Forgotten Blood: Indian Soldiers in Europe during World War I

Forgotten Blood: Indian Soldiers in Europe during World War I

by Kamaljit S. Sood

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Overview

The social conditions in Punjab at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 were rapidly improving and the locals were happy about the economic benefits that their farmers were reaping. When the British government sought manpower to fight their war against Germany in France Indians made themselves readily available. Within six weeks of the war breaking out, two divisions from Punjab were sent to France under the command of the British. There they fought bravely and stopped the German advance in France. After serving about 18 months in France, most of the forces were deployed in other spheres of war in the Eastern Mediterranean. Kamaljit Sood’s play ‘Forgotten Blood’ recounts the story of the war and the subsequent treatment of the Indians in India leading to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781785270659
Publisher: Anthem Press
Publication date: 02/07/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 250
File size: 657 KB

About the Author

Kamaljit S. Sood is a late entrant to writing. A voracious reader, he decided to put down his thoughts in writing ‘Forgotten Blood’, his first play. Sood is currently working on two other plays and two novels.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

SCENE 1

In the taxi, after alighting at Amritsar station, driving — getting close to the war memorial.

IN TAXI

Silence for a while.

Lily: What are you thinking Pammi? As you look out of the window?

Pammi: I don't know.

Lily: What are you feeling? You've been silent since we got off the train.

Pammi: I don't know what to say.

Lily: Your great grandfather would be proud.

Pammi: Hmmmmmmmmmm?

Taxi Driver: The book. What is the book you're holding so dear to you?

Pammi: My great grandfather wrote a sort of memoir. For me. Something for me to remember him by.

Beat.

Taxi Driver: You are from UK?

Lily: London.

Pammi: But my family is originally from Lahore ... this is my first visit to the country of my ancestors.

Taxi Driver: I see.

Pammi: My grandfather told me many stories that were told to him by my great grandfather.

Taxi Driver: Did he tell you the story of Jallianwala Bagh?

Pammi: Yes. Many times.

Taxi Driver: The British LIKE TO forget this.

Pammi: My great grandfather never forgot it. He was an almost direct witness to the tragedy.

Taxi Driver: Indians will never forget.

Pammi: My great grandfather lost his best friend in the war in 1914. They were both fighting in France. For Britain. His friend lost his life.

Taxi Driver: So many friends lost their lives.

Pammi: Sure. My great grandfather called Guddu lost his langotia friend (childhood dear friend) Jassi. He felt so sad at his death, that he would forever remember him at every chance he got. Jassi, to my grandad, was such a physically and mentally talented person. Guddu could not forgive himself, he used to reminisce, because Guddu forced Jassi to join the army for the war effort, against the values that had evolved in him. And he did so only because he was like his twin to him. He used to reminisce many moving stories about the war and the sacrifice. I wanted to bring my grandad here though he was frail. But he passed away about three years ago. I cannot forgive myself for that miss.

Lily: Which is why we're going to the memorial first. To pay our respects.

Pammi: To finally pay my great grandfathers our respects.

Beat.

Taxi pulls up at the memorial.

Taxi Driver: Here we are.

Silence.

Lily: Okay?

Pammi: I think so.

Taxi Driver: Take your time. I will wait for you.

Lily: Thank you.

Sound of car doors opening.

(They visit the memorial and place the garland offlowers at the foot of the memorial together with a specially handcrafted card with the following words Pammi reading from the memorial?:

IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY FELLOW COMMUNITY WHO SELFLESSLY GAVE AWAY THEIR LIVES FOR THE BRITISH CROWN. Then, at the memorial, he says a few words.)

Pammi: I cannot but think that even you too are my great grandfather, Jassiji. This memorial is a homage both to the dead soldiers and soldiers like you who were killed during the 1914 war. Let this visit be a homage from both my great grandpa and from my family and our special love for you. Gudduji reminisced so much about you. I wish I could have replicated that friendship that you had with Gudduji. GUDDU TOLD ME SO MUCH ABOUT YOU AND WHAT YOU USED TO GET UP TO. THAT you were together all day long for your life here, at school, at cricket, at Kabaddi, at Polo — name what you wish. And at the most glamorous of all — Heera Mandi — the nightlife of choice of the elite professionals who relished the tawaifs and cultural figures alike. And do you remember the early morning bicycle rides that you used to go with Gudduji, picking up damsels on the top floor terraces and passing on your beautiful couplets to them, and flirting with young women who had gone out to fetch water from the wells? And what about the fun events that you participated in like Holi, Lohri, Vaisakhi, where no beauty could pass you without being commented in poetic couplets appreciating their beauty, their bodily curves and their moves. And even the simplest young girl, on hearing your couplets, felt her beauty to be beyond this world? And do you remember the way they grimaced (internally very approving but overtly showing their displeasure) at you as if you were rogues. And then getting a dressing down from your fathers for being "disrespectful" of women (though we later learnt that they felt happy that their sons were becoming real men). You were great friends, tied in heart, mind and spirit and full of altruism for each other and others, the likes of which I have not seen anywhere either in real life or literature. He loved you Jassiji. And I am honoured finally to come over here to pay my respects to that wonderful story of you both. I wish, I wish, I wish that such a story could be repeated. I hope and pray that your spirit is listening to all this and responding to me. I can hear the vibes.

