R.D. Burman and Aung San Suu Kyi

The talent show Indian Idol in a recent episode had the top 10 (or was it top 7) candidates sing the songs composed by the great music director R.D. Burman. It was a treat. But my mind distracted to wonder which part of India did the Burman’s come from. I had the impression that he was a Bengali but then i had also heard that his father S.D. Burman, another great music director, was from Manipur. I didn’t bother to give that more thought and left it at that like we normally do for the millions of thoughts that cross our minds.

Incidentally, I picked up the book ‘Dancing in Cambodia, At Large in Burma‘ by Amitav Ghosh from the Eloor library.  It is a very interesting anthology which has a combination of history, travel and journalism. In the piece, ‘At Large in Burma’ i got to know that Burma (now known as Myanmar) consists of many ethnic groups: Burmese, Karen, Rakine, Shan, Mon, and many smaller groups. The Burmese i.e. the Burmans  are the largest of them. General Aung San, a Burman, played a major role in securing independence from the Japanese and the allied forces  and was head of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League that emerged victorious in the elections held in 1947. He was widely believed to take over Burma’s leadership from the British in 1948. However, this did not happen because of his assassination.  The well known pro-democracy leader and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is his daughter. She was 2 when he was assassinated.

So it is likely that R.D. Burman’s forefathers might have come from Burma.  After all Burma shares a border with India and as the author mentions elsewhere Calcutta is closer to cities in Burma: Rangoon or Mandalay, than to Delhi.

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