Palace of exile

Did a beautiful palace reconcile one to exile, wondered Taran, as he wandered through Thibaw Palace in Ratnagiri.

March 12, 2023 11:44 am | Updated 11:44 am IST

Ooh, it’s so beautiful,” said Amma, as the car swerved along the winding road and the coastline came into view. The sea was playing hide and seek with us. Peeking out of some corners and then gone again. The water was sparkling, as if a fairy had sprinkled diamond dust on the surface. We were exploring Ganapatipule and today was Ratnagiri day.

“Ratnagiri, here we come. Mangoes, here we come!” I exclaimed sticking my face to the window.

“Haha, I knew your motivation for this trip was mangoes, Taran,” joked Appa.

“Of course, you told me that Ratnagiri is famous for the Alphonso mango.”

“It’s certainly the only reason I agreed,” said Amma. “It’s about 38°C outside.”

Far away from home

“Well, I want to see the Thibaw Palace of the last Burmese King and here we are,” declared Appa, as he switched off the car before of a large compound. “It’s just two kilometres from the Ratnagiri city.” He peered at the building beyond the humungous gates.

“Wow, it looks impressive,” muttered Amma.

“But was King Thibaw impressed? He was under house arrest, after all.”

“What was he doing so far away from home?” I wondered, looking at a beautiful fountain in the courtyard.

“Well, the British defeated the king in 1885 and decided to send him into exile to avoid revolts and uprisings by his followers. This palace was built in 1910 for him. It was styled in typical Burmese design with Burmese teak and all,” explained Appa.

“The British were in Mynanmar, as the country is now called, for the teak in the first place. Burmese teak is world famous.”

“Would you care to dance?” asked Appa mischievously, as we stepped into a large marble-floored hall, which was formerly a ballroom.

“I don’t think I would have danced, If I was in exile,” remarked Amma, glumly. “Apparently, the Burmese queen died two years after moving here and the king a few years later.”

Grandeur gone

I looked around at the palace, walking slowly through the large corridors taking it all in. It had lost its grandeur. One section had a small museum with a photo of the former king and a few other artefacts. “Is this what a golden cage looks like, Amma?” I asked.

“I suppose that’s just what it is. Forcibly evicted from your home and made to live almost 4000 km away could not have been easy. Even if you had a pretty palace to live in.”

We reached the nearby hilltop Thibaw point, from where we were told we could see the Arabian Sea, the Bhatye Bridge and the Someshwar creek.

“Just in time for sunset,” sighed Amma. My parents were sentimental about sunsets and loved watching them together. I watched as they took goofy photographs.

While I had agreed to this trip thinking I would devour mangoes, today’s outing had taken a different turn. “Freedom is the sweetest fruit, isn’t it?” I said, smiling at my parents, as I dived in to photobomb their cutesy pictures.

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