A Flight Path for Spiritual Birds

Translated by: 
Khin Hnit Thit Oo

'Even if they give you money for the pond, you’ll still have to buy an engine and petrol. Look at your land. It is flat, so wherever you dig you’ll need a pump. Well, let’s do it this way. Just tell them to put the pond on my land instead.’ 

‘But we’ll probably need a large piece of land for it.’ 

‘Please don’t worry about that. I’ll give you as much of my land as you need.’ 

I raised my eyes, spat my betel at the base of the roof post and rinsed my mouth with water. On the table before me was a bubbling glass of Red Bull. I took a sip and looked again at the donor. 

I had been at the monastery for little more than year when the foreign representatives from the United Nations Development Programme arrived with a project to improve water distribution in the village. They offered to donate for a new pond, but where to put it? The wide green fields out in front of the monastery belonged to you-the-donor, as did the banana groves to the west. The banana trees were up a rise overlooking the monastery, so it would make sense to put a pond there for drainage, but I needed to talk with the donor first. 

‘My land is higher than yours, by at least eight feet,’ the donor continued, ‘so if we put the pond there you won’t need a pump or fuel. Just a pipe and the whole monastery compound will receive water.’ 

‘Well, yes, but. ...’

‘I have plenty of land, so don’t feel uneasy. But I do think we should plan things properly from the beginning. We should draw up what to build where, then fence off the site so it’s not spoiled. That’s what I think anyway.’

‘Well, do what you think is best.’

The donor thought for a minute and said, ‘The drinking water pond should be close to the street, and the bathing water tank can be, say, fifteen feet away. That way, the novices and monks’ bathwater can flow straight to the plants. The pipeline from the drinkable water pond can then be connected to your monastery and people’s kitchens. How about this? When the UNDP people come, please just send them to me.’

The donor seemed to know what he was doing, so I just nodded. Later, when the UNDP people came to the donor’s house, he donated a third of his land, and the pond was dug as the donor had suggested. The monastery received drinking and washing water at no expense.


It’s been nearly a year now since that first evening we met, and I have come to know you better, our generous donor. Whenever I walk back to the monastery at dusk, I see the words on the back wall of your house:


Wicked people are more frightening than the Lord of Death himself. 

The Lord of Death comes only once, but bad people return again and again.

Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds is published by the British Council (2017).

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