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The Last View (1984) Back to stories index

The last view
Yes - she was back in her home, in her room. I could see the light from the oil lamp shining through the window.
She was safe in the room.
There would be a matress, a blanket and a mosquito net to sleep in.

I walked in the evening light shower of November rain. Later I looked back and still saw the same scene - though not so clear. Now I was well inside my country. There was two days of walk ahead to the boat station.

I had to reach the village before it became too dark, before the old man closed the door to his house. I used to walk the trail many times; I remembered every foot, if not inch, of the trail. At first I walked a mile passing through the bush land on a slope of a hill. There were not many trees; I could see the sky through the drops of cool waters. Then I passed an empty rice field and climbed a hill, beyond that there was a river to pass. The bamboo bridge was damaged by strong wind last week. Villagers here talked about getting some woods from the Chindwin river, but they did not know when and I was sure they would make another bamboo bridge. This time a stronger one.

From the top of the hill I looked to the west one more time. There was nothing to be seen now except the darkness. I lit the oil lamp and suddenly turn it off. I remembered a bandit story told by the villagers. The light could invite danger than protect me from falling or stumbling on something. I walked down the slope to reach the river. The rain stopped, half moon emerged over my head showing the foot path to the grass on the river bank. I washed my face and hands and walked through the water. A couple of hours later, I quietly pushed open the back door to the old man house. The old man was an richest one in the village, owning more than 10 acres of land where he grew rice, peanut and vegetables. He had a dug-out wooden boat on the river. His house was made of wood - a rare thing in a small village in remote northern Sagaing division. All other 20 or 21 houses were made of bamboo. The village lacked electricity, school and medical clinic. They took water from the river for agriculture and home use. Transport was mostly on foot and by dug-out boats or canoes.

Next day the old man offered me to use his boat to reach the Chindwin that I refused. I knew he must walk to the Chindwin to take his boat back. He always told me to take his boat every time I went home. I never used his boat because I could not imagine him walking 10 miles down the hills to take the boat back. The river flowed zip zap following the most gentle slope to the Chindwin river. I knew he could row the boat upstream back to the village and along the way find some medicinal plants and herbs. But I could not use the boat of an old man.

As usual I put a pack of hot oil-fried peanuts into my shoulder bag, a bottle of drinking water, sticky rice in a piece of bamboo and said good bye to the old man. When I was about 30 feet away he said something, but it was too faint and I did not hear. I waved him and continued. That part of the trail was very slippery and muddy especially after the rain. On the other hand it was very difficult to walk along the river due to steep bank and thick overgrowth of bushes and plants. Around 4pm I reached the village on the Chindwin river and found the boat. It was a small motor boat with roof, and wooden seats inside to sit. It was the only motor boat in that river side village. The boat man was loading the sacks of peanut and rice. There were some chickens in the boat. He was almost ready to leave when I stepped into the boat and greeted him with a smile.

The dinner in the boat was sticky rice, fried peanut, and hot water with tea leaves. The boat man boiled the water in a little black kettle. After the dinner we were quiet paying attention to the sand banks on the river. At about 9PM we reached the town where I would spend the night at the monastery.

The bad news came early in the morning. The village on the other side of the border was raided and all houses were burnt and it was expected that no one escaped alive.

I did not know how I came back to the spot where I saw the last view of the house two nights ago. I was in the fire, my head was heavy with mountain-size worry. Was she dead, killed, or alive, or - - - .

When I passed over the hill the scene was completely changed. It was what I never expected to see. It was totally different from what I used to see in the past three years. No body could go close to the border. The usual scene of the same land disappeared and it was replaced by border security units of both countries and their temporary camps. How come they arrived that fast from nowhere?

Later what happened each minute or hour was in the history - I do not remember any except that someone told me, or it may be that someone showed me the list of deads, and that they deserved to die, or something, and lastly I must leave at once for my own safety. The next moment when I left the place I realized that I would never come back. I left the place I once loved for good. Only the last view remains.
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