Lines from a SHINING LAND - Excerpts (1) 




Kenneth Watts -
The 1979 Water Festival

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.

Stella (aged 9) - 1922

There is one thing that makes me smile even now - small Indian children ran around almost naked except for a medallion of a silvery metal covering their private parts. A friend of our family was returning to England and sent her servant to buy one of these medallions so she could have it as a souvenir. When he returned without it she wanted to know why -"Sorry, ma'am, I looked everywhere but could not find one large enough for you".
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