Mitra Sharafi, a legal historian writes in…
I am very excited to say that P. D. Patel’s My Fifty Years in Burma (Rangoon, 1954) is now up on my website. This remarkable out-of-print memoir tells the life story of a Parsi lawyer who survived the Japanese occupation of Burma in WWII. Thanks to to Zareer Sam Ruttonsha, Firdaus Sam Ruttonshaw, Semine Jal Patel, and Rubina Jamshed Patel for sharing this scan.
MY FIFTY YEARS IN BURMA
With a view to find a suitable place to settle down in life, after a peregrination through most of the important cities of lndia; from Bombay
to Peshawar, from Peshawar to Madras and from Madras to,Calcutta, from which city with the help of Thomas Cook & Sons after a pleasant sea voyage, I arrived in Rangoon on the afternoon of 30th January 1908.
I knew no one in Rangoon, having no relations and no friends. I was a total stranger. I had no knowledge about the country. I went to the Strand Hotel but there was no accommodation available. I went to the Royal Hotel in Merchant Street run by one Mr. Stewart, whom I later in life knew well, as he had acquired a property in my home town of Kalaw. At the Royal I drew a blank. The place was full of visitors. I was directed to Chisa’s, a small hotel run by an Italian in Dalhousie Street facing Fytche Square (now Bandoola Square).
I felt very unhappy and uncomfortable, though the proprietor did his best to please me and make me comfortable. I believe it was a Saturday. Next morning I took· a stroll in the town. On my return to the hotel I inquired whether I could get a small cottage where I could live in comfort and peace. I was directed to go to Insein and given instructions how to reach the place.
In the afternoon I boarded a local arriving at Insein about 5 pm- engaged the usual horse conveyance then plying. To my surprise, the gharry-wallah told me there was no hotel and there was no rest house. I was at my wit’s end, but the kindhearted gharry-wallah came to my rescue. He enquired whether I was a Parsi. When I said yes, he smiled and told me that he was going to take me to a house where two Parsi gentlemen were living and accordingly he drove me to the house.
It was a nice little double-storey bungalow on a high ground. Seeing the gharry, two gentlemen came out of the house. To my great surprise and pleasure, one of them was a friend who was with me in London studying at the same time. I explained to him my difficulties, and he and his friend kindly suggested without hesitation that I should stay with them. I accordingly accepted their invitation with a condition that I must be considered a Paying Guest. The other gentleman fortunately came from the same town as myself-city of Surat-where his father was Lieutenant-Colonel, I.M.S. in charge of the city’s hospital and his brother was a schoolmate with me while his sisters were with me in a drawing class. So I was amongst friends.