Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Glass Palace – Credits


As you see credits at the end of a movie, I thought why not do it for the Glass Palace as well. I actually loved this book so much that I just keep finding more stuff about this book rather than moving on to my Reading List, which is BTW is “Hungry Tide”.

So as I don’t have a good memory, I created a character map of all the main characters from the book.

I located all the different places mentioned in the book where all the drama happened, via Google Maps, but I wanted all of them in one frame so that I can visualize it better.

Thanks to Google Maps, with a bit of my Techy intuition, it allows you to save different places in a KML format. I just had to merge all the different files into One and Voila. there was one single view where I can see all the places, Ratnagiri, Mandalay and of course Yangon.

The Glass Palace



Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Glass Palace – Picture Gallery


In the continuation to the last post, I’ve collected few more images, from the places or articles mentioned in the Glass Palace.

I’ll start with the Mandalay, the place from where the Novel starts. I was really fascinated by the descriptions of The King’s Palace and the Fort.

Mandalay’s Palace : I got lucky and Wikipedia already had the images and a brief description about the history of the Mandalay’ Palace and the Burmese Dynasty. Next image is of King Thibaw's Royal Barge on the Mandalay Palace Moat in 1885. And next image is of the Glass Palace, which caught my imagination lacking. I wasn’t able to picturize it. Thanks again to Wiki. There was a mention of Nine-roofed hti of Burma’s kings, and I had no Idea about a Hti, luckily I found it.

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Below is the image of “Mandalay Palace Watch Tower”, from where the Queen Supayalat, saw the British forces advancing towards the Palace. Alongside it is the image of “Fort Dufferin” at Myingan, where the Thebaw’s men fought with British Army.

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I even got a image for food-stall of Ma-Cho, where Rajkumar worked, and it fits the description so perfectly.


Ngamauk Ruby: An anecdote regarding the Nga Mauk Ruby provides an interesting insight into the Psyche of Burmese Kings. Nga Mauk, a poor miner, uncovered a large fine ruby which was later divided into two excellent pieces along an incipient flaw. One half was given to the king, but the other secretly sold. The king learned of the deception when he proudly showed his half to the dealer who had bought the other part. Enraged, he sent his minions to exact punishment. All area villagers were placed into a makeshift stable and burned alive. Even today, some 150 years later, the remains of this horrible cremation can be seen at a spot called “Laung Zin”, which means "fiery platform.


Cape Comorin: This is a beautiful place at the Southern most end of India, called Kanyakumari. If you go to Bombay from Calcutta or Rangoon via Sea, you’ll cross this point.

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Weston Nautilus: There was a reference to this famous painting in the book. Its some kind of Sea Shell, which I had never heard of. I found it a little weird but it has a Unique feeling. At times it looks a bit erotic as well, but that’s just me, so please don’t judge me :) .

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There is a story associated with Last Mughal Emperor of India, “Bahadur Shah Zafar”. After the suppression of the uprising of 1857 the British had exiled the deposed emperor to Rangoon. He’d lived in a small house not far from the “Shwe Dagon”. There was a street in Rangoon, that was named after the old emperor—Mughal Street. Many Indians lived there and it is claimed that there were more Indians than Burmese in Rangoon in those times.

There is a reason why so many Indians were there in Burma, which Mr. Ghosh has written with subtlety.

“In Burma no one ever starved, everyone knew how to read and write, and land was to be had for the asking: why should they pull rickshaws and carry nightsoil?”

Due to the Japanese invasion of Burma, in World War II, Burma suffered greatly. Its economy was shattered and hence huge un-employment. This triggered a feeling of animosity between Indians and Natives as Indian community was the richer and more affluent of the two. There were riots and Indians were no longer required there. This caused a great migration, in which most of the Indians left Burma and migrated to North-east India and Bengal. There isn’t much documented facts related to this migration but as per my research, Millions suffered. Mr. Ghosh has penned it so brilliantly that you can even feel the pain of those people. It shook the core of my senses when I imagined myself among those people at that time.

Shwe Dagon: A really sacred place for Burmese people situated at the Heart of Rangoon.




Gunung Jerai: This is another beautiful place in Northern Malaya lands, on your way to Penang from Rangoon, where most of the Rubber Plantation used to happen.


Sule Pagoda:This is a Buddhist stoopa, situated at the heart of Rangoon. According to legend, it was built before the Shwe Dagon pagoda during the time of the Buddha, making it more than 2,500 years old. Burmese legend states that the site for the Shwe Dagon pagoda was asked to be revealed from an old nat who resided at the place where the Sule Pagoda now stands.


Sungei Pattani is a town in the state of Kedah, in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia. Sungai Petani is the second largest town in Kedah after Alor Star. The name Sungai Petani has its roots from sungai meaning river and petani meaning farmer in the Malay language. Sungai Petani in full means "Farmer's River", due to the huge concentration of paddy fields and farmers in the state. The word "petani" may also refer to "Pattani", a city in present day Thailand to which the river was once connected. Even the old spelling of Sungai Petani was "Sungei Patani", without any reference to farming.

A city in mountainous north Malaysia is called Sungei Pattani. Its ancient Sanskrit name was 'Shringa Pattan', meaning a 'mountain city'

Cameron Highlands: The Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia's most beautiful hill stations.


Chittagong: Its one of the bigger ports of Bangladesh, which was previously in India.

