Tr­ishaw life is not easy one

Es­pe­cially for this woman. 4 PHOE WA

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend | Profil -

THE wheels slow to a stop just out­side the school gates. Glad to see that school has not yet be­gun, the ea­ger girls jump out of the tr­ishaw seats, pay the fare and head in­side. The driver sighs be­fore yelling af­ter them to re­mem­ber to wait out­side pa­tiently at the end of the day to get picked up, and then makes sure no school books have been left be­hind. The ride was for some neigh­bour­hood chil­dren but the in­ter­ac­tion is as nat­u­ral for driver Daw Khin Myint as it might be with her own kids.

It was the fourth trip that morn­ing for Daw Khin Myint. She took a shop­keeper to Thin Gan Gyun Market at 6am, then took some ladies to their work­place. Then it was off to B ward be­fore com­ing back for her chil­dren. Hav­ing al­ready cov­ered a lot of ground on the heavy bike, Daw Khin Myint com­plains of knee pain when she re-mounts and tries to push off from out the front of the school. She de­cides to go home for a lie-down be­fore ven­tur­ing back out. “I can’t do any more. That is enough for this morn­ing.” Daw Khin Myint says, shak­ing her head.

At 43-years-old, Daw Khin Myint has been work­ing as tr­ishaw driver for about four years. It was no easy de­ci­sion to take up this low­est of pay­ing vo­ca­tions which is fre­quently ac­com­pa­nied by makeshift liv­ing. Her story is a heart­break­ing one. Be­fore she was on the road, it was her hus­band, Ko Ja­pan, who was the tr­ishaw driver. Some years ago, their young fam­ily was struck with three dev­as­tat­ing child deaths which drove Ko Ja­pan into a deep de­pres­sion which he me­di­ated with heavy al­co­hol use. He quickly aban­doned work in favour of con­stant drink­ing and loi­ter­ing around their neigh­bour­hood. So, there was Daw Khin Myint at home with an ab­sent hus­band, more chil­dren to feed and a tr­ishaw parked out the front. She de­cided she had to do what­ever was go­ing to work.

“I was afraid ev­ery day that the po­lice were go­ing to take (my hus­band) away. I had to go out search­ing for him in the lo­cal wards and that meant be­ing away from my chil­dren. I re­ally pity my chil­dren that I can’t be there for them,” she says through tears.

The heal­ing process for the fam­ily, and for Ko Ja­pan in par­tic­u­lar, has been long and slow. With help from Daw Khin Myint, Ko Ja­pan is cared for at home and is on a med­i­cal pro­gramme to re­duce his al­co­hol de­pen­dency. The years of abuse have taken their toll, how­ever, and he re­mains in ill health, spend­ing most of his time in bed en­ter­tained solely by mo­bile phone games. The fi­nan­cial stress is ever present and the fam­ily ekes by on the lit­tle money Daw Khin Myint is able to earn on the tr­ishaw.

The woman and the tr­ishaw It’s tough, she says, com­pet­ing in stamina with the male driv­ers who are big­ger and usu­ally liv­ing sin­gle. “The tr­ishaw men would laugh when they saw me, say­ing that I would not be able to keep up with the job for long”. The peo­ple in the ward also gave her funny looks, but with her per­se­ver­ance they have got­ten used to the sight. “I was so amazed be­cause she is work­ing a man’s job, it is hard work and even the men can strug­gle,” ex­plains Daw Win Maw, a neigh­bour. As for their fam­ily sit­u­a­tion, Daw Khin Myint says she doesn’t ap­pre­ci­ate peo­ple gos­sip­ing. “Some peo­ple crit­i­cise my hus­band but they don’t un­der­stand our sit­u­a­tion. I tell him to ig­nore it,” she says.

Daw Khin Myint’s main fairs are the market, get­ting women to their lo­cal work­places and then the school in the morn­ing and at the end of classes. The moth­ers trust a woman tr­ishaw driver more, so busi­ness is bet­ter there. Men are not her pri­mary clients, ei­ther be­cause they are wary of be­ing driven by a woman or be­cause it’s eas­ier on Daw Khin Myint to have lighter pas­sen­gers. Driv­ing men makes her feel a bit shy, though she will take the fares of el­derly men. With Ko Ja­pan’s health slowly im­prov­ing, more of the tr­ishaw work is be­ing shared, but for the time be­ing, the ma­jor­ity of the work is hers to do.

The mo­ti­va­tion is for her re­main­ing chil­dren to gain lit­er­acy and an ed­u­ca­tion. Daw Khin Myint is not ed­u­cated, but sees the po­ten­tial in her own chil­dren and will work for as long as it takes to make sure they can earn a wage com­fort­ably, us­ing their knowl­edge. They are cur­rently in monas­tic ed­u­ca­tion. Daw Khin Myint says they some­times re­quest time away from school to help their mother in her work, but this only leads her to feel shame. “I’m only do­ing this work be­cause I don’t have op­tions,” she tells them. She pushes her chil­dren to fo­cus on their stud­ies.

Even with the best mo­ti­va­tion, the work re­mains hard. Aches, pains and sun stroke are a con­stant men­ace. Daw Khin Myint must nap in the af­ter­noon to main­tain her en­ergy to get through the day, but that does not make the ex­er­cise bleak. “I don’t know when I will achieve the goals I am work­ing to­wards, but those days will come”.

Photo: Phoe Wa

Daw Khin Myint on her tr­ishaw.

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