(Pammi wipes some tears)

Lily: (Hugs Pammi sharing his emotions) Your words make me so proud.

Pammi: They were just young boys then, our age, weren't they?

Lily: All of them, and so many of them, were all boys with the best of their lives ahead of them.

Pammi: I cannot even say Goodbye Jassiji. But I am constrained. I have to say that and move on.

(Pammi and Lily, hand in hand, start to walk back)

Lily: Do you feel relieved now? After longing for this for so long in England?

Pammi: "Relieved" is an understatement. Gudduji's inner feelings will always be part of me. This is what I am.

(They get into the taxi. It is still early afternoon.)

Taxi Driver: You have made your great grandad very proud today.

Pammi: (to Taxi Driver) Can we go see Jallianwala Bagh NOW?

Taxi Driver: The place where the British turned their guns to massacre our women and children and our elders?

Pammi: I need to see this place for myself. I too need reminding of that fateful day.

Taxi Driver: Get in. I will take you now.

They get into the taxi. Some music on the car radio. This music cross-fades into 1914.

Pammi: It was a very dark day of what can now be called our shared history.

Pammi: (V/O) The music. I remember the music playing. Jassi and I stood outside of the party about to start the rest of our lives. The music was wonderful.

CHAPTER 2

SCENE 1

Music fades in. Back to 1914 Guddu and JASS1 GRADUATE FROM FORMAN CHRISTIAN COLLEGE WITH A MASTER'S DEGREE — AND THEY HAVE COMPLETED THE1R ARMY OFFICER'S TRAINING PART 1 AND ARE READY TO RECEIVE COMMISSION

Jassi starts a discussion about his future.

Guddu: Feel proud to receive this master's degree certificate.

Jassi: Supposed to be the highest level of education in the land from the best college. Aren't we privileged? We can feel a bit special.

Jassi is in a contemplative mood

Guddu: What's wrong?

Jassi: Nothing.

Guddu: So why so quiet?

Jassi: I'm not.

Guddu: Three months after college that followed our six months of training while at college has landed us in a position of getting a commission. Not bad, isn't it? But you haven't said a word since we got off the train. This is the time for celebration. You walk around like the world is upon your shoulders.

Jassi: How long have we known each other?

Guddu: Since the moment we started breathing.

Jassi: All our lives.

Guddu: More. We probably knew each other while we were in our mums' wombs!!!!! Our mothers were so close together while we were still in their bellies.

Jassi: Even though they did not know our sex while we were in their bellies!

Guddu: But it turned out this way and that made their pre-birth talk meaningful.

Jassi: And we have done everything together.

Guddu: As best of ... best of ... best of ... friends should.

Jassi: You are my best friend in the world Guddu.

Guddu: And you to me. Now what is your problem?

Jassi: No problem. Post-degree reflection only.

Guddu: Good.

Jassi: I am having doubts about joining the army.

Guddu: What? Did I hear you correctly? This is a bombshell for me.

Jassi: I am having doubts about joining the army.

Guddu: What doubts?

Jassi: Doubts.

Guddu: You're making no sense to me.

Jassi: I don't know whether this is what I want. I mean joining the armed forces.

Guddu: Of course this is what you need to do, at this time at least. The Army is in your family blood.

Jassi: So?

Guddu: You cannot abandon at a whim? You have a family tradition to respect.

Jassi: At home, I am constantly being reminded by my dad about the necessity of following the family line and joining the army.

Guddu: And because we are one, I too have chosen the army life. I knew that you had a strong family tradition to honour and the only way for me to be near you was to go to the army with you. At least we will be together. Meet very often. And it is adventurous. And we can be proud of being the living generation of following our Gurus' teachings. This is what we have talked about all our life and this is what made me choose a military career, together with you and the support of your dad.

Jassi: All this is true. But discourses with your sister Guddi from time to time during and after completing our master's left me introspecting about developing my own values as well. They have started evolving.

Guddu: My sister claims she is revolutionary minded. She is too loud for her own good. She has read Gaskell's Mary Barton, Karl Marx and some of the pseudo-revolutionary poetry of Heinrich Heine and compares the conditions of ordinary people there to the conditions here and she is moved. But dad likes her free-moving thought and her devotion to improving human conditions. And that is why she talks to you on these issues.

