On Father’s Day I remember my Dad. He was an exceptionally marvellous man. He died in 1971 when I was just 22. Here is an extract from notes written on loose sheets of paper which I found after he left us. It is his account of the trying times when my family returned from Burma during the 2nd World War.
In Oct ’41 talk of the world war was strong. A Japanese attack on Burma was
expected. When Pearl Harbour fell, the people of Burma became panicky. On
12th Dec ’41, the B.O.C. advised us to evacuate our families as the Sukky
Oil Refinery was a dangerous area. I sent Sreemu and children to a small
town near Henzada.
On 23rd Dec ’41 at 11 am, Japanese fighter planes bombed Rangoon. The fighter planes flew very low and machine gunned the city. The office going people were all caught unawares on the streets. The air raid which lasted for about two hours in steady waves, killed a very large number of people on the road and on the river. In the afternoon when the all clear signal was given, I decided to go to Henzada. I came to the jetty in my car. Locked it but there was no launch to take me across to Rangoon. I persuaded a Chittagonian to take me across the river in darkness on payment of Rs 50/-.
I reached Rangoon at about 8 pm, drenched with river water, which was lashing me in the small sampan in which I crossed the turbulent Rangoon River. There was no
conveyance in Rangoon. All shops were closed. Dead bodies were still on the
street. I had to walk the distance of two miles to the railway station to catch
the Henzada Mail at 9 pm.The train was full. People were sitting on top of the carriages. I purchased a 1st class ticket to get a foot hold in any compartment. I reached Henzada in the morning. Sreemu and children were happy to see me.
On 30th Dec we reached Rangoon and stayed with Dr Anandan, who made arrangements to evacuate women & children from Rangoon. May God bless that generous soul,who helped save the lives of so many people.
A Chinese coal vessel was sailing for Madras and women and children were allowed to board that vessel at 6 am on New Year ‘s Day. We had to leave for the jetty by 3 am. As we were getting ready, there was an air raid on Rangoon in the moon light. We rushed to the shelter. Even there,Sreemu wanted to stand close to me, to get to heaven together.
Before dawn we reached the wharf. They allowed only women and children on the wharf.Other ladies who had no children helped Sreemu, to carry the four little ones who were shivering with fright. Leaving them in the hands of God I returned to Syriam to my post. With God’s grace they landed safely in Madras.
I had a faithful servant Damodhar Nair to look after me. On many occasions, when I was reluctant to go to the shelter in an air raid, he would force me to go. I remember once, he wept aloud, when I said that I would rather die in an air raid than be a prisoner of war in Japanese hands. On 19-2-’42 at 12 noon we received orders to evacuate Syriam within half an hour. The Japanese were only 40 miles from Rangoon.
I went home to pick up Damodhar and my hand bag in which I had packed a shirt, a pair of shorts for change, a few bottles of Horlicks and biscuits and first-aid equipment. I left my house as it was and got into my car on my last trip in that car, to the jetty, where a launch was waiting to take us to Rangoon. Local Burmese hooligans had occupied the house even before the launch sailed from Syriam.
At Rangoon we had to go to Ching Song Palace, 8 miles away from the jetty and wait in the evacuation camp for further orders of movement. In batches of around 50, we went to that palace. It was not a safe place to stay,as prisoners from Rangoon jail and lunatics from the asylum, were released by that time and some of them had also taken shelter in that camp. Most of the people left in fear and by 23rd Feb only 11 of us remained together. We had one revolver which we used by turn on sentry duty, to guard the group from attacks by hooligans.
On the morning of 23rd Feb, we found the wardens of the camp leaving the palace in panic. We got into a lorry and drove the vehicle to the high court building near the jetty. We also got news that SS Jalagopal,which was in the wharf would sail that evening. In the evening, we had to fight our way through the crowds waiting outside the jetty. It was a struggle to get through. I was exhausted by the time I reached the steamer, which sailed in darkness that night.
A Japanese Raider asked us to stop near Basiene. Messages were exchanged between the Raider and Jalagopal. To our good fortune, the Japanese realised that the vessel was full of Indians and let us go. Within an hour we could proceed safely to Chittagong, which we reached on 27th Feb.
The same night I left for Cannanore on a four-day train journey—I was happy
to meet Sreemu and children and all at home.
And that was Dad’s poignant story. I must have got some names and
places wrong and also missed a few passages, as I had copied these
lines from an ancient manuscript
#memoirs #family #refugees #father’s day