Independence Day and Tamil Thaipusan

2007/08 Asia Trip Itinerary | Home Page 6 of 9 | Page Down | Page Up   
January 4th is Independence Day in Myanmar and like America they celebrate their release from British rule.  On this auspicious 60th anniversary we were invited to be guests of honour at a street party in Sparrow's neighbourhood.  Tony was sick but I was happy to accept

If they could find it in themselves to invite a representative of British tyranny then I could help them celebrate our loss of yet another 'pink bit' as we used to like to call the components of the former British Empire

By the time I arrived at 10am the party was in full swing and the girls egg and lemon-lime race underway

followed by the boy's balloon

 and the ladies with big baskets on their heads race


Beautiful Burmese baby in a basket
 In the afternoon there was a quiz.  Each team was made up of children from 5 to 17 years of age. The quizmaster must have been quite a comedian if the gales of laughter that greeted both the questions and answers were anything to go by

My favourite and by far the most interesting event
An older boy was blindfolded and spun around then a younger child hoisted on to his shoulders,  they  staggered down the street where the older child had to locate an old oil tin suspended over the street and hit it with a stick.  The younger child could only direct his dizzy and disorientated mount with his feet and to make sure he didn't speak had to retain a mouth full of water.  It was by far the most entertaining of the events

I left at 5.00pm, before the adult festivities began but walking to my bus stop got a taste of what was to come. A group of young men were playing what I called 'Sump Oil Soccer'.  The ball was regularly coated with liberal amounts of thick black oil. The players longi were tied up into skimpy loin cloths and by the time I encountered them were themselves covered in oil but having a great time.  I don't remember this one from our Queens Silver Jubilee!

As I got off my bus at 55th Street another game was just ending, the winners racing around on a victory lap.  One of them made a beeline for me, hand extended shouting mingalabar.  The crowd parted and I had just a few seconds to decide whether to grasp it or duck out of the way.  I shook his hand and worried about the oil later.  My day out ended dancing on the street with a near naked man covered in oil, him that is not me.  I was handed a towel to clean my hands as I wished them all a happy Independence Day and walked home,  hoping I wouldn't come across my new friend again as I wouldn't recognize him clean and with his clothes on!
Tamil Thaipusan

A week or so later, as I returned to Motherland I found the indefatigable Tamils were celebrating Thaipusan.  This time taking to the streets with (to my eyes) the horrendous practices of Kavadis.  Devotees shave their heads and make a pilgrimage along a set route, in this case right by Motherland 2.  Many had spears piercing there tongues and cheeks to prevent speech. The greater the pain the greater the merit

Boy prepares for kavadi (burdens) Coconuts attached to his back with
hooks stuck into his raw flesh


As spectacular as the car pull is the Vel Kavadi where large altars are carried on the shoulders; highly decorated and very heavy they are attached to the devotee through 180 vels (hooks) pinned to the skin of the chest and back.  An unbelievable sight
The next day beautiful Le Mai one of only two girls in school with longer hair arrived with her head shaved and her face still bearing the remains of the paint applied during the festival
2007/08 Asia Trip Itinerary | Home Page 6 of 9 | Page Down | Page Up