The Glass Palace

Today is Independence Day in Burma. Burma has been independent for 59 years now. Instead of developing forward, its direction of development is backwards. I hope the best for our country in the future.

I read "Burmese Days" by George Orwell on New Year Eve. It was a very interesting book. Here is online version:

I have started reading The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. It was an interesting book on love, war and families. Here is a review from Amazon site:

Set primarily in Burma, Malaya, and India, this work spans from 1885, when the British sent the King of Burma into exile, to the present. While it does offer brief glimpses into the history of the region, it is more the tale of a family and how historical events influenced real lives. As a young boy, Rajkumar, an Indian temporarily stranded in Mandalay, finds himself caught up in the British invasion that led to the exile of Burma's last king. In the chaos, he spies Dolly, a household maid in the royal palace, for whom he develops a consuming passion and whom years later he tracks down in India and marries. As their family grows and their lives intersect with others, the tangled web of local and international politics is brought to bear, changing lives as well as nations. Ghosh ranges from the condescension of the British colonialists to the repression of the current Myanmar (Burmese) regime in a style that suggests E.M. Forster as well as James Michener. Highly recommended, especially for public libraries.

The book detailed King Thebaw of Burma and his family being sent to Ratnagiri, a sleepy port town south of Bombay. It vividly described how sad the way the king of Burma and his family ended their lives. It also detailed how Thebaw's daughter fell in love with their coachman and finally got married. She actually did settle in Ratnagiri.

Rajkumar fell in love with Dolly, a smart maid of the royal family, and got married. They moved to Rangoon. Rajkumar had become a successful businessman based in Rangoon. His mentor, Saya John, moved to Malaya to start rubber business. Rajkumar was a business partner. Uma, a friend of Dolly, and a Hindu widow, spent her life speaking out for the poor and the Independence of India. It is also interesting to note how Indians all the over the world are good at social networking for business and political purposes.

Rajkumar and Dolly had two sons now, Neel (Sein Win) and Dinu (Tun Pe). Neel got married with a Bengali girl from Calcutta and the family came back to Rangoon after the big wedding. Dinu was interested in photography and politics. He was an antifascist. Rajkumar was hospitalized and during his stay at the hospital, he thought about his life and thought about leaving Burma because anti-foreigner sentiment was getting high in Burma. Aung San left for Japan to get help to fight the British. Rajkumar thought about liquidating his business. He wanted his family to be safe. That was what Dolly wanted all along. Dolly had an incident in which she was framed by local Burmese and asked why she married a foreigner, an Indian. She said while she was an exile in India with the King Thebaw, everybody in Burma forgot about them. Dinu left for Malaya to persuade Matthew and Elsa to sell their rubber plantation. Matthew was a son of Saya John, Rajkumar's mentor. Matthew and Elsa died in a car accident. Alison, their daughter was now helpless and had no choice but to run the rubber plantation herself. Saya John was 80 years old then and had became senile. Dinu fell in love with Alison and decided to settle in Malaya. He found out about his father's illegitimate son, Ilongo. Ilongo had to help rescue the Morningside rubber plantation after both Alison and Saya John died fleeing Malaya from Japanese invasion. Ilongo later became a successful politician. He successfully ran the plantation in cooperative style with the migrant workers. After Alison's death, Dinu left for Burma and looked for his family. However, his family had already left Burma for India because of war. Dinu lived with Doh Say, his father's old friend. He took up photography and earned a living with it. He was later found by Dolly, who came back from India searching for her son. She then went to Sagaing to live peacefully. She died a year later.

Dinu moved back to Rangoon and later married Thin Thin Aye, who became a successful writer. She said to her husband, "To use the past to justify the present is bad enough - but it's just as bad to use the present to justify the past." Her remark was about Burma and the British colonialism. They both lived in Rangoon the rest of their lives.

Rajkumar died in India. His grand-daughter, Jaya, daughter of Neel, later tried to write a book about her family. She traced Ilongo to Malaya and Dinu to Yangon. She visited them and it was in Yangon when the story ended while Jaya was on her way to the Yangon International Airport, accompanied by her uncle Dinu. It was the year of 1996 when the story ended.


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