Thursday, October 25, 2012

Three Years Under The Japs (1945)

The book, "Three Years Under the Japs", written by my grandmother, Khinv Myo Chit, was first published in 1945 in English. It was published after the Japanese left Burma. She wrote down her actual experiences during the 3 years of Japanese rule.

(The old cover of "Three Years Under the Japs;" it had "Published by KHIN MYO Chit, 24 Zabuzi Street, SANCHAUNG" and "printing at THE ROYAL STATIONARY, 408-410 Dalhousie Street, RANGOON" written on the back. The addresses are now hard to find. They contain the old memories of our grandparents, despite the fact that they lived in the place for only a year or two.)

She wrote in the first page that she intended to give her impressions and recollections of the last three years, in the following pages. Page by page, we saw her story of going through with Japanese regime. In the chapter in which a horrible journey from Monywa(Upper Burma) to Rangoon takes place, she said it reminded her of the scene in the film "Good Earth," which showed Chinese refugees boarding a train similar to the one she had to board in order to arrive in Rangoon. What she read in books and saw in films of war were actually happening to her! After the terrible journey, she wrote about how the war prisoners in Rangoon were treated badly by the Japanese soldiers.
Her experiences in the Dobama Sinyetha Asiayone(D.S.A) as Chief of Women's section and in writing articles in Jpanese newspapers, how civil liberties were outrageously encroached upon, how hard and outrageous the Kimpetai Camp was, her work at Office of the Burmese Army, the hard and bloody training at Japanese Officer Cadet Training School, days of torture and nights of horror inflicted upon those who were arrested by the Japanese, how they tortured the mother and wife of the B.D.A officers, how B.D.A (Burma Defence Army) was inspired and admired by Burmese Youths……all of this were vividly described in the following chapters in the book. She remarked that the only reason for the Japanese' cruelty to our people must be for the love of cruelty for its own sake.
Finally she insisted to the world to be no longer fooled by their unscrupulous display of man's noblest sentiments which hide their horrid acts of aggression and tyranny. Let their crimes stand out as monuments of shame and evil that they may be permanent warning to all future generations. She said in the last page she had made a near approach to the real conditions of a Fascist-occupied territory, the purpose of this booklet would have been achieved.

(The new cover of the book in 2011.)

This booklet ,as she called, now translated into Burmese by me, Junior Win, was published in August of 2011 in Burma. The book is now in the hands of Burmese people. The Burmese readers can see how our grandparents survived during 3 years of without freedom of thoughts and feelings under the Japanese regime. The readers can feel for those who had to go through this nightmare and harrowing experience during the three years of Japanese rule. As I quoted from my grandmother's lines, in the pages I have translated, a near approach to the real conditions of Facist occupied territory and a total exposure of their Fascist wickedness in all its cruel reality, the purpose of this translated book will have been achieved.

'Her Infinite Variety' (Short Story

Picture- The cover of the book ‘Colourful Burma’ in 1976 by Khin Myo Chit, writer, Burma. The cover design was San Toe, artist.)

The title ‘Her Infinite Variety’ is the well-known Shakespeare’s quotation which represents the beauty of Cleopatra as ‘ Age cannot wither her,
                                           Nor custom stale
                                           Her infinite variety.’
Her Infinite Variety is a short story written by Khin Myo Chit won in the ‘Horizon’ magazine short story competition in 1970. It was first published in book ‘Colourful Burma – A Collection of Stories and Sketches’ in 1978.  
The narrator of the story; my grandmother who describes her experience when her visit on holiday at the town meeting with an old man, U Sein Khine, a solo performer of marionettes. Their conversation drew the readers to the end with the sad love story told by this old man, U Sein Khine. 

(Picture – by U Ba Kyi – famous artist in Burma. He sketched an illustration of U Sein Khine and his loving marionette that my grandmother wished to portray.)

