Fight to save Orwell’s Burma house

Updated 14 September 2013
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Fight to save Orwell’s Burma house

Cobwebs cover its furniture and its rooms are long deserted, but a crumbling house in northern Myanmar is at the center of a conservation battle by locals who say it was once home to George Orwell.
The remote trading post of Katha on the banks of the Irrawaddy — and the house lived in by Orwell in the 1920s — were immortalized in the acclaimed British author’s first novel, “Burmese Days.”
Decades later, as the country emerges from nearly half a century of harsh military rule, a group of artists has launched a campaign to protect the legacy of one of literature’s most scathing critics of dictatorship.
“I am trying to do what I can to restore all the buildings in the book and to attract attention to the country and to the town,” said artist and Orwell fan Nyo Ko Naing.
The two-story house stands abandoned in an overgrown tropical garden in the remote town which lies about 250 kilometers — or a 13-hour train ride — north of Mandalay.
The campaigners want the home and nearby European country club turned into a museum, in a country where many colonial-era buildings have already fallen victim to the wrecking ball as investors flock to what they hope will be the region’s next hottest economy. A young Orwell, then known as Eric Blair, arrived in Burma — now called Myanmar — in 1922 and stayed for five years, working as a policeman in the country, which was under British rule at the time.
In the novel, Katha is called Kyauktada, but everything else is the same.
“The Tennis Court, British Club, jail, the police station and the military cemetery are in the book and really exist in the town.” said Nyo Ko Naing.
The wooden and brick house has been empty for 16 years.
Some old pot plants have withered and died and the upstairs balconies are too unstable to stand on. The empty rooms echo with Nyo Ko Naing’s footsteps, which leave prints in the dust that has built up over the years.
“Orwell took many raw materials for his book ‘Burmese Days’ from here,” Nyo Ko Naing said. “I think this house and all the other places in Orwell’s book should be turned into a museum.”
“Burmese Days” is a scathing critique of British colonial rule, with the European characters’ constant drinking and poor treatment of the Burmese locals a running theme.
The Burmese characters also come in for harsh criticism, with the magistrate portrayed as scheming, obese and corrupt.
Myanmar is now opening up and over the past couple of years more and more tourists have come to Katha, on the trail of Orwell.
“The country is open now. It is no longer isolated,” said Oo Khinmaung Lwin, the headmaster of the local school. “I will teach my students so that they know more about George Orwell.”
Although long thought to be Orwell’s home, there is some doubt whether a policeman would have lived in such a grand house.
Across the road from the house lies the tennis court, and beyond that the European club.


Jada Pinkett Smith skydives in Dubai

Updated 17 October 2018
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Jada Pinkett Smith skydives in Dubai

DUBAI: Jada Pinkett Smith took to the skies of Dubai to jump out of a plane this week, skydiving in honor of her husband’s 50th birthday.

Will Smith celebrated his big day by bungee jumping from a helicopter in northern Arizona last month in a stunt billed as a leap “in the heart of the Grand Canyon.”

However, the “Fresh Prince” did not jump at Grand Canyon National Park but over a smaller gorge on the Navajo Nation, The Associated Press reported.

For her part, Pinkett Smith decided to go head-to-head with her thrill-seeking husband by skydiving in Dubai.


“He said this is my birthday gift to him. He was like, ‘I want you to come to Dubai and I want to see you skydive. That is what I want for my birthday’,” Pinkett Smith told People magazine. “I was like, ‘Really bro?’ I haven’t done a damn thing Will has wanted me to do in seven years!” she said. “I think for Will, he has always been adventurous. For now, in his life, he has released himself to be more of that. I’m not really adventurous in that way and he has been having his adventures and I told him, ‘These are the years – you’re turning 50, so this is the year of yes for me to you because I’m always telling you no’.”

She shared a photo of herself about to jump out of the plane strapped to a professional skydiver at Sky Dive Dubai on Instagram and captioned it: “Oh…by the way…I jumped out of a plane today.”

She was in the city with her wise-cracking husband, who earlier in the week posted a photo from a bathroom in the iconic Burj Khalifa.

The funnyman, who plays the role of the genie in the upcoming live-action version of “Aladdin,” posted a snap in which he is sitting on a toilet (fully clothed, don’t worry) in a bathroom in the tallest building in the world.

“Sitting on top of the world,” he joked in the caption.

The couple enjoyed a range of activities in Dubai, including a visit to the serene dunes of the city’s surrounding desert, where Pinkett Smith shared an inspirational message in an Instagram video about finding her path and facing feelings of loneliness.

“Thinking of those moments I compromised myself in fear of being alone,” she captioned the video, in which she can be seen wearing a traditional shemagh headpiece wrapped around her head.

The actress also got the chance to spend some quality time with elephants and thanked Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum for the opportunity, captioning a video of the playful animals, “I made a new friend today. I love elephants. They are soooo intelligent. Much love to HRH Sheikh Hamdan @faz3 for this opportunity (sic).”