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Friday, September 22, 2017


A story entitled “A European's Mistress ” published in 1934. The title refers to the main character of the story, Ma May Thoun (မမယ္သံု), whose mother, Daw Aw Hma (ေဒၚအိုမာ), has arranged for her daughter to marry a ‘Bo' (ဗိုလ္) named Bo Galay (ဗိုလ္ကေလး) (young European lad). The story opens with the mother and daughter in the kitchen, deep in conversation:

Daughter: Mother, the neighbors are going to sneer at me. Everyone's going to make a
                   mockery out of me.
Mother:    So what if they sneer at you? It's because they are envious of you. Once the 
                   marriage is finalized, they'll be the first to befriend you.
Daughter: They say all sorts of insulting things about Bo Gadaw (ဗိုလ္ကေတာ္)…that 
                    they're very sly…
Mother:     That's because they themselves haven't found a Bo who is interested in
                    them. Don't listen to such things.

Daw Aw Hma instructs her daughter to not dwell on neighbors' apparent scornfulness and to focus instead on the glorious life the marriage will bring her. She tells her daughter: “You just worry about being a good wife, May Thoun. A Bo cherishes and takes great care of his wife and Children …One day, you will make your grand return to the village as a Bo Gadaw and show off in front of those who now scoff at you”.

In the ensuring conversation, the reader learns that while neither of them knows for certain the details of Bo Galay's life (such as his family background or occupation) , they presume that he owns a business that handles extremely valuable goods and that he has secretaries working for him. When the daughter pounts out that she doesn't know how to cook European dishes, Daw Aw Hma tells her not to worry, because “a European has chauffeurs, butlers, servants and cooks,” and reassures her daughter that she won't have to step into the kitchen. But Ma May Thoun quickly finds her (and her mother's) dream of living a Bo life shattered upon her marriage to Bo Galay, who, it turns out, is not really a Bo but a European -looking Kala / ကုလား (Indian).

The story, like the cartoon“On Being a Foreigner,” cautions Burmese people who view Anglo-Burmese liaisons as socioeconomic leverage. But the author renders Daw Aw Hma and her daughter's visions of the life of a Bo Gadaw as ill conceived not because they err in their assumptions about the Anglo-Burmese marriage but because Bo Gadaw is in fact all that Ma May Thoun and her mother had expected, thereby reinforcing the allure of the Bo Gadaw.

Ref: Refiguring Women, Colonialism, & Modernity in Burma (By CHIE IKEYA is a assistant professor in the Southeast Asian Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore.)

Chapter 5, Mixing Religion and Race, Page-136-138.

Note: This story was published in Youq Shin Lan Hnyun (႐ုပ္ရွင္လမ္းၫႊန္) in 22 June 1934.

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