April 22: Dear seniors, colleagues and friends, I’ve reached Myanmar. Thank you very much for spreading my requests for accommodation by sharing them on Facebook. I received text messages and calls from many people inviting me to their homes. I ate with them, helped in their work and stayed with them. In a month long journey, I hardly needed to pay except for bottled water. Even on the roads, people were generous to give me a free lift to my destination. This morning, I entered Myanmar. I can’t stay here as a guest as it’s a punishable crime. I have to check into a hotel. I must express my gratitude towards two doctors__ Sangeeta Kamble and Rucha Lahane. They answered my calls at odd hours and advised me on the right kind of medicine to have. Thank you for your help in making my trip smooth. I have six more days of provisions. Will travel for that long. Let’s see what happens thereafter. I will keep you guys posted.
I went to the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in downtown Rangoon in the evening. It’s a gold pagoda (just like the Golden Temple in India). At the final gate, they asked for 8,000 Kyat (Rs 470). I could not believe that a Buddhist temple charges entry fees. I politely protested by not stepping in.
My friends in Manipur took me to a customs officer’s residence for completing customs formalities on a local holiday. The young officer asked me to declare my property/ all the articles that I was carrying along. When I told him, he couldn’t stop laughing. He asked me three questions:
1) Are you carrying USD 10,000 or more in cash?
2) Do you have more than 100gms of gold
3) Are you carrying any animal, bird, seeds or plants?
I replied in the negative. He signed some papers and said, “It’s done. Go, f** off. Happy journey.”
Do you wish to know what I was carrying along with me? I had an old mobile phone, spectacles, an ATM card, an Atlas, a hard disk and two formal outfits. This was all the stuff that I owned. A friend had loaned me a power bank for my cellphone after noticing how pathetic my mobile battery was. I also have a trimmer gifted to me by a friend on birthday, rucksacks give by brother, pens given by Bhakti, a diary given by Kanchan (Bhakti and Kanchan are my nieces) and two pairs of jerseys which I got in a football match.
About my savings: when I was hospitalized, the insurance company refused to pay up. Two of my friends persisted with the hospital to simplify my medical history in their papers. Eventually, the insurance company gave in and I got a partial claim. That’s my savings and it’s drying up now. The trip has been great fun, a lot more than what I had imagined it to be