Biography: Victor

Victor in his home

My name is Victor and I was born on Dec. 27, 1946 in Rangoon. I belong to the Tamil minority here in Burma, both of my parents were Tamils. My wife is Tamil, too. We are Burmese citizens and we have six children: five daughters and one son. I’m a member of the Church of England. At the time being, I’m doing missionary work for the C.of E. 

My ancestors came from Pondicherry, a French territory in southern India. I wouldn’t know when they migrated to Burma but I’m sure it was more than a hundred years ago. I have two brothers (one deceased) and one sister. She left Burma in 1964 and started a family in Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) where she lives until today. She never came back to Burma but I visited her in 1989 and I was surprised that the standard of living in India is better than in Burma. Two of my children have also visited their aunty. 

When I was born, my family lived in No. 39, 101st Street in Mingalar Taung Nyunt township. My parents had rented the house for 7 to 10 rupees a month. My father was a reasonably educated man, an active musician and also worked as a music teacher. Unfortunately, he went blind in 1950 and was no longer able to continue as usual. In 1954 I entered a private school, which I left after a year because my parents could not afford the school fees. From then on I ran errands of all kinds, mostly without payment. Sometimes I was given some food. Later I lived with my grandmother in the Railway Quarter.

When I was 14, I got a job at a Muslim store on 38th Street fixing pillows. I was working as a dogsbody and earned 15 kyat a month. I gave 10 K to my parents and kept the rest for myself. I lived in that shop from 1960 to 63. Then I found a better paying job (30 kyat a month) in a printing shop, also on 38th Street. I worked there for two years as an assistant bookbinder. I stayed together with my colleagues in a house on 93rd Street. My next job was at a bookstore (Smart & Mookerdum) where the Sule Shangri La hotel is located now. I earned 45 kyat a month, 25 of which I gave to my parents. I could afford to go to the cinema once a month.

On March 19, 1964, all shops and businesses were ‘nationalised’ by the military government. Private schools and mission schools followed in 1965. Foreigners had to leave the country. Those Indians who had an FRC (Foreigner Registration Certificate) could stay. Hundreds of thousands were evacuated. At that time, the Indian government sent three ships a month to Burma to repatriate their compatriots. I myself had an NRC (National Registration Card) that allowed me to stay. Still, I wanted to leave the country. But since I had to take care of my father and brothers, I stayed in Burma. The bookstore fired me and I found work in a government yarn store.

Smart & Mookerdum's bookshop
Victor and the author in his shop around 1995

In 1966 I married my wife and my boss gave me some money to open a betel stand. There were a number of optician’s shops nearby and over time I acquired a great deal of knowledge about this line of business. In 1982 I managed to open my own stall in the Moonlight Souvenir Shop on Sule Pagoda Rd. not far from the Diplomatic Store. As early as the mid-1970s, I started to get engaged on the money black market. This business became an important mainstay for me. I had picked up some English and was able to communicate with tourists. I taught myself to read and write, I speak Tamil, English and Burmese (I learned the latter script from my children). They do not speak Tamil themselves.

In 1993 I met three Chinese from Singapore’s St. Hilda’s Church. Until then I was a bad man, drinking, beating my wife and children etc. At that time I received Jesus and in 1996 I finally accepted Him as my Saviour. In 1996 I got a guide licence even though I didn’t have a high school diploma. In 1999 I went to Singapore and studied at a missionary college. After that I gave up my black market business and opened a school in Dawbon township where I’m teaching Tamil children. Later I added Sunday school and did religious work. I converted many Hindus to Christianity. My son is a priest in our parish. By the grace of God I have now made many trips abroad. St. Hilda still helps me until today. Sometimes I work as a translator for foreign preachers. I believe that the money I get comes from God!