Back in 2006, our family took a trip to Mandalay. Just like many other family trips we had over the years, we went around and visited every pagoda in the region. I liked it. It did not necessarily have to be pagodas all the time but I liked being out of the city once in a while. We had one family camera back then so everyplace we stopped by, we took a group picture that we printed later to show friends and families. After taking a group photo in each location, we kids walked around and played around at the nearby areas while parents were saying their prayers.
At one point, near a pagoda, I saw an art studio. I did not have much affection towards paintings but without giving it much thought, I went in. Inside, I met the artist who was also the owner of the studio. And the guy looked exactly like a football legend Andrea Pirlo from Italy National Football Team. I remembered Pirlo particularly because it’s Italy who won the World Cup in 2006 and I hated the guy for like three days after tournament for beating Zidane and France. Anyway, when I tried to tell the artist that he happened to bear a striking resemblance to the guy who was apparently a national hero in Italy, he could not care less because he was not really a fan of football. Artists, right? But still, I thought there should be some sort of recognition or certain rewards for being lookalike to some celebrity, especially a footballing legend.
As the very person did not give a damn about his potential goldmine, I thought I had to tell somebody about it. My older brother, who was as crazy about football as me, did not come on trip so that left me with my oldest brother who was curious about possibly everything on the planet other than football. As time and options were running out, I ran out and asked my brother to come see this Burmese Pirlo at work even though I did not believe he would care as much as I did. He did come see the guy and said the artist did look like the footballer to make me feel a little better. But it only validated my point and did not satisfy me entirely. I thought I had to tell people. I thought I had to show everybody here’s the guy who looked exactly like Andrea Pirlo ……and me… beside him.
I realized our one and only family camera was with my father who was saying his prayers at the pagoda. I went back and explained my reason to borrow the camera which was to capture one of the greatest lookalikes of all time. Permission granted, I took 30 seconds short training course on how to use this sophisticated little rectangular thing from my father and ran towards the studio. As soon as I got there, there was a different guy who told me the Burmese Pirlo went to teashop somewhere nearby. And then it’s time we had to move to visit another pagoda before dark. So, I had no choice but to hop on the tour bus. On the way, I was very disappointed and I kept looking at the window when we passed by teashops to find this artist/football legend. But he was not seen again.
Back home, when I tried to tell friends and family that I encountered an artist who looked exactly like Andrea Pirlo, I had a few reactions but not as much as I would if I had gotten the picture with him. Also, I could not tell as many people as possible because it was only a limited demographic of people to whom I could say something like this. I had to be close to them, at least we must have conversational relationship. They must like football and know players. Plus, I had to deliver this news fresh; I did not want to talk about this 6 months later. But I couldn’t find so many people under these limitations.
And it bugged me.
It bugged me all the time.
Three World Cups later, we have smartphones and social media right here in Myanmar. I could easily take a selfie with this Artist/Burmese Pirlo and upload onto my social media in no time if I ever saw him again. It would definitely go viral instantly and my story could even be picked by BuzzFeed or Coconuts Yangon, at least. Also, I can reshare this unbelievable story every year or even 10 years later like a throwback and people will still react like it was truly amazing, original and fresh. The point is people will talk about it for a long time.
But smartphones did not exist back then and neither did social media. So, I have to stay with the genuine and cruel version of the story. I still visit art studios from time to time with a hope that I will find the artist who looked exactly like Andrea Pirlo the Italian football legend again. I would take a selfie with him for Facebook. That would complete me.
But until then……
Zwe Oak Soe