to his family problem. Though, he tried not to talk other than constantly singing songs. He used to get into our cells and sing a song for us. Thus, most of us liked him regardless. One morning, I saw him going into a room and sitting down. Then, I heard people laughing at him by reading a note while he was sitting quietly. The note was given by his seven years old daughter. I felt sympathetic to the prison officials who were separated from their families too. When I got into the room to join them, someone handed over the daughter’s note to me. It said, “Dad, please don’t drink anymore because the trishaw pullers have been mocking me as the alcoholic’s daughter. And I’m so sick of it.” We commenced to know the little girl ever since. We started to ask her report cards from the father. We sent our snacks and cakes to her. We even gave the bonuses for her if she got good grades from school. There were four watch- towers each and every corner of the prison. Every time our drunk-singer, prison official, was on duty on one of those watch-towers, we heard the voice of the little girl coming to give a lunch to her father. We, all the kid lovers, used to say hi to her by raising our voice. We sent her the snack what we got from prison. I don't know these snaks delivious or not but it full of kindnessThus, we became friends without seeing each others. Her family started to send foods for us when we ran out. Since it was an unstable job to move around, her father, mother and the youngest one had to move to Tamu force labor camp by leaving her namely Gwet Gwet with the grandparents when she was in seventh grade. It was the beginning of her struggle for the further education. Before the grandparents moved in to stay with her, Gwet Gwet told us that she would work to earn for her further education. We felt bad knowing how hard it might be for a little girl to do such thing. Since we understood that such little girl’s labor wouldn’t support for her further education, we decided collect some money among us to support for her education fees and learning materials. As for me, I gave all my raining day funds given by my family to her. In every end of the months, she came to a watch-tower and made conversations with us by shouting each others. Then we sent the money she needed by the help of the prison official on the tower. We all understood that the money we sent her could barely cover for her tuition fees. We felt sorry if she might not have money to buy some snacks during the breaks. Still, I felt proud to assist someone, who was hungry for education. My pleasure in this case was like planting a tree while watching the progress of her education. She really was getting the better grades among her friends, who were under the care of their both parents. Such story made my days pleasurable with both love and satisfaction. Of course, love itself meant the desire to bring other’s good sake as I had learnt. The practicing of love without spending a penny alone was worth more than the donation spent by millions of dollars. In my case, my satisfaction out of love made my living behind the bars more comfortable. Meantime, Gwet Gwet had passed her eighth grade examination, as her parents came back from the force labor camp. And, we kept on supporting her education until she passed her high school final. On September 18, 2009 I was released when she was attending second year in college. I thought I might get a chance to meet her and her family, but no luck in this case. As a Buddhist Monk of a former political prisoner, my struggle to survive made me more difficult to fulfill my dreams in the prison. Therefore, I just could manage to make a couple phone calls to her in stead. I said, “My daughter, it doesn’t make too difference for me calling you by phone and shouting you from inside the prison, I guess.” And, we laughed. Then, I didn’t get a chance to call her for quite some time. When I called her recently, she told me that she was about to celebrate her college graduation. And, she was complaining about her lack of knowledge to use the internet. When we were not too far apart, the prison walls had divided between us. Now, I was calling her from very long distance where no prison wall existed. Thus, we never got a chance to meet in person. Nonetheless, we could manage to communicate each other more frequent. As the friends who helped each other for long period of times in the past, our relationship would be much better in the future for sure. Even though I never met her in person, I would never forget her and the related story of her in the prison for very long period of time. Ashin Zawana Former Political Prisoner

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