NOSTALGIA - sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. The word is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning "homecoming", a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning "pain, ache". Source - Wikipedia
Now that we’ve just had a big reunion, specifically a class reunion, I think we could profitably examine why we have them in the first place.
First off, I think reunions are primarily and predominantly an American phenomenon (the tradition may have come to the US from Germany, I don’t know). We don’t hear of many, if any at all, in the UK. For Burma it is slightly different. One could say Sayakadawpwes are a form of reunions. In fact I think the tradition of Sayakaawpwes may be unique (or close to it) to the Burmese Bhuddist culture, and is a very good one at that.
What are we looking to find/feel/discover when we go to a reunion?
Our hearts gladden at seeing long-separated friends. We discover what has happened to each other, rejoicing at the triumphs and commiserating at the misfortunes. We exchange notes and contact details, promising to keep in touch. We enquire after one another’s children and discreetly assess their potential. We look at each other and say how little-changed in appearance we all are!
The Burmese were, until relatively recent past, content and happy to stay at home, amongst family and friends. The past 3 to 4 decades have been diasporic times for many Burmese professionals. There have always been Burmese people settling abroad, of course. But both the push (difficult times at home) and pull (attractive prospects abroad) had never been stronger in those decades. We Burmese are not the only people affected. Hopefully with better times and prospects at home, the trend will taper, and even reverse. Kudos to those who weathered the difficult times at home. Each person’s circumstances are unique to him/her. I was speaking to Ko Than Htut at the reunion and remember him saying that we couldn’t have foreseen what was to happen to us way back when we were struggling medical students.
We now have a community, a virtual one across continents, thanks to the tireless efforts of our webmaster, Peter, and it truly comes alive at the reunions. We need not feel alone in many world cities when we visit them or when we have business to attend to in them. KMO and I benefited in practical terms when we were worried about our son Nigel who was in California a few years back and our friends there looked after him.
We feel nostalgic for those times when we were trying to make something, a doctor, sure, but also a person in control of his/her destiny, of ourselves. Those were the start for most of us of hard years, the hungry years. Recently I was watching a TV programme on the singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka and he sang a song called the hungry years, referring to the early years in his career when he and his wife, although struggling financially and with bringing up children, felt very close and happier than when they later achieved financial security and the children were off their hands. The hard and hungry times (hopefully not literally) we experienced now appear less hard and hungry as the passage of time dulls our memory of them. We remember and relish the positives of our lives then. We had our insecurities sure - at least I had, possibly not MH. But we were young and, felt acutely alive with multiple goals and possibilities – academic, social, professional and yes romantic. That’s what we now miss and are trying to recall, magic it into touching our lives again.
I was passing on all this wisdom to one of my trainees recently, saying how lucky she was to have goals to reach, successes to look forward to and also setbacks to recover from, when I, the spent force that I was, only had more of the same trudge I was in for several more years till retirement (then nappy changing and bedtime story reading, did you say MH? The horror, THE HORROR!). I could just feel her pitying eyes on me and she must have been thinking, what a sad old sap!
We should not just wallow in our nostalgia. Giving support to our friends in times of ill-health and setbacks, offering advice and practical assistance to the younger generation, leading or taking part in charity drives, many of us are already doing and given opportunities more still would. I suspect most of us still feel young, juvenile even, judging by our recent behavior at the reunion and our entries in this blog. There’s much more we can and should do.
I understand the 2016 reunion is planned for the UK. All those who could come would be most welcome, of course. We should have had our own mini-reunions here before. I call on our joint Nayakagyis (the two earliest arrivers and stayers in the UK) to give us youngsters guidance!!
Kyaw Lin Tu
Feb 24, 2014