ENTRY IN TO MYANMAR
On 4th November last year I entered Myanmar (Burma when it was part of India), the 31 countries of my list of travel. Myanmar holds a prominent place in my heart due to my grandfather's connections with old Burma. I was eager to drive through Myanmar in memory of my grandfather.
I found Myanmar just like old India (parts of Eastern India is similar to Myanmar). I found Burmese people to be very humble and friendly. After entry form China border it took us about 6 hours just to drive 185 kilometres. Much of the drive was mountain driving and one cannot drive faster than 20 KPH. As stated, people are very humble and get excited to see a tourist. I had 4 man escorting me and providing security. I was continuously being escorted by their vehicles. One person was from the ministry of tourism as part of my escort team. Burmese seemed to me as our long lost fellows country people (Indian).
On the way we stopped to use the washroom at the place in picture below. I didn't pay attention to their items for sale but was keen to see their shop. They were excited to have me and offered to make me tea. The lady with hat wanted to see the car from inside so I allowed her to sit inside and experience it. She was very excited to sit in the car. If we had more time then I would have certainly taken her for a little ride.
I had entered Myanmar with various emotions in memory of my Grandfather who had driven around Burma, as young man on number of occasions during the time of British Rule in India. I was 12 years old when he passed away so my memory of the conversations is vague, but over the few weeks of my drive I tried to recollect as much possible from the memory bank.
My grandfather used to work for a British Petroliam and at a time the company was called Burma shell. I believe the Burma shell is the Shell Petroleum, which still exists in UK. In India the name was changed to Bharat Petroleum and we still have Bharat Petroleum, where my grandfather worked until he retired (only few months before he passed away). Burma shell had some sites or some offices in some parts of Burma, which required my grandfather to travel to Burma regularly (I think few times a year). Those days’ Burma and India was one country and people didn’t’ fly internally or rather there were no flights within same country in those days. However, he used to drive from their head office in Mumbai to Burma. I can’t imagine how he would have driven on those single carriageways, but I suppose traffic was minimum.
As a child I heard many of story of my grandfather’s drive to Burma and back after many many days. I don’t precisely recall names of the places he mentioned he used to drive to, but something like Mandla and Rangun sounds familiar names, so I think it could be today’s Mandalay and Yongun, if my memory is correct. I didn’t get an opportunity to visit Yongun but I stayed in Mandalay overnight where my grandfather had possibly driven. I met lovely Indian origin Sikh family in Madalay who remained in Burma during the partition. They had many stories to share with me. We instantly formed the bond that they found it hard to wave me good bye. They were certainly delighted to meet Indian born person in Myanmar. It was certianly amazing that at third generation, I had a this life time opportunity to drive where my grandfather had driven as young man in his career. After my entry in to Myanmar the first fuel station we arrived was Burma shell. Burma shell very much operates in Myanmar in current times. I felt as if my grandfather was around me and was being prod of me. I certainly remembered my grandfather at every second of my drive through Myanmar.
My grandfather was keen supporter of girl’s education and has always taught us to be fearless and progress in our desired field. Here I am, I have tried to fulfilled my grandfather’s wish, got educated, and progressed in what I enjoyed, whether it was Bharatanatyam or driving. My drive to my native place was a tribute to my grandfather who wanted me to be educated, progressive and earn a good name for myself, for the family and for my community.