From reading John Masters’ The Ravi Lancers and The Nightrunners of Bengal to the story of the famed horse regiment of Indian Army – Skinner’s Horse , I have been a stickler for works (fiction & non-fiction) on Indian Army. But for Indian writers Indian army hasn’t quite been a subject of interest. Except, an occasional senior General might come up with a memoir or a personal account of a war he participated in or a large commentary on defence issues of the subcontinent. By and large, there has been a lack of imagination and engaging accounts on Indian army.
From such a parched space, emerges Raghu Karnad’s recent book on Indian soldiers in WWII – Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War (reviews here & here) this month. And I am looking forward to read it.
Besides griping about lack of writings on Indian army, I wanted to share a rather moving and heartfelt poem that a serving officer of the Indian army has written on the eve of the 69th Independence day of India. What I like about the poem is that it is not the usual proud and boastful kind of prose glorifying military might but a deeply sensitive one, aware of the violence, of pain, of emotions and above all the lived experience of the men and women who serve the nation.
I watched the flag pass by one day it fluttered in the breeze.
A young Lieutenant saluted it,And then he stood at ease..
I looked at him in uniform –
So young, So tall, So proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He’d stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him had fallen through the years.
How many mothers’ tears?
How many pilots’ planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves?
No, freedom isn’t free.
I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still,
I listened to the bugler play,
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times That Taps had meant Amen.
When a flag had draped a coffin,of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children of mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands with interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard at the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in valley,
Of the price they paid for you and me,
Oh! This Freedom Isnt Free !
Wish you a very Happy Independence Day
(Correction: the poem was attributed wrongly earlier)
To me, reading these lines make poet Wordsworth’s expression ring true, that, poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.