In May 2023, I along with three of my colleagues journeyed to Myanmar for a Faculty Development Program (FDP) at Myanmar Institute of Information Technology, (MIIT) Mandalay. The purpose that beckoned us was a Faculty Development Program (FDP) at the prestigious Myanmar Institute of Information Technology (MIIT), nestled in the enchanting city of Mandalay. This harmonious endeavor bore the fruits of a profound alliance between MIIT and IIIT Bangalore, symbolizing our unwavering mentorship that has flourished since the year 2015. Prior to my arrival in Yangon, I delved into the country’s intricacies. Surprisingly, despite Myanmar’s tumultuous political and social backdrop, it outshone India in the World Happiness Index.
As our plane gracefully touched down in Yangon, we found ourselves bereft of the local currency. Nevertheless, fortune smiled upon us, for we managed to navigate our way to a bustling business center, where the kind-hearted taxi driver not only facilitated our currency exchange but also, to our amazement, exhibited a spirit of honesty and hospitality. With warmth in his heart, he refused to exploit our foreign presence, neither levying additional charges nor resorting to deceit. The hospitality of Myanmar’s people transcends all bounds, an extraordinary warmth that leaves one delighted. Such encounters served as a testament to the innate benevolence and unity that permeated the fabric of Myanmar’s society.
It left an indelible impression on my soul, prompting me to ponder the intertwining elements that contribute to the happiness of a nation, transcending superficial barriers and adversities. My journey had just begun, but already I sensed that Myanmar held within its embrace a tapestry of stories, culture, and the resilience of a people that could illuminate the path to true happiness.
Immersed in the ambience of MIIT in Mandalay, I was spellbound by the faculty’s remarkable hospitality and humility. What astounded me further was the staggering 98% plus representation of women among them. Adorned in their uniforms, worn with unmistakable pride, these teachers exuded dedication and an unassuming nature. Even as esteemed Professors, they willingly undertook menial tasks, their hands devoid of expectation for assistance. Their incredible enthusiasm was simply remarkable. I also found that they had a remarkable uptake and receptiveness.
Gradually, I unraveled the essence of their happiness. It stemmed from the interwoven fabric of Myanmar’s culture, their way of life, the profound contentment they embodied, and the guiding principles of Buddhism they fervently embraced. Journeys to the resplendent Pagodas, with the faculty members of MIIT, unveiled a drapery of profound truths and enchantment.
I also discovered a remarkable practice embraced by many—a path of renunciation where individuals embrace a hermitage life and become monks. Within this noble pursuit, they engage in the act of alms begging, a profound opportunity to nurture virtues like patience, gratitude, and equanimity. Through this humble tradition, they embody a profound commitment to spiritual growth. A person can become a “a temporary monk”, coming to the monastery for a limited period of time to regain clarity of mind, and meditation is the highest remedy for the people of Myanmar. That’s the periodic spiritual cleansing they have intermittently.
In my exploration of Myanmar, from the bustling streets of Yangon to the serene premises of MIIT in Mandalay, discoveries illuminated the path to true happiness and instilled in me a deep appreciation for the resilience and richness of Myanmar’s culture. My visit to Myanmar reiterated one fact – Happiness is not found in the abundance of possessions, but in the simplicity of a contented heart.
As we departed from Myanmar, a group of faculty members, accompanied by the Rector, bid us farewell at the airport. With a gentle bow and a respectful nod of the head, they conveyed their polite goodbye, leaving us with a bittersweet feeling in our hearts. Amidst our departure, the whispers of “Minglaba,” the equivalent of “Namaste” in India, echoed in the air, serving as a final gesture of respect and warm wishes from Happy Myanmar.
– Commodore SR Sridhar (Retd)