Tanyang Jayo

I came down with the rain.

My interview with Tanyang Jayo is hard to get. She is a tenacious soul with an appetite for life that makes her step out the door and work every day despite her age and her family’s constant pestering to keep her home. She is my guide Guddi’s grandmother, Thankfully that has some sway and we finally get to meet her. Her stories and experiences were well worth the wait.

As a young lady, she was given the opportunity to travel quite a bit. She found herself trading with the neighbouring Nyshi tribe at times. She recalls that her people had no knowledge of cotton production and she would trade rice from their plentiful valley for spun cotton and the knowledge of its production. These journeys were done on foot, but she also had the opportunity to travel by car at times as well, recalling extreme car-sickness on her first few journeys.

On one such journey, the car stopped in a large village for some rest. As her and other tattooed friends got out of the car, a crowd began to gather. They stared intently without speaking, which made her uncomfortable. She walked to the middle of the crowd while calling them to stare. “Look at me, look at me,” she cried. She recalls this with humour now. What an experience it must have been to move out of your tribe and realise that other people didn’t have the same practices as you.

In another trip out, she recalls stopping in a village for lunch. She tried to buy a cup of tea at the market, but the seller just froze and stared at her. Eventually, she was asked, “Where did you come from?” To this she replied, “I came down from the sky.” Again, the seller paused and eventually asked, “Did you come down with the rain?” Of course, Tanyang Jayo, responded with a yes and sat down for her cup of tea.

With the connected world we live in now, it is hard to imagine such surprise at a person dissimilar to yourself, but these experiences were nothing short of commonplace just a short time ago.

Shen Har - Yindu Facial Tattoo, Myanmar