"Hey girl! Come here!" My teacher signalled to me. "Are you from Myanmar?" He asked. That was in 2008 January. I was running a camp, running along the track rushing to somewhere.
Writing on Burma brings me lots of memories. As if I've been in Burma. As if I've always been living next to Burma. I've watched the Burmese Harp, a war film produced from the Japanese point of view of the Pacific War. I've heard the term, Shwae Daung. Is it Sanskrit? I don't know. I've even seen the script written in either Sanskrit or Tibetan. I live through those battles Burma had fought with Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. I've seen the Burmese monks clad in maroon robes. I've seen General Aung San fighting for independence, for the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL).
I have, alas, studied at the school his daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, studied in. Lady Shri Ram College.
I know of the Burmese Constitution in 1937 which finally separates Burma and India after a forced union by the British in 1885. They have always been apart. I know very well why Winston Churchill, the War Cabinet Prime Minister of Britain, produced that White Paper. I also know why Clement Attlee signed the pact with Aung San promising independence. The former's so aggressive and conservative, the latter reasonable and leftist. It feels like I've lived through World War II with Churchill putting up a front all day having to fight the Germans and win.
The Burmese temples. Have I seen them somewhere? Don't they look alike to the Hindu tower entrance, the circum-ambulation belt of each temple, the stones that last forever? The Burmese drinks tea, and make a big affair out of it. Of course, they are so near to Assam; they need to prove that their tea is better! The North Indians drink their tea in a small 60ml cup, the Southeast Asians drink tea in a very large mug 150ml. And the Burmese - just in between. A medium, 100ml. And I know how it tastes just by looking at it.
And I haven't forgotten the Karen, the Chin, Kachin, and Shan people. Neither have I forgotten the Arakanese.
The Peacock Throne seized in 1885 by the British rings a bell to me. I feel infuriated; why did they take away that blessed throne? Why did they trample through the Shwedagon Pagoda with their boots? Why did they disregard the monks? U Ottama fought peacefully for independence, got imprisoned, and continued fighting. YMBA fought too.
Yesterday, I picked up a book I couldn't believe. "Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell in a Burmese Tea Shop." George Orwell was their prophet. His three books - Burmese Days, Animal Farm, and Nineteen Eighty-Four - was scripted into reality in Burma. For a splitting second, I recounted him. Somehow, I want to go to where he had been. He was one of those fighting like we are fighting. His heart beats like one of us. He died immersed in love for Burma.
I'm there in my dreams, I forget I'm a visitor, dressing, talking, eating like them, worshiping in the temple like them. I remember passing by that Stupa. I remember eating the thukpa with them. I remember their faces so vividly. I've seen the women in the fields planting rice, the buffaloes ploughing, the children playing.
Free Burma. Free Nagaland. Free Tibet.