BURMESE DAYS17 NOVEMBER 2015
Nagar Glass Factory, nested behind a thick tangle of bougainvillea and violet trumpets of flowering morning glory, off Parami Road in north Rangoon, is a shattered glass factory and a supplier to Bếp Haus in the most peculiar way. Since Burma’s worst natural disaster in history, cyclone Nargis, came up the Irrawaddy in May 2008, over thirty members of the fourth-generation family business now live off the proceeds of washing up soiled glassware that visitors pick up from treasure-hunting amongst the thousands of glass pieces. Fight- ing off mosquitoes as I walked amidst fallen and still-standing tamarind trees, I found fifteen kerosene lamp bottles to be used as flower jars, three large glass trays to be used as salad and summer rolls platters, and two bell-shaped hur- ricane lamp glasses to be reclaimed as retro-industrial pendent lights.
As I held up the Nagar glasses in the midafternoon sunlight, the beautiful clarity and colour of the glass, past down for generations from the Murano-trained great-grandfather, sparkled and made me squint for a minute. A trishaw with a large white umbrella arrived in front of my eyes, letting an elderly lady off together with her basket of tiffin boxes. I felt like I travelled back in time, mesmerized for a moment that reminded me of the romance of Rangoon. I am glad we chose to come now, at a time that could be considered the country’s dawn, after more than five decades of a very dark past.