Old Rangoon

The Monsoon Bride is set in Rangoon, Burma 1930.

Burma has always loomed large in my imagination and Rangoon, the former capital, particularly so. I was born there but left for Canada with my parents when I was a small child.  So my Rangoon has always presented the possibility of a different existence – the life I might have led.

Rangoon seemed to me a city where things happened, dramatic things, some sad, others wonderful. This impression was informed by my mother’s stories of tennis parties and dances, of travelling by private rail car.  There were darker tales too – fleeing the invading Japanese army and later, rebel forces.

When I started to write The Monsoon Bride, I needed to know Rangoon more concretely and so began to research the city’s past like a scholar would – by trawling through the archive. I found this piece of film taken by Kate and Arthur Tode in 1930 and held at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology films.

4 Responses to Old Rangoon

  1. Scott says:

    Hi Michelle, thanks for your posts. Do you have any material you can share on village life earlier in the twentieth century in Rangoon or Burma?

    • Hi Scott,

      I don’t know much about village life. Have you tried The Burman, His Life and Notions. Or Taw Sein Ko’s studies? I also looked at Ian Brown’s study of rice cultivation. Not sure if this is what you’re looking for.

  2. Adrian Rice says:

    Thanks for posting this wonderful film clip. I found the final frames of the mother smacking her wandering child surprising. In 9 years of living in SE Asia and after 5 trips to Burma, I don’t think I ever saw a child smacked. I also recently spent a happy half day at the Botataung Pagoda and environs and watching stevedores using an old tally stick payment system when unloading/loading a boat with rice/girders. I imagine the same system was in use in the 30s.

    • Adrian Rice says:

      A delayed update. Cycling around a few villages over the past few years Ihave witnessed the beating of kids by, presumably fathers. In one case using a bamboo cane.

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