two generals

A day to remember in Yangon. A visit to the family homes of two great leaders of the twentieth century: General Aung San and Secretary-General U Thant.

General Aung San is the father of the nation - and the father of Aung Sang Suu Kyi, whose party is soon to assume political power, as the nation opens up further to democracy. For decades, his home was open to the public on just one day in July each year - but now it is open every day. No cameras inside. The array of furniture and beds and photos is simple, yet poignant.

[Aung Sang Suu Kyi is in her mother's arms in this photo.] Her father - 'the general' - led the move against British colonial rule and on into independence. Then on one tragic day (almost exactly one month before India's first independence day, in 1947), as he met with his cabinet, a group of soldiers burst into the room and murdered all but three of them. Aung San was just 33 years of age. The country never recovered. The general never fulfilled his potential as a leader of his people.

Secretary-General U Thant was the leader of the United Nations through two terms right through those difficult 1960s, with the Cold War, the Cuban missile crisis, wars in the Middle East, Vietnam, Congo, India/Pakistan etc. His family home fell into disrepair and was forgotten about, until his grandson discovered it just a handful of years ago. It has been restored and there are plans to expand it with library, lecture, and cafe facilities.

One general caught up in war in the service of his people, the other caught up in peace in the service of all peoples. One home with just a few photos accompanying wife and family, the other home with so many photos accompanying heads of state. One general dying so young, unable to fulfil his potential in such a short career - the other able to fulfil that potential in a long and enduring career. And as I wandered through both homes, it was the soft gentleness in their faces and their eyes that remains with me - a common characteristic of the beautiful people of this land.

nice chatting


PS (1): If you are interested in Myanmar, my earlier visits have provoked other posts: including a reflective time in an Armenian church, a meditation on dozens of bridges off the main road and a review of a book on the life of Aung San Suu Kyi.

PS (2): Not just two generals in Yangon, but also two sisters. Remarkably, my sister (Diane) and Barby's sister (Dora) - two years apart in age - live just 20 minutes walking distance from each other.


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