She asked, “Do you mean to say, grandma, that if these warrior princes were there, Upper Burma would not have fallen under the British Rule?” “No,” said her grandmother. “We would still lose the war, for, at that time, no one could stop the rising of the British Empire. But, at least ‘ The Battle of Upper Burma’ could have earned a place in the annals of war like Hannibal’s fight against Rome, or King Arthur’s fight against the Saxons, or King Harold’s fight against the invading Normans.”
Her literary career began in 1932, when she translated a poem of Sir Walter Scott and sent it to Rangoon 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 earned her pen name. But all was not well at home. With her father’s obstructiveness and her mother’s disapproval of ‘clever girls’, things got 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 papers. She had to hide them and do her writing when everyone was in bed.
I shall not dwell too much on the story of her unhappy childhood and youth, and her escape from the tyranny of her father. It could have made something torn from the pages of a Dickens novel and could have earned her a nickname like “Female David Copperfield”.
Regarding her meeting with my father, U Khin Maung Latt (1915-1996), whom she referred to as “Ko Lat”, she wrote in her autobiography as follows:
“He was the boy next door. He had left college, an undergraduate, not being able in 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 shared the same interests in books. I read the books he recommended and the 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 – a long alliance.”
Regarding her political involvements of 1937 and afterwards, she wrote:- ” Had this even tenor of our way gone on for a few months or so, Ko Lat and I might have slipped quietly into married life. My rosy dreams of the future during the interval of a few months before our marriage turned out to be a nightmare of stormy 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 recounted the part she played in the demonstration of 1938 as follows: – “Three girls and I happened to be in the front line right after the standard bearers. It was rude shock when we found ourselves confronted 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 Independence, sharing the joys and sorrows of the political figures like U Nu, Thakin Than Tun, Thakin Ba Hein, General Aung San, Dr. Ba Maw, U Kyaw Nyein, U Ne Win and others.
Also in her autobiography, she recounted a difficult phase of her life in the following way: –
“Now, I have come to one of the most difficult chapters of my life, for it was then that my misadventures stayed into the realms of faith and religion.
“I was prejudiced against meditation or any religious practice which I took to be only for people who had nothing better to do or those who wanted to put on airs of holiness or those who had no courage to face life. It was nothing but escapism, pacifism, pessimism, meant only for lazy cowardly people, ……………. I thought.”
The story of how her meeting with two monks changed her outlook and made her regain her faith in Buddhism cannot be to told her, for that alone would have made a treatise on Buddhism.
She became a mother-in-law in 1967, a grandmother of twins, a boy and a girl, in 1968. In a 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 Burmese “Zatpwe” ( a kind of a mixture of play, concert and opera ) in time to stop me from becoming an interfering 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 organizing myself better and writing more than before”.
The landmarks of her literary career may be summed up in the following way:-
|1932||Patroitism (a poem that earned her pen name)|
|1936||College Girl ( a novelette for serialization in “The Sun”, a daily paper)|
|1945||Three Years Under the Japs|
|1956||13 Carat Diamond ( short story published in “The Guardian” magazine, later included in ” 50 Great Oriental Stories” in Bantam Classics.)|
|1963 to 1968|| Heroes of Old Burma,
Quest for Peace ( an autobiography)
(Both serialized in “The Working People’s Daily”)
|1970|| Her Infinite Variety
( a prize-winning short story in the ‘Horizon‘ magazine short story competition).
The Four Puppets
( included in ‘Folk Tales of Asia‘, UNESCO )
Anawrahta of Burma
(publication of “Heroes of Old Burma“, which was later re-printed under the titles, “Anawrahts”, and “King Among Men”.)
|1976|| Colourful Burma
(a practical and poetic guide for the visitor who wants something better than a tourist view of Burma, later reprinted under the title “Colourful Myanmar”)
• Facets of Life at the Shwedagon Pagoda
|1977||Burmese Scenes and Sketches|
|1980|| Flowers and Festivals Round the Burmese Year
Kyaikhtiyo — (a short history of Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, published in the Asia Magzine.)
|1981|| A Pagoda Where Fairy Tale Characters Come to Life
( A tale-like description of Mai La Mu Pagoda in the outskirts of Rangoon, 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 Burma selections of which have been published in the Pyinsa Rupa Magazine.)|
During the last years of her life, debilitating and disfiguring arthritic pains made her spend most of her time in bed. Regarding her fight against the spasms of pain, she remarked, “Sometimes I lose, sometimes they win.” Quite surprisingly, compared to what she suffered, she died in peace.
• Khin Myo Chit: writer and journalist, born: May 1915, died: 2, January 1999,
• Husband: U Khin Maung Latt (1915-1996)
• only son, Dr. Khin Maung Win, Retired Professor of Mathematics;
and daughter-in-law, Mi Mi (a) Shwe Yi Win,
• twin grand children: boy-twin, Maung Maung Win (a) Maung Yit,
• girl-twin, Mi Mi Win (a) Junior Win,
one grand daughter-in-law, May Than Htay,
• one-great grand daughter, Pwint Phyu Nanda
Dr. Khin Maung Win
Retired Professor of Mathematics
505/8 Pyay Yeikha,
Pyay Road, University P.O.