Burma. The sound of it has the same effect as a vaporous cloud of sweet-smelling smoke. The mind is drawn into sharper images and visions that typify the characteristics of that place. At the same time, the mental agility achieved can evaporate as though it did not occur at all.
George Orwell’s first novel, “Burmese Days”patterned the same idea of government control for his two other novels “1984” and “Animal Farm.” He understood more than anyone: the Burmese people, daily living in a corrupted police state and the country under British occupation. He lived in Burma during the nineteen twenties working for the British Imperial Police.
Orwell introduced U Po Kyin a Magistrate of Kyauktada that achieved his post through blackmailing someone wanting the same civil position. Through his ability to extort payments from what he demanded, he developed a loyal following by sharing some of his revenue with them. Bribes were expected to be taken by everyone associated within the network of local power. British officials were not. It was understood and even encouraged by none other than Kyin. When a prominent Indian physician, Dr.Veraswami refused to take bribes. U Po Kyin was bent on destroying the doctor’s reputation.
The great fun of having power is getting in. For those with supreme power, it’s not letting them. “The Club” was the seat of British power in Kyauktada. Its membership consisted of the British monied and those British officials serving at the time. It also became the last British Club that refused to admit Orientals.Their aversion to them was as intense as the heat in the steaming Burmese jungles. Although, the same club members were not above cavorting with Burmese women..
The contrast between John Flory’s disdain for his British countrymen and Dr. Veraswami’s admiration for them. It made for an almost bearable discussion between the two men.For as much as Flory found wrong, the good doctor found right. Although, Flory would not stand against his own kind for an Indian doctor’s admittance to The Club. The backlash from them would be unbearable.
Flory found himself in somewhat of a longing to return to England and settle down. However, he realized that he also wanted to remain in Burma sharing his life with someone while there. His craving for that idea, he met Elizabeth. She was the niece of longtime club members, The Lackersteen’s.
Flory considered her as intoxicating as the usual glass of gin that he drank for breakfast. However, she despised it whenever he talked about anything other than shooting, tennis and what went on at the club. He decided that she was the woman he wanted in his life. However, he first had to pay off his longtime Burmese mistress, Ma Hla May in order to rid himself of her.
Elizabeth and her aunt, decided that a newcomer Lt. Verrall. A polo playing British officer of an Indian regiment was more suited to the kind of lifestyle Elizabeth wanted. At twenty-three, she could not plan on living with her uncle and aunt forever. She must find a husband and soon.
Spurned, Flory returned to the jungle camp facing work problems. In his absence, the men he hired neglected. After he returned to Kyauktada, Flory decided that he would make it right with Elizabeth. His life was meaningless without her. He proposed Dr. Veraswami to club membership as promised. In the voting process at the club’s general meeting, Maxwell was murdered by the relatives of the man he shot during a village uprising. After Ellis, another long time club member thrashed a Burmese boy and blinded him, the stage was set for another riot occurring at The Club..
Finally the rains came drenching the dried landscape. Flory returned to his camp stung by Elizabeth’s refusal to return the love he felt for her. A quick escape on a train by Lt. Verrall, it left her stranded without any hope for a marriage proposal.
U Po Kyin devised a plan to get to Flory. Like a Burmese Daboia, Kyin struck a fatal venomous blow that would turn the other club members against Flory especially Elizabeth.Did the plan work? Would Flory win Elizabeth over if he told her of his love? Would Dr. Veraswami escape Kyin’s other personal attack finally making it into the club? When the rains stopped. Would life go on as normal? Like a wink and a nod, it may or it may not.