Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Trip through Time / Burma-The Turning Point for a Rebel: George Orwell (1903-1950) in Rangoon

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Trip through Time / Burma-The Turning Point for a Rebel: George Orwell (1903-1950) in Rangoon

Article excerpt

YANGON--Walking down a narrow stairway from a traffic-congested street in Myanmar's largest city, I came across Hpaya Lan Station.

Inside the station, the arrival of rundown coaches takes visitors back to the old days of when the station had an English name, Pagoda Road, and the city was called Rangoon, the capital of the country known as Burma.

One day in 1924, some students were in the station teasing each other when one bumped into a tall British man. The Briton burst into a fit of anger and appeared ready to swing his cane at the student's head, but poked his back instead.

One of the students, Tin Aung, who later became the president of Rangoon University, wrote about the incident before he died in 1978.

After the encounter, the students followed him onto a train as they continued to protest the man's actions. But as Tin Aung recalled in his writings, witnessing the man trying to patiently speak to the outraged students instilled in him a sense of sympathy and understanding.

Tin Aung was told by a Burmese police officer that the man's name was Eric Blair, who later adopted the nom-de-plume George Orwell.

Orwell wrote an essay about his life as a police officer in Burma. In his essay "Shooting an Elephant," he wrote that the longer he stayed in the country, the more strongly he felt that imperialism was evil. His sympathy toward the Burmese people had deepened, he wrote.

One day during that time, he received a report that an elephant had gone on a rampage in a village. He went to the village carrying a weapon, but found himself surrounded by a crowd of curious onlookers. He did not want to kill the elephant. But if he did not shoot the animal, he thought, the Burmese people would regard him--and all Britons--as cowards. That might affect the foundation of Britain's colonial rule.

At the time, Orwell wrote, he noted Britons were destroying their own freedom by becoming oppressors.

Khin Maung Nyunt, 84, professor emeritus of Mandalay University, said Orwell sensed the emptiness behind the sense of superiority that many Britons harbored toward Asians. …

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