I’m not sure if it’s Kharma, life whispering but as I was sitting outside today in Los Angeles working on a presentation for Tuesday, for some odd reason it dawned on me that my father died in 1984, and, of course, 1984 is the title of George Orwell’s most famous novel.
I don’t have any great thoughts at the present moment about my father and the themes in the book, but a distant light bulb did go off and I looked up George Orwell, actually the pen name for an Englishman, Eric Arthur Blair. And my faint memory was correct.
Orwell worked in Burma in the 1920s; from Wikipedia.
In October 1922 he sailed on board S.S. Herefordshire via the Suez Canal and Ceylon to join the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. A month later, he arrived at Rangoon and made the journey to Mandalay, the site of the police training school. After a short posting at Maymyo, Burma’s principal hill station, he was posted to the frontier outpost of Myaungmya in the Irrawaddy Delta at the beginning of 1924.
In what we will qualify as further irony of the journey, Orwell was sailing to Burma just as my father was born in Lawrence Kansas, September 27, 1922. My grandfather had just taken a position at the University of Kansas having graduated from MIT.
Taking the journey’s ironies one step further, Orwell’s career in Burma was cut short in September 1927 when he contracted Dengue Fever and returned to England, which led him on a journey of considering the justice or injustice of the British colonial system, which lead to his literary focus and career.
As I write this, I realize I don’t actually know and haven’t yet found my father’s cause of death. The only note I have is an old subscription postcard that my mother wrote notes on the day he died. “9:21 pm. Respirator”
I know he got sick in Burma, as did Orwell. But Orwell made it home.