Romance in time of political turmoil in erstwhile Burma

Romance in time of political turmoil in erstwhile Burma

Combined fact and fiction, he describes the circumstances and events in his book, introducing various characters in his narrative and giving them adequate treatment. (Pixabay Image)

A new book documents the historical, social, and political changes during Japanese conquest of Burma (now Myanmar) in World War II and presents a wide panorama of events that made up the period.

In "The Lacquered Curtain of Burma", author Eugene Lawrence touches upon individual lives, weaves a vivid picture of migrators from British India to Burma, and the Indians who arrived in the country with the Japanese army and Indian National Army.

Combined fact and fiction, he describes the circumstances and events in his book, introducing various characters in his narrative and giving them adequate treatment.

"There has been no attempt to malign personalities or policies of any individual or institution in the portrayal of these events and circumstances. The facts could be easily gleaned by the discerning reader from numerous press reports that have appeared over the past 40 years," Lawrence says.

"While the identities of some personalities could not be altered in the context of the published truth, the identities of some characters have been suppressed, and some are purely fictional," he adds.

The author also praises the undying spirit of the Burmese soldiers and the country’s fight for independence from colonial Britain and imperial Japan in the book, published by Olive Turtle imprint of Niyogi Books.

He recounts the conflicts that arose after independence between the majority Burmese and the ethnic minorities (the uprising of the Karens), the military takeover in the year 1962, and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s resolute voice that was determined to cleanse the nation from its evils that had set in since the past two and a half decades.

According to Lawrence, the Burmese were a larger people with a history that had its origins in India, who had settled in the plains of the country, leaving the mountainous regions to the ethnic peoples - many of whom were believed to have inhabited the land prior to the appearance of the Burmese.

"But, better organised and better positioned for trade and culture and more sophisticated in political evolution, the Burmese had dominated the land over centuries, alienating the diverse ethnic groups in their hill tracks of the west, the fearsome Kachins and red Karens; north-east and east, the war-like Shans, and south-eastern regions of the country where the redoubtable white Karens settled," he writes.

The colonial conquest of the British, World War II and the subsequent occupation of the Japanese had removed the lid of isolation off these more predominant of the ethnic peoples, exposing their significance and aspiration to a stake in the country which was on the threshold of independence, he says.

"Racial distrust, cultural prejudice and the consequent inevitability of alliances that were formed with either of the occupying superior masters - the British or the Japanese - had left a trail of atrocities among the indigenous populace in their bid to obliterate the treat of the other, while seeking indemnity of their heritages with either one of the occupying powers," he writes.

Lawrence also handles a vast catalogue of remarkable personalities - some factual, some fictional, while some have been suppressed.

There is one Stanley David, Captain of INA, and his journey showing his personal search for roots, the path to which is buffeted by the political turmoil of that period.

By giving a voice to the Burmese who were witness to the waning of the nation, Lawrence gives a portrait of British colonialism and Japanese conquest of the country.

The narrative further captures the upheaval of communities, the dislocation of families, and sacrifices by those who could not emigrate.

With the seed of the story planted by tales of his own family’s history (Lawrence’s father, an Indian, had arrived in Burma with the INA during World War 2 and married a Karen woman, and in 1966 they repatriated to India), the author has come up with a tale of love, loss, and longing that sweeps across more than a hundred years of history in Burma.

Though a host of issues still haunt the nation - the problem of the Rohingyas, the ethnic group clashes, armed conflict, displacement of thousands of people, and human rights abuses in the name of development, the author hopes an era of peace for the people.