from a SHINING LAND -
There is a dance troupe entertaining us with drums, a very
happy atmosphere prevailing. A long boat is set up full of water, and people
are encouraged to splash the other guests. I find myself opposite Daw Than
Han (a senior diplomat in the FO), who, equipped with a small bowl, contrives
to drench me very efficiently. The boat is surrounded by the crowd (of
ambassadors and foreign office staff), and becomes a flurry of flung water.
The dance goes on, now performed by a transvestite dancer, squatting down
with that strange bent-arm, puppet-like style that the Burmese have. The
beat pervades the gathering, heightening the excitement. We are invited
to take tea and some fried confections. We laugh and joke, the girls come
round with bowls of water and pour it down our backs...
The town is full of open jeeps and trucks, densely packed
with other youngsters who caper and shout and blow whistles. They line
up at the pandals to have water squirted at them - in fact the scene with
its concentrations of hoses, its devotion to the making of an object wet,
and its single-minded, whole-hearted attainment of this objective, reminds
me of a fire brigade dealing with a particularly difficult fire. Except
that no fire ever receives the concentration of effort that these vehicles
do in sheer volume of water, and no fire is the object of such jubilation.
Water pours down on the dancing, shouting, whistling throng. Each wagon
gets its share and it then moves on; and as they pass, they gesticulate
and cheer. There is no malice here - or at least, I could see none - just
a controlled release of high spirits, a splendid display of exuberance,
which leaves them exhausted.
Kenneth Watts -
The 1979 Water Festival