A savior of sea people

How Moken Got Their Book

Author: Angeline Koh

Reviewed by Lata Vishwanath

“How Moken got their Book” by Angeline Koh is a very inspirational life story of  Aunty Say Bay, a Myanmar woman , who has dedicated her life for the cause of  Moken , the sea gypsies. Rarely do we come across individuals of such magnanimity, zeal and single- minded devotion. What really touches you is the utter humility with which she has carried on the mission, what she calls as the god’s instruction.

Truly it is the work of god which since time immemorial has given birth to such individuals who could selflessly dedicate their lives for the  less privileged in the society. Aunty Say Bay was born in a normal household and had aspirations to be educated and pursue a career like any individual of her age. After finishing her degree in English and a lecturer’s job, a chance meeting with missionaries changed her life for ever.

This biography of Aunty Say is laced with charming vignettes describing all the important episodes in Aunty’s life, while also giving fascinating insights into the world of sea gypsies. In a simple and clear language the author tells in first person, her life among the sea gypsies of Myanmar, who speak a language of their own but have no written script. Being deprived of a language and education, they are cut off from the rest of the world and are living like Stone Age people even in the modern times. Aunty Say lived and understood their language and took on the pioneering task of creating a script to help them understand and receive at least a basic education. .

Probably all great souls born on earth do undergo moments of low when they question the very existence of god or his decisions. As was evident in a recent article about a book on Mother Teresa describing her painful moments when Mother felt the absence of god. I felt it resonated so much with the heart of Aunty Say Bay who at times of helplessness cried and cringed with god for having put her through such tough life without money or resources. But again her faith in god is reinstated when HE himself sent the help through his messengers.

Besides being highly inspiring and informative, I felt very strongly that this book would achieve its objective if it could ring a bell to the concerned authorities to nominate this noble lady for an international recognition for her tireless efforts in linguistics and education.

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