Unwelcome Guest

Introduction

CME_JRN01_MajorWhen the Japanese invaded Burma in 1942, my grandfather, Major C.M. Enriquez left his home “Lone Spur” in Mogok. He retreated with the British and Chinese forces into India and for four years he was in exile there.

Unbeknownst to him during this time, the Japanese troops that entered Mogok, discovered his home on the spur of the mountain and were enchanted by it. The terraces planted with 100 cherry trees reminded them of their homeland. The house was filled with decorations and ornaments from Japan. The library was full of the Major’s diaries and journals of the time he had spent in that country.

Not a day went by that my grandfather didn’t pray for the safety of his home. His prayers were answered, for the various officers and commandants who occupied the house throughout the occupation, preserved and protected it from vandalism. By 1945, when he returned to Burma, he found Lone Spur still standing and with most of its contents intact.
This little article written by him describes how it happened that Lone Spur escaped the fate of all the other homes in the devastation of Burma.

UNWELCOME GUEST

I picture him as a tubby little Japanese officer, in a long military cloak. Since he was popularly known to the local Mogok inhabitants, (some whose faces he slapped), as the “Fat Pig”, I gather he was short and stout. Actually, I suppose, he was a very weary, tired little soldier who came out of the Green Hell of Upper Burma, and unexpectedly found himself in that paradise which is my home Lone Spur. The Japanese, who used it as the Commandant’s billet, called it Cherry House.

How Lone Spur, almost the only building in Burma to survive the Japanese occupation, escaped intact with all its contents, is a miracle. In December 1941, I threw it open to refugees from Rangoon, and walked away across those dreadful mountains to India, Reggie—cut off from escape—remained on at Lone Spur. Reggie was a brother-in-law of my daughter’s fiancé.

Reggie and his family did not enjoy immunity for long, though when the other refugees were interned, he was allowed to stay on in the servants quarters as a sort of caretaker at Lone Spur.

For some of my early Japanese enemy guests I have a certain regard. They have been described as good fellows. Major Oshi, for instance, issued a written order for the preservation of the house and its contents. Captain Ishida forbade undesirable persons to approach—and others waxed sentimental about a “Japan from Home”, for the grounds were full of cherry trees, and the house was crammed with Japanese curios that I had picked up during a residence in Japan years earlier.

These Japanese officers wrote ‘verses’, which I presume were Haiku, in my daughter’s autograph book. They gave suppers in the hall, and strummed the piano, though Ishida’s only tune was, somewhat inappropriately, “God Save the King”. There was also a scrapbook I’d kept, in which I had collected the quaint and picturesque documents associated with my travels in Japan. One item, I remember, was a tram ticket which took me over a year to retain from overly conscientious conductors. It gave me more trouble to collect than the third class railway ticket. Apparently these nefarious thefts immensely tickled my guests who always called for the scrapbook after dinner and laughed over it.

Yes, I regret that the Haikus in the autograph book were stolen, and the scrap book too. I shall never again get away with a Japanese tram ticket, or the matchbox cover with prawns on it which a delightful old lady in Kamikochi traded with me for a cigarette.
But by the time Major Okara came into power, many things had vanished—but the still considerable comforts of Lone Spur were as balm to his poor aching limbs. He soon had Reggie heating his bath, insisting on big fires being lighted on the timber floor under the tub. How the house was not set on fire is a mystery.

On an evening he would wander round the rooms with a candle, pulling out books, and examining various objects: and when his only suit of uniform was being washed, he would paddle around in my grey flannel trousers which were far too long for him. Till late at night he would putter about, Reggie, with an eye at a crack in the door, keeping him under observation.

As the months go by, my feelings for the poor little man have changed. True he slept in my bed, wore my clothes, read my books, sold my carpets, but he was a weary little beetle, enjoying his escape from Green Hell (the jungles of Upper Burma). I might have forgiven him a great deal, had there not been a streak of meanness in him.

One day he gave a party, and demanded a dinner set. Nearly all the crockery had by then been stolen, and it was not possible to gratify him. In one of his puny rages he called Reggie into his bedroom (my bedroom) and ordered him to leave. So Reggie went to a Burmese village, and I lost the slight protection to my property that Reggie was able to exercise. I cannot forgive Okara that.

Also, from many indications, it was obvious that the wretched man, when he left, meant to fire the place which had comforted him—which I regard as a poor return for hospitality, involuntary though that was. However, God, I am sure, was hearing my prayer in India for the safety of my beloved Lone Spur. Major Okara was transferred just in time.

Yes, just in time; for three weeks later the rumble of the guns at Myitson echoed across the mountains of Mogok, and drew nearer and nearer, till the 36th Division broke through and the succeeding Japanese Commandant was too busy to take up his residence at Cherry House. With the rest of them, he was swept away southwards and never heard of again. Was he a good fellow—that very last Commandant who succeeded the Fat Pig? He certainly set fire to all the other European houses. Perhaps he forgot about Lone Spur, though that was not likely. I like to think he may have spared it for the sake of Fuku-suke (a traditional china doll associated with good luck) who sat in a glass cabinet, the incarnation of Nobless Oblige, or for the sake of the Haiku which he must have read, and to which perhaps he may have contributed.

Perhaps he recalled suppers at the Cherry House, and his shouts of laughter over the tram ticket. I don’t know. I never learned who he was. Perhaps he was one of the good fellows. Perhaps (and I am inclined to believe it) he was just God’s answer to my prayer.

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