- by Dr. Khin Maung Win ,
Retired Professor of Mathematics,
505/8 Pyay Yeikha, Pyay Road, University P.O. , Yangon. Myanmar
Daw Khin Myo Chit
• Author, both in Burmese and in English
• Literary career began in 1937. See pix on right.
• Assistant Editor, Working People's Daily (in English)
• Family: spouse - U Khin Maung Latt, son - Dr. Khin Maung Win
Biographical sketch - by son Dr. Khin Maung Win
Her Infinite Variety and other stories
Stories and Sketches of Myanmar
Thirteen Carat Diamond and other stories:
¤ Electra triumphs
¤ Facets of Life at the Shwedagon Pagoda
UKT notes :
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- by Dr. Khin Maung Win
Very few people know that her real name is Ma Khin Mya. Her close relatives and friends call her by her real name. Young people call her Ma Ma Mya or Aunty Mya. Older people call her Ma Khin Mya. But to most people she was known under her pen name, "Khin Myo Chit".
She was born at the time when people generally had low expectations of woman, when no parent would hear of a young respectable lady entering a profession, and a humanatarian education may be permitted, but only to be able to write B.A under one's name and make impressions on people. "What a pity she's a girl." that's what she always heard people saying all the time.
Her grandmother had been a maid of honour at the court of King Mindon. Many times, she recounted to her the events leading to the mass execution of King Thibaw's royal relatives by the Queen Suphayalait. "It's a blot on our history", she used to say. She then related to her how the great warrior princes like the Prince Kanaung, the Thonsaire Minthagyi (literally translated the great Prince Thirty, so named because he could climb up a wall of thirty yards in height using his bare hands and feet) and many others were executed during an internal intrigue." We lost all the great warrior princes, so that when the British marched to the capital city of Upper Burma, there was not even one person to throw a stone at the invaders."
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
"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 wielding 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
¤ 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.)
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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
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by Dr. Khin Maung Win (son of author)
When Frank Capra, a famous movie director and winner of several awards was asked what advice he could give to the future generation, he said, "Do not follow trends. Make your own trends." It was the advice that Daw Khin Myo Chit followed and the trend she made was the publication of Colourful Burma (now Myanmar) in 1976.
Since then her stories and sketches have earned a place unprecedented before her, unrivalled in her time and skill without success or after her in presentation of Myanmar Life, Thought, Culture and Custom, for the general reader, especially the outsider.
This is the second volume of short stories and sketches after 13 CARAT DIAMOND AND OTHER STORIES. It is also a response to the readers' interest stimulated by the publication of COLOURFUL MYANMAR, which Bronwen Hammet of UNESCO featurescalls' a practical and poetic guide for the visitor who wants something better than a tourist view of Myanmar'.
It is said of Jack London that' he was one of those rare writers whose actual lives matched the excitement of their fiction. 'The same may be said of Daw Khin Myo Chit and many of her stories, which give glimpses of her life and times, in one way or another, be it her own recollections, or her observations, or conversation pieces, or tales woven out of some facts of Myanmar Culture.
Her Infinite Variety is drawn from her childhood memory. It is not difficult to see that the girl in the story is the author herself. The tale of lost love is a true story of the old puppeteer recounted by himself. Talking about the old puppeteer, the author once remarked, "Now that I think of it, I don't think the old man would have married her even if he had a chance, for I really believe that he was more in love with love for the girl than the girl herself. Yes, I think the really enjoyed mooning over her in that way. He was a real romantic, that one."
Yet another story involving puppets is the The Four Puppets, a tale of a
completely nature. It is a tale woven out of the four mythical figures of
Myanmar theatre: a deva, an ogre, a zawgyi and a hermit. Written in the form of
a folk tale, it is actually an allegory, each figure representing a virtue or a
The deva (heavenly being) represents wisdom and judgement.
The ogre (giant) represents cruelty, strength and villainy.
The zawgyi (a demi-god with a magic wand) represents glamour, power, vice and mischief.
The hermit represents purity, peace, tranquility and guidance.
When the story was published in 'Folk Tales of Asia', a UNESCO publication in 1976, it puzzled a certain scholar who was doing some serious research on the origin of folk tales. After a long research, he concluded, rightly that this particular tale was the author's own invention. On receiving a letter from the scholar to that effect, the author remarked, " I could have told him that, if only he had asked me." Bouquet of Wild Oats describes an event in the beginning of her literary career. It is a piece taken from her autobiography and shows the low status of women in Myanmar at the turn of the century.
The Shinlaung's Father deals with a part of the religious life of Buddhist Myanmar. It is about the all-important novitiating ceremony where Buddhist boys are ordained as disciples of the Buddha. The ceremony ranges from a simple one with the boy concerned, a monk and the boy's parents or guardians to one celebrated with great pomp.
Progress of Set-back? is a page torn from her autobiography. It recounts the
author's first experiences in Buddhist meditation. Instead of words of praise
and piety for the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, it describes her fears,
doubts and her pains. Her feelings are so frankly and vividly described in her
own words, saying,
"Pains and aches during the sittings such as we had never had. It seemed a mad thing to do. To go to a place out of town just to take a beating. We often had doubts about our own sanity. "How it makes her so understandable form the point of view of the ordinary layman!
