Review: The Female Voice of Myanmar

By Latha Anantharaman

A nuanced and insightful story of four women in Myanmar’s long struggle for freedom

In its decades of military rule after independence, Myanmar has flickered on the edges of India’s vision, and only in recent years has the country unveiled itself to the rest of the world. Its history is still as raw as yesterday’s newspapers, and we won’t get the long view and smooth narrative for a while yet. Nilanjana Sengupta’s heavily footnoted, indexed history, with archival photos duly labelled, gives us the plodding, dispassionate documentation that seems more appropriate at this stage.

Sengupta tells the story of four women visible in Myanmar’s long struggle for freedom: Khin Myo Chit, Ludu Daw Amar, Ma Thida and Aung San Suu Kyi. Around each she draws a picture of Burmese society, economy and politics of the time. All four chafed under the fabled gender equality of Burmese society, premised on the economic autonomy of women often encouraged and expected to run their own enterprises. This fell far short of genuine equality while allowing society to evade the issue entirely. Casting a shadow over these four is the history of a fifth, Queen Supaya-Lat, chief queen of the last king of Burma, exiled to India by the British. Supaya-Lat was notorious for her political machinations and outright brutality, but she also was an example of Burmese resistance, defying the British so bitterly that they were afraid to let her return to the fortified palace at Mandalay. Read more

Source: The Hindu