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  • Writer's pictureL.J. Singh

BURMA KARMA - An Age Miracle

Updated: Nov 7, 2021


This one is a never-heard of the incident, which did happen to some close acquiescences of the writer, quite a few years earlier. I came to know about this real-life anecdote when I settled down at Amritsar after my retirement from my service.

Before the Independence of India, many of our countrymen, especially artisans from Punjab and other states were doing small business and services in nearby British ruled countries like Burma, East Africa etc. Many of these Indians were serving in Police, Railways and other departments, and used to settle down in these countries after their retirement, others will return to their home in India. Sometimes some will return to India from their adopted countries even before their retirement and look for a job in their home town or near about.

India & Burma (Myanmar) Map
India-Burma (now called Myanmar) Map

World War II brought about our share of tribulations also and many of our own people serving in the war-affected countries like Burma had to leave their well-established business and jobs, returned to India, many of them as destitute.

This is about a man from Amritsar in Punjab, who had to leave Burma, after the Japanese invasion, before his retirement from a government workshop in Rangoon. He returned to his family and his ancestral home in Amritsar, the city of his birth, where his first-born son was serving in an Indian Govt. workshop. He became Burma Karma from just Karm Singh to his friends and neighbours in his locality home street. (Real name changed). He started looking for a job in Amritsar itself.

So, our Burma Karma, with vibrant perfect health, his reward for a simple & indulgence free living when away from India, applied for a skilled job in the same Govt. workshop where his son was serving for quite a long time. He expected to get the job easily due to his experience and service abroad. In those days when formal education was a rarity, there was hardly any documented proof of age or date of birth of an applicant. Even parents will be approximate when asked about the age of their child.

For technical jobs like that of carpenter, fitter and mechanic etc; even in Govt. workshops, suitability and capability for the job and skill of the applicant was judged by actual trial as well as on the job performance. The word of the concerned officer, mostly an English man, interviewing and appointing the applicant was final & binding.

Our Mr Burma Karma exuding confidence in his capability and professional experience, though somewhat reticent otherwise, appeared before the English Sahib in charge of employment. As expected, with his satisfactory answers in smattering English and confident posture, he was readily considered fit for the applied job.

A long period of authority, power and privileges had fortified the English officers in India in their belief that they are all-knowing and a law unto themselves. And to some extent due to difficulty in communication with a hesitant applicant such English officers used to record their observations about, even the age of the applicant, according to their own perception and judgment.

old factory

In our case, our protagonist was a strapping man, with a healthy, vibrant and an agile bearing, supporting a shimmering black dyed & well-tied beard, who looked younger than his years. The employing English officer was well impressed with him and his positive personality, thus judged his age according to his own perception and made the required entry in his service records.

After the Independence, this workshop was taken over by another department of the Government along with the employees and their service records. As the time passed, both the son and father grew older, but believe it or not, the son became older than his father, at least theoretically, in-service records, unknowingly to both of them. It appears that when the son had joined the service, a different English officer must have judged his age much more than the actual age of the son, quite the opposite to what happened in the case of his own father whose age was recorded quite less than the real age from his smart and sturdy physique.

So, when the son retired and left the service, his father, and our protagonist Mr Burma Karma was still serving. AND HOW MUCH IT MAY APPEAR TO BE IMPOSSIBLE AND AMAZING, THE FATHER DID RETIRE AFTER THE RETIREMENT OF HIS SON, ALBEIT FROM A DIFFERENT DEPARTMENT OF THE SAME WORKSHOP."

Written By-


Retd.Chief Engineer,(IMS)

Amazon Winter Essentials-

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1 comentario

jagjeet singh
jagjeet singh
29 sept 2021

Our parents also recalled our age by relating to historical events and calculating the age...viz., first child born after ____ many years after partition.. 2nd one born around the time of China war or after Asian games etc..

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