Monday, 21 January 2013

India 1912 - a hot-weather ballad

In these cold-weather days, here's what an unknown soldier of the 1st HLI, then based in Lucknow, wrote about the soldier's lot in India in 1912

A hot-weather ballad

When the west wind blows scorchin’ and fierce o'er the plains,
When you sit 'neath a punkah and pray for the rains,
When your body is burning with prickly heat,
And insects devour both your ankles and feet-
What a glorious country is India!

When you think of your friends in a healthier land,
Far from the scalding heat, dust-storms, and sand,
While you're sweating and cursing and shouting "Kinsho!"
And wondering whether it's hotter below
What a beautiful country is India!

You have read of the wonderful nights in the East,
Of the moonlight and peace when the day's work has ceased.
Well, this may be all very nice in its way,
But it's not my experience, I'm sorry to say,
Of a hot-weather night here in India.

For you find, when you lay yourself down on your bed,
That the brain-fever bird sends you half off your head,
While the jackal and pie-dog persistently howl,
And the chokidar coughs when he's doin' his prowl.
Oh, the joys and blessings of India!

When you rise in the morning at four forty-five
You're as weak as a rat, and more dead than alive.
And you’re soaked to the skin ere your toilet is done,
Whilst you're dreading the rise of the glorious sun.
Oh, why did I come out to India?

Now, you people at home who complain of the cold,
Don't get huffy and cross when the truth you are told,
For you're far better off than the soldier-man bold
In the plains in the summer in India.

The image on this post has been borrowed from Bharat Rakshak and shows British officers and Sikh soldiers from the 45th Sikhs after the relief of Chakdara Fort in 1897.

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