We are drawn to human stories that have people who succeed against all the odds. One such story is that of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose determination and faith in her own beliefs, have turned her into one of the most prominent political figures of our time. Her story is not only inspirational, but a lesson in personal conviction and resilience: she maintained her beliefs during 21 years of house arrest before the world realized the profound truth of her thinking and awarded her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
There is so much to be uncovered in Aung San Suu Kyi’s story, and what better way to grasp her strong character than by going to the source; the place where she was born. Yangon (formerly known as Rangon) was the capital of Burma (Myanmar) and its name is roughly translated as “end of strife”. As a child, she could never have known that it would become her calling to bring her country’s turbulent past to a point of peacefulness. To bring it, as her city calls for, to the end of strife.
Burma’s largest city still offers an insight into its colonial past, which survives in the leafy avenues of downtown Yangon. It reminisces of a time of opulence and expansion, but ultimately injustice. Across town, there are slums that highlight the injustice further, and how the dictatorial rule and ethnic division that followed the withdrawal of colonial powers was no solution to the true salvations of justice, equality and freedom.
Despite the turbulent history, Burmese culture has survived. Now, in the times of Aung San Suu Kyi, it has a chance to be appreciated and admired as a celebration of a culture that survived imperialism, division and dictatorship, and is now striving towards the freedom of liberal democracy. Feel the freedom at Yangon’s pagoda festivals (paya pwe); a true carnival of the senses, from food stalls and local merchandise in the bazaars to Yoke Thé (ancient Burmese puppetry) performances, all taking place around the pagodas that have too survived the changing winds of politics in Burma.
It is a country which has rediscovered its love for its culture and traditions, which for so long were downtrodden and dismissed by its rulers. It’s the country that Aung San Suu Kyi loved, and wished to revive. And testament to her will and convictions, in the face of all the terrible hardships she and her people faced, together they have achieved exactly that.