Saturday, February 27, 2010

Myanmarese writer Ma Thida, in India for the recent Jaipur Literature Festival, opens up about what it means to be a doctor and an activist and how the two impact her writing.

Ma Thida, writer, human rights activist, and practising surgeon from Myanmar, has deconstructed her role in life and abides by her beliefs, convictions and her writer's instincts with a simplicity that both charms and puzzles.

The author of The Sunflower and In the Shade of an Indian Almond Tree, among others, Thida has also documented the damage done to her country by successive repressive regimes. “I have been writing since 1985, 15 years already. Why should I give up writing?” In 1993, she was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for “endangering public peace, having contact with illegal organisations, and distributing unlawful literature.”

Way of release
She found a way of release through Vipassana and meditation. “I started reading Buddhist teachings at the age of 13, so my first exposure to reading was through religious books. I went to a meditation retreat when I was 16 or 17 but it was without a calling from the heart. As a Buddhist I had to do it. But when I had to serve a term for 20 years, I thought ‘Why not take advantage of being in prison to change my life and get out of the cycle to find total liberation… not physical freedom but total freedom. So I meditated for 20 hours. When I was younger, I used to be aggressive, angry, arrogant. After Vipassana, I changed.”

On being both doctor and writer, she says, “I started writing when I began medical school so both go together; it's not a big deal. I manage both since I write from my heart. I am happy to read anything. I like autobiographies; I love to know about people. Fiction is my next choice. Some people's lives have touched me, like Gandhi and Mother Teresa.”

Full report here The Hindu

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