Irrawaddy or Ayeyarwady River


Rafts, made from Teak Logs, the one from which Manju fell while crossing the River. Primarily these rafts were created to move the Teak logs from In-country forests to Rangoon.


Outram House: “I couldn’t figure where the earlier Thebaw bungalow [where the last king of Burma spent most of his years in exile] might be. Asked everyone – no one seemed to know – all said that Thebaw lived in Thiba-palace.” : taken from blog of Mr. Ghosh.

Thiba Palace, Ratnagiri: For years, Queen Supayalat cribbed with British authorities, for a place which will suit their stature, and which Outram house was very unlike. Finally she got it, and this place was later called Thiba Palace. Alongside is a image of Thebaw point, where the King used to watch the bay, from Morning till evening. (Although the name was Thebaw, but everyone in Ratnagiri, call it Thiba nowadays)


Shiko: Couldn’t find any info or any related video.

Cheroot: Burmeese version of Cheap Cigars. I was really surprised to see that how Many women, in Bruma, actually smoke. If you search on Google Images for “Cheroot”, first image you might get of a female smoking it.


Longyai: The traditional costume of Burma in those days.


Sampan: This is the kind of boat which people used in times when there were no Power steamers.


Akyab, the principal port of the Arakan, Now called Sittwe. Arakan, used in British colonial times, is believed to be a Portuguese corruption of the word Rakhine that is still popularly used in English.

Shan highlands: The name of the range is derived from the Shan State and its peoples, said in its turn to be derived from the word "Siam", that occupies most of the Shan Highland area.

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Ava and Amarapura: Former capital of Burmese Kings, before Mandalay.

King Bodawpaya (1781–1819) of the Konbaung Dynasty founded Amarapura as his new capital in 1783, soon after he ascended the throne.

Bodawpaya's grandson, King Bagyidaw (1819–1837), moved the Court back to Ava in 1823. Bagyidaw's successor King Tharrawaddy (1837–1846) again moved the royal capital back to Amarapura. From 1841-1857, King Mindon (1853–1878) decided to make Amarapura the capital again before relocating to his planned city of Mandalay in 1860. Today little remains of the old city as the palace buildings were dismantled and moved by elephant to the new location.

Tommy Dorsey’s band playing “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.”: There was a reference of this track in the book, when Arjun comes over to Alison’s house.


Nyonya food: Typical Malay food, which Saya John was so fond of.


Oo-sis (hsin-ouq) and Teak camps: I found the entire story about Oo-sis and their elephants really interesting.

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Daw Aung San Suu Kyi : Here Ms. Suu Kyi in her house, which Mr. Ghosh described when Jaya and Dinu went to listen Her on of her speech, outside her house as she was under House-arrest. I would have loved it if Mr. Ghosh would have given more insights into the Ideology Ms. Suu Kyi, as I don’t know much about the political scenario of Burma.


Some trivial facts:

  • Burma is now officially called Myanmar, although Indians still call it Burma,
  • Rangoon’s name has been changed to Yangon.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Glass Palace – Cars


I first heard about this book in 2007, during my customary weekend visits to Crosswords. I thought of reading this several times but thought better of it, as I always had this impression that Amitav Ghosh might be a Too emotional kind of a writer and I wasn’t very emotional back then. Last year I read “Sea of Poppies” and from that day onwards I became an avid fan of Mr. Gosh’s work. Sea of Poppies had so many characters, their lives, Social environment of those times, and All of them fitted brilliantly in the theme of the book.

Now coming back to Glass Palace, I loved the book till the time I was reading it, but once it got over and I started my usual research for the book, I somehow I got this idea the book has too much of details about the objects, around the Characters rather than about the Characters.

But being a Techy I love these details, be it Cars, Planes or the Scenic beauties of Burma. Most of the stuff which he mentioned in the book, like the Sea Planes or those Vintage cars, I’ve never seen in my life, So I decided to find more about these things. I started with Mandalay, the Kings’s Palace, Pagoda’s, Ratnagiris stay of the King Thebaw and many more.

I’ve just one complaint from the book which is that I wasn’t able to find any Great Thoughts, like the one you get in a “Shanataram” about the Religion, or about the Mediocrity in “Atlas Shrugged” or About Human Nature from “The Joker” in a “Dark Knight”. Nevertheless It’s an interesting read.

My purpose of writing this post is to create a picture gallery for all the avid fans of “The Glass Palace”. I’ll start with the cars, mentioned in the book.

In the next posts I’ll write about King Thebaw, Mandalay, Rangoon and “Burma of Colonial times”.

The Cars

Oldsmobile Defender 1914




Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A Berlina

Paige Daytona



1930 Austin Chummy




Ford V-8 staff Car

Alvis staff Car



1929 Packard saloon

1954 Czech-built Skoda







I found few references to Planes which were used around that time, mainly between Calcutta and Rangoon. I’d never read much about Sea planes and I found the descriptions really fascinating (when Manju and Neel travelled to Yangon after their Wedding). With their luxury, they sound like luxury Yachts. There are references to Hollywood movies, in which these planes were shown, ( I was too bored with the research for cars and planes so just ignored them.)

Martin C-130 seaplane : Pan Am (Pan American Airways)


Humphrey Bogart’s plane


Hope this post will help the Readers of Glass Palace, visualize the Book a little better.

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