Pasteis de Belem. So well-loved all over Southeast Asia as the Portuguese egg tarts. When in Portugal, I have to have ’em every day!
The original pasteis tastes incredible! I have a bit of a history with these egg tarts. One of my assignments during the KFC launch in Myanmar was to sample all egg tarts across town (about five bakeries in total in Yangon) and study their price points and diameters. You see, in some parts of Asia Pacific, egg tart sales make up about 22% of the chicken shoppe’s top line during festive times. I find the butterfly effect simply fascinating: monks used egg whites to starch clothes and make pastries with leftover yolk; then separation of the state and the church forced the “conventional” pastries to the open market; centuries later, there I was, accidentally ended up with the duty to sell them to unsuspecting Myanmar consumers under a U.S. name. I find all of it wacky and fascinating at the same time.
Parami is a Burmese word derived from Sanskrit roughly meaning talent, aptitude or recollection of a past knowledge.
In Buddhist literature, Parami describes ten sets of skills or virtues, or the inherent aptitude for ten personality traits. Patience, for example, is a virtue, or a type of Parami. Some people are naturally more patient than others, but you can learn to become more patient even if it does not come naturally to you at first.
For those who are more familiar with the Western philosophy, Parami can be closely understood as the virtue described in Plato’s Meno, where Meno begins discussion by asking Socrates if virtue can be taught at all. One idea that stands out to me – or something that comes to my mind at 3AM like right now! – is that Socrates responds to Meno by saying that virtue is a form of knowledge or wisdom you can acquire through recollection, made possible by dialog. My high school made me read this document as the first assignment to highlight that class discussions, rather than lectures, are critical to learning. To a young mind, I loosely understood the Buddhist idea of Parami as Plato’s description of the recollection of skills, knowledge or wisdom that is already in one’s possession.
Traditional Buddhist literature often goes on to describe a significant other or a soul mate as a “Parami PyaePhat” – one that complements or hones your Parami. Your significant other complements you, not because you are broken and need to be fixed, but because by interacting with you, he or she challenges you and helps you grow, bringing out the best (the virtues) in you. The right partner should make you want to become a better person. If your partner talks during movies and you have come to make peace with it, your partner has essentially helped you grow your virtue of patience! You are a better person for it! (Which by the way is the reason I talk during movies, to make you a better person.)
This is a lovely concept.
In traditional Jartaka stories, men with successful and heroic endeavors often have their female cohorts, often blended to the background and described as “Parami PyaePhat.” In modern times, you still see this concept at work. Sheryl Sandberg tells women to choose their life partners wisely, quoting a study of women in the Fortune 500 List crediting their partners’ support as a critical element in success.
In modern relationships, people sometimes choose careers and push love to the back burner from time to time. Trade offs – temporary or permanent – have to be made. Our lives are so mobile these days that I would be hard pressed to name any individual who has never experienced some form of long distant love. It’s simply part of the package. In 2016, “I am not fit for long distant relationships” has replaced “I am not fit for a committed relationship.“
When a couple manages to stay together and goes on to achieve great things together, they are “Parami PyaePhat” to each other. Like the ones pictured on the cover of Time Magazine.
In this sense, if a couple has to sacrifice the union to achieve individual goals, isn’t it essentially a negative Parami by way of supporting each other’s goals in absentia? You are doing your partner a favor by not being together. Just like Madeleine and Leonard in Jeffery Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot. That is the love story of our generation.