There are many more and it is hoped that this collection will give the readers entertainment and pleasure, as well as information on Myanmar Culture, Custom and the Buddhist Way of life.
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by Dr. Khin Maung Win
The collection of stories and sketches
contains the works of my mother
Daw Khin Myo Chit which have not been
included in other anthologies like
13 Carat Diamond and Other Stories
( Sarpay Lawka), Colourful Myanmar
(Parami) and Her Infinite Variety and
Other Stories (Parami). The present
collection is arranged under the sub-titles: -
Life and Times
Portrait of a Writer
Under Life and Times are stories and sketches which give glimpses of her life. Who Am I? is an article that appeared in the Guardian magazine in July 1960. It was written when she received a form, a sort of a questionnaire to be filled with a request to be sent back together with a passport photo of herself. She was to be one of the people included in the Who's Who section. Instead of filling in the forms as requested, she sent back this humorous article, Who Am I? which anticipated Jackie Chan's movie of 1999.
Aye-yeik-tha, literally translated cool and pleasant shade is the name given to a shabby ramshackle shed of a home which she and her family shared with U Htin Lin (another writer) and his family during the early 1950s. The story written in collaboration of U Htin Lin appeared in the Guardian magazine in July 1961. The location of Aye-yeik-tha is somewhere in the east of Tagaung hall, south of Pagan hall and west of the University of Distance Education (UDE), just at the end of the road of Kha-yai trees. It is now being occupied by the extension buildings of UDE , but the walls of iron bars still stand today as they did in those days. I still have a feeling of nostalgia whenever I walk along the road of Kha-yai trees. Our Poor Country Cousins is a story which was found among the papers of my mother after she passed away. It has never been published in her previous collections. Recently however, it appeared in the Beauty Magazine, March 2002.
The Day I Sold Jack fruits relates her misadventure when she tried to make profit by selling jack fruits. After the way things turned out, the story concluded with the remark "Perhaps this is one of the mysteries of trade and commerce, which is not given to me to understand."
Under Buddhist Days may be found some sketches of the Buddhist way of life. Progress or Setback? is a page torn from the author's own autobiography. It recounts her own experiences in Buddhist meditation. Instead of words of praise and piety for the Buddha, the Dhama and the Sangha, it describes her fears, doubts and pains. How vividly they are described in her own words, "Pains and aches during the sittings such as we had never had. It seemed a mad thing to do. To go to a place out of town just to take a beating. We often had doubts about our own sanity."
Portrait of a Writer describes her own experiences and feelings of becoming a writer. The Bouquet of Wild Oats describes an event at the beginning of her literary career. It is a piece taken from her own autobiography and clearly shows the low status of women in Myanmar at the turn of the century.
Writers will also be very sympathetic towards her feelings in A Writer's Prayer, especially her saying, "may I have the strength and integrity to reject any word or expression however much I like it, if it doesn't fit into my pattern" and also " I want to go about with a background music of praise and admiration..... bits like "I like your latest" to keep me happy for days..."
There are many more which, it is hoped will give the readers delight, pleasure and entertainment, and information on Myanmar customs and culture.
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PREFACE by Dr. Khin Maung Win
When The 13 Carat Diamond and Other Stories came out for the first time in 1969, the author Daw Khin Myo Chit earned just enough to regain the cost of publication. Knowing these conditions, even the artist U Ba Kyi who designed the cover and drew the illustrations, refused to accept payment of his service. In other words, the book was a financial failure. It however ranked her name among great writers like U Tet Toe, U Khin Zaw, Daw Mi Mi Khine, as one of the Myanmar writers who write in English Language.
Thinking in retrospect, the first edition came out at the time when I was too young and too stupid to appreciate the true value of my mother's work. I thus missed the chance to write a preface for the first edition.
Each story, in one way or another, depicts a part of her life -- be it her own experience or her recollections on a certain event or her feelings and views on a subject or her own version of a well-known tale.
Homecoming may be classified in the category of movies like Ghost and What Dreams May Come, the only difference being that the events in Homecoming are true. Indeed, the feelings of the 'homecomer' are described with such vividness that could only be done by one who had actually gone through such an experience.
The Golden Princess describes a typical happening of her childhood and the opinion that her parents had of her. Such happenings in childhood made a blot on her life which remained to the end of her days.
The 13 Carat Diamond and Of Mice and Men describe her own experiences in war-time Myanmar. In Till the Hair Rots and Falls, the author gives her version of a historical event.
The story of the man who twirls his beard has been heard many times in family gatherings. My uncle U Ba Thaw who wrote his memories under the simple pen name 'a police officer' described the man so well as if he knew him personally that I was under the impression that he must be a real person.
However, the only common factor in my uncle's version and my mother's is the final conversation between the son-in-law and the father-in-law. According to my uncle, the man who twirls his beard was a young man who lived next door. Seeing the young man twirl his beard in deep thought during his high school days, through his university career to the day he was married and became a family man led to the final conversation which is the climax of the story.
This collection of stories and sketches will give the readers entertainment 'pleasure, glimpses of her life, as well as information on Myanmar Culture which the author is so proud of.
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