Did this marionette doll on his shoulder, the figure of a female dancer which was the likeness of the woman he loved mean everything to this man, U Sein Khine? More than the live woman who loved him? It was the point most important in the story that always remembered not only a small town girl but also the reader. 
Memory of a Country Life

The palm leaf mat, bamboo dais, hot green tea, earthern cup, jiggery sweets or fresh breezing cold air were the beautiful memories of the country life. My grandmother portrayed our Rangoon city as the big city; feeling bored! Hot and dusty! Bla, bla, bla. I confessed that we young people of today do not realize what marionette shows meant to the people of old days. No young people of today saw such an old man of marionettes performer who was carrying beautiful marionette dolls in the market place or marionette troupes travelled in big barges along the river. Yes, they were artists who brought entertainment, fun and magic wherever they stopped.
My grandmother also described in the story about the marionette shows. She said there were dances of the animals such as tigers, elephants, horses and monkey at the beginning of the show. She still remembered the dance of the belu (ogre) and the zawgyi (demigod).  The children were thrilled by the zawgyi magnificent in the flaming red dress, jumping and flying. My grandmother also told the dance of the belu, dressed green with fin-like crests on its head, shoulders and elbows fascinated the audience. Moreover, the nhe (Burmese musical instrument which sound was like howling) ominously howling to the boom of the big drum beating at the background of the stage gave her the creeps. 
However the story goes, my grandmother describes her childhood memory of the country life. Her writing especially was effective at inspiring wonderful view of the country life to the reader because of its focus on the senses such as ‘dragged her feet towards the bamboo dais under the huge tamarind tree’ or ‘heard many stories on her grandfather’s knee’ or ‘took a small chunk of jiggery sweet and chewed it, chasing it down with a cup of green tea’, etc are now rarely see in our boring, hot, dusty Rangoon city!

La Grande Dame de la Myanmar Writing

1915 - 1999
Here is the biography of my grandma – khin myo chit. It was written by

Dr.Khin Maung Win (only son of my grandma)


