The Beauty and Chaos of Two Cities

Silently I was sitting in my room, reading my stacks of favourite books. Tranquility overwhelmed me coldly and deeply. I was totally immersed in the storylines, feeling comfortable and secure. In a while, a softly resonating sound broke the immense silence around me – tik tok tik tok as it says. With a shock, I wondered where it was vibrating. Suddenly, things collapsed and my visions became blurry so I closed my eyes. The voice still bommering in my ears, I felt the loss of what-is-called home as I woke up in my dim-lit hostel room.

Have you ever imagined unexpected changes in our life that altered our lifestyle and perspectives? People have different opinions on this. Some might regard this as a critical point where they grew themselves into who they are today. Whereas, others might argue it as a negative turnover where delays prefaced their productivity and improvement. So, what do you think? Have you ever experienced such a turning point? My adventure might not be a compelling one but it did mean so much to who I have become as an individual.

Being brought up in Mandalay, my upbringing was normal as an introverted child under the guidance of strict parents. No friends, no playtime, I enjoyed being alone, which drove me into isolating myself from everyone. During my high school, negative thoughts prefaced every page of the calendar for over nine months, where I wrestled with my suffocating anxieties and killing doubts. Upon completion of high school, I was left despaired with an exhausted mind and weary soul with lack of hopes.

At the age of 18, a critical U-turn drove me into an environment of unknown people and unforeseen incidents. It was when I happened to leave home and move to Yangon for my academic opportunities. Fitting in a totally new environment was daunting and stressful. Walking along unknown roads with unfamiliar faces of people bustling to and from, I had never been in such a congested crowd. Also, it was the first time ever in my life when I have to manage everything by myself – accommodation, budgeting and so on. At the same time, I had to start my internship and had to balance my lifestyle, meeting with strangers and socialising with them.

In early months, everyday was challenging to me with loads of insecurities, lack of confidence to stand on my own, and nostalgia of my hometown. Every scenario that I came across, every routine that I practiced, and every outlook that I uphold became parallel with my previous eighteen years of existence. While taking YBS, I did easily get devastated for the time spent while having taken the wrong bus or getting lost in the way. On some half-awakened days, I fell asleep on the bus and missed the bus-stop even. Especially for me who used to have ridden a motor-bike back in my hometown, accessibility was incredible as I could even ride to nearby suburbs and neighbouring towns within a couple hours. Here, it took even around an hour to get to the downtown from my hostel, which made me regret moving here sometimes.

Lifestyles in Yangon seem quite challenging in contrast to Mandalay. Everyday on the way to and from my hostel and my workplace, I witness different walks of life in different corners of the city. ​Amidst the urbanized facades of the city, I saw lives on a public bus, I saw lives through a street-side bazaar, I saw lives in a late night’s return home. Every life I came across is a struggle against the needs and demands for a living. The lives on the street were daunting, and their eyes, weary with hopes they were thriving for. I also struggled with my financial management as living and daily expenses are quite high and I had to depend mostly on my own earnings. It taught me the value of work and effort that one puts in. I also feel the gratitude of my parents for their support in my education to be well-prepared in this challenging world.

Education and Employment is an exceptionally competitive battleground here in Yangon. I experienced the gigantic peer pressure among students in Yangon, who are always striving for more and more experiences. I witness thousands of youths bustling over roads of Yangon to join hundreds of private institutions and courses all across the city. Having a competitive community, in its own ways, pushes these youth for more challenges to overcome; on the other hand, I think it weakens the collaborative spirit in them as I was in awe to meet many self-centered youth thriving to compete and overshadow others. Mandalay, however, has still lagged behind Yangon for such facilities, and competitiveness is also less intense with limited opportunities and youth communities for the local students. This was one of my major reasons for moving over too.

Being a hub of foreign investment and settlement, I see Yangon as a destination of inclusivity and diversity with a number of non-traditional cultures integrated in its existing lifestyles. Unlike the rest of the country, celebrations for Gender Equity, LGBTQ Communities, Ethnic Minorities and other underrepresented groups of people are being publicly held to support the city’s potential to transform into a global metropolis. It is empowering for me to see how minorities and marginalised groups are being accepted. This fascinated me too as the lifestyle in Mandalay is more overwhelmed by the cultural and traditional dimensions where religious activities are widely practiced and cultural heritages became the city’s most captivating destinations to explore.

Thoughts coming and going like a boomerang to me​, until the second alarm from the clock started ringing. The clock marked the end of my long-thoughts, and I got up from my bed. Upon taking a bath and getting dressed, I grabbed some leftover pieces of bread and a cup of coffee to keep myself alert. “Another day of adventure to fight for!”, I reminded myself, and in an instant, I strolled to the bus-stop to greet the faces of Yangon.

Khant Min Naing

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