writer and journalist


La Grande Dame de la Myanmar Writing

Very few people know thqt her real name is Ma Khin Mya. Her close
relative andfriends call her by her real name.Young people call her Ma
Ma Mya or Aunty Mya.Older people call he Ma Khin Mya.But to most
people she was known under her pen name, Khin Myo Chit.
She was born at the time when people generally had low expectations of
women, when no parent would hear of a young respectable lady entering
a profesion anda humanitarian education may be permitted , but only to
be able to write B,A under one's name and make impressions on people.
'What a pity she 's a girl' that's what she always heard people saying
all the time.
Her grandmother had been a maid of honour at the court of King
Mindon.Many timesshe recounted to her the events leading to the mass
excution of King Thibaw's royalrelative by the Queen Suphayalatt.'It's
a blot on our hitory'.She used to say.She then related to her how the
great warrier prince like Prince Kanaung,the Thonsaire Minhagyi
(literally translated the great Prince Thirty, so named because he
could climb up a wall ofthirtyyards in height using his bea hands and
feet) and many others were executed duringan internal intrigue.'We lot
all the great warrier princes, so that when the Britishmarched to the
capital city of Uupper Myanmar , there was not even one personto throw
a stone at the invaders.'
She asked,'Do you mean to say, grandma, that if these warriior princes
were there, Upper Myanmar would not have fallen unde the british Rule
?' 'No' , said her grandmother.'We would still loe the war, for, at
that time, no one could stop the riing of the British Empire.But at
least the batle of Upper Burma could have earned a place in the annals
of war like Hnnibal's fight against Rome, or King Arthur's fight
against the Saxons, or KingHarold's fight against the invading
Normans' .
Her literary career began in 1932 when she translated a poem of Sir
Walter Scott and sent to theYangon University magazine.But she didn't
put her name, being kind of shy to do that. The poem was about
Patriotism and when it was published , the editor put the pen name –
Khin Myo Chit (meaning lady who loves her country or Miss Patriot).
That was how she made her debut in the literary field,and arned her
pen name.But all was not well at home. With her father's
obstructiveness and her mother's disapproval of 'clever girls' ,
thingsgot from bad to worse.She was not allowed to do any writing in
peace . Her mother scolded her more and more.Her father threatened to
burn her pjapers.She had to hide them and do her writing when everyone
was in bed.
I shall not dwell too ,uch on the story of her unhappy childhood and
her ecape from the tyranny of her father.It could have made something
torn from the pages of a Dickens novel and could hzve eaned her a
nick-name like 'female David Copperfield'.
Regarding her meeting with my father, U Khin Maung
Latt(1915-1996),whom she refered to as 'Ko Latt', she wrote in her
autobiography as follows :
''He was theboy next door.He had left college, an undergraduate, not
being able to continue his studies because of the decline in family
fortunes.He was having a short lull at home while looking for a job.
He was a voracious reader and we sharedthe same interestsin books.I
read the books he recommended and he returned the compliment . We read
'Little Women' , one of my favourite books and he called me teasingly
'Jo'.We had a fine time talking of books.It seemed that we had
launched on a long and timeless talk which could lead to one thing a
life-long alliance.''
Regarding her political invilvements of 1937 and afterwards, she wrote:
"Had this even tenor of our way gone on for a few months or so, Ko
Latt and I might have sipped quietly into mqrried life. My rosy dreams
of the future during the interval of a few months before our marriage
tuned out to be a nightmare of tormy incidents.It was the fate of the
country that swept most of our dreams away.By a cruel trick of fate,
we became part of that mighty tidal wave which we were but a tiny
ripple. "
She recountd the part she played in the demonstration of 1938 as follows;
"Three girls and I happened to be in front of line right after the
standard bearers.It was a rude shock when we found ourselves confonted
by baton weilding policemen, some mounted on horseback.All of a sudden
like a sequence on a cinema screen everything became a confusion of
horses'legs and batons.To my horror, I saw girls falling in pools of
blood.As I tried to pick them up, blows fell on me."
She lived through the stormy times of the British Regime; the Japanese
Regime;the Struggle for independebce;sharing the joys and sorrows of
the political figures .
Also in her autobiography , she recounted a difficult phrase of her
life in the following way.
"Now,I have come to oneof the most difficult chapters of my life,for
it was then that my misadventures strayed into the realms of faith and
I was prejudiced against meditatio of wny religious practice which I
took to be only for people who had nothing better to do or those who
wanted to put on ais of holiness or those who had no change to face
life….I thought."
The story of how her meeting with two monks changed her outlook and
made her regain her faith in Buddhism cannot be told here, for that
alone would have made treatise on Buddhism.
She became a mother-in-law in 1967, a grandmother of twins,a boy and a
girl,in 1968.In an interview with a writer,Alex wood,in 1970,she
said,"I am proud of being a good grandmother and housekeeper,but I
have never let this interfere with any of my cultural interests.I am
glad that I rediscovered the art of Myanmar Zatpwe(a kind of a mixture
of play,concert and opera)in time to stop me from becming an
intefering mum-in-law and an over doddering granny.Friends rubbed
their hands when the twins were born and said it would be the end of
my freedom.But of course,it wasn't.I'm organising myself better and
witing more than before."
The landmarks of her literary career may be summed up in the following way:
Khin Myo Chit was born on may 1, 1915 in Sit Kaing(Upper Burma).
1932…………….Patriotism(a poem that earned her pen name)
1963…………….Collge Girl(a novelette for serialization in 'The Sun' a daily paper)
1963 to 1968..: Heroes of Old Burma ,
…………………. : Quest for Peace (an autobiography)
(Both serialized in 'The Working Peoples'Daily.')
1970…………....:Her Infinfite Variety
(a prize-winning short story in the 'Horizon' magazine short story competition.)
…………………….:The Four Puppets
(included in 'Folk Tales of Asis',UNESCO)
……………………:Anawrahta of Burma
(publication of 'Heroes of Old Burma', which was later re-printed
under the titles,
'Anawhta' and 'King Among Men')
1976…………..:Colourful Burma
(a pratical and poetic guide for the visitors who wants something better than
a tourist view of Burma.Later reprinted under the 'Colourful Myanmar'.)
1977…………..:Flowers and festivals round the Burmese Year
(a short history of Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda,published in the Asia magazine)
1981…………..:A Pagoda Where Fairy Tale Characters Come to Life
(A tale-loke description of Mai La Mu Pagoda in the outskirts of Yangon,
published in the Asia Magazine)
1984………….:A Wonderland of Burmese Legends
(published by the Tamarind Press in Bangkok , later reprinted in Burma under
the title 'A Wonderland of Pagoda Legends')
1995…………:Gift of Laughter
(on the picturesque speech of the people of Hla Daw,
A village in Central Burmam , selection of which have been published
In the 'Pyinsa Rupa ' magazine)
During the last years of her life, deblitating and disfiguring
arthrithic pains made her spend most of her time in bed.Regarding her
fight against the spasms of pain , she remarled,"Sometimes I lose,
sometimes they win".Quite surprisingly, compared to what she suffered,
she died in peace.