Jassi: I have concluded that the real meaningful values of life are at variance with the values of the military. And the fundamental values of our gurus also lie in a life other than the military. The military-type life is only to defend the honour and faith of our community. But this military training and military ethos we have had had nothing to do with these values.

Guddu: Your revelation is both true and shocking, but I guess, on reflection, it is very true.

Jassi: I'm sorry.

Guddu: You have to remain in the army.

Jassi: Why?

Guddu: Because I joined it because of all the encouragement I received from you and your dad.

Jassi: I know. I'm sorry.

Guddu: We have the strength of mind and body that people envy us. While we must uphold the altruistic and humanitarian values of our gurus, you cannot at this stage just give up your joining of the army. Jassi, I am telling you, for the sake of our families, an about turn from you at this time is just not acceptable. Give up any thoughts of not remaining in the army. Remain for now in the army and you may be able to review your life objectives in a few years. We have to display stability in our thinking and cannot be seen to be impulsive in our approach to life.

Jassi: It is because of the commitment that I have informally with you that I am still in the army. But, yes, as Guddi says, do I have to serve the imperial government whose only value is to amass wealth at the expense of our ordinary people, using cruel means of control whenever they decide to? I have been questioning this very vigorously.

Guddu: But no, Jassi, you are not leaving the army for now in any case. We will continue this discussion later.

Jassi: I'm serious Guddu.

Guddu: We will discuss it later.

Jassi: There is nothing to discuss —

Guddu: Jassi, listen to me. Listen to me. My sister doesn't know what she's talking about. She's a woman for a start and full of newfangled anger against the Empire, no different from the liberal European thought that we read in our master's course. Her tongue can be sharp, and she is young and utopian. You do not want to be influenced by a utopian for your future. You are a soldier Jassi. Like me. We are both soldiers. Best friends do not betray like this Jassi. It is not what they do.

Guddu and Jassi walk in to the tented ground of the party

Jassi: Ready?

Guddu: To start our lives at last? Of course. Open those doors, my dearest friend Jassi.

Pammi: (V/ O) We were ready? I don't know now. I knew I was ready for something. But I had no idea what. Who does at that age?

Jassi opens the doors into the party. A huge cheer goes up. Sudden applause breaks out. Jassi and Guddu enter in their most colourful kurtas and shining turbans with some military regalia of their regiment.

Rani: Guddi — Guddi — Oh my god ...I...!...!... Guddu is looking awfully handsome. Did you guide him for tonight?

Guddi: Well ... my brother ... is ... always handsome (she says jokingly and laughs) and so is Jassi.

Beat.

Gurnam: A bit of quiet please. Here we are. May I introduce you to these extremely talented two youngsters, who, through thick and thin, have been together all these years and are now celebrating the end of their education career. And they have chosen military careers, passed their training as officers and will shortly lead their men, going into practical army life. Fully marriageable age. Ladies and Gentlemen ... GUDDU AND JASSI ...

(applause breaks out and as it dies)

Jaspreet: Or ... may I say in reverse ... JASSI AND GUDDU ... (everyone's laughter breaks out), not really, both are equal to me and inseparable. It has been my life's great pleasure to see these two together in the way they have been all their lives. Now let us have some Bhangra and get the joyfulness into full swing.

Gurnam: Come, Jaspreet, let us watch these young people enjoy their version of modern enjoyment.

(Music and dancing continues. At times, Jassi and Guddi and, separately, Rani and Guddu, get into some conversation)

Guddi: Jassi virji, how do you feel about this merriment?

Jassi: We could not have imagined anything better.

Guddi: What a pity that you have to join the army, the repressive arm of the foreign rulers.

Jassi: Don't say these words.

Guddi: Why not? It's true, isn't it?

Jassi: No.

Guddi: You're in denial.

Jassi: Guddi please —

Guddi: I know you Jassi —

Jassi: You don't know me enough —

Guddi: You heard me when I spoke to you, and now you have doubts —

Jassi: Stop —

Guddi: Don't you —

Jassi: (staring though regretfully) Stop Guddi please —

Silence. Party stops briefly.

Jassi: Please. (to the crowd) TO OUR NEW CAREERS IN THE ARMY!

(All cheer)

Guddi: Liar.

Jassi: You're right. Everything you say, you're right.

Guddi: So take off the uniform.

Jassi: I can't.

Guddi: Before it's too late.

Jassi: Over these last three months, having seen the actual army life, I have come to feel that an army career is deeply offensive and alien to me. I know you have spoken to me on several occasions of the need to defend our people against oppression by English rulers. Your ideas never really clicked with me even though I have been appreciating what you have been saying. Though, about now, seeing how the army ethos conflicts with my own inner urges, I can see some validity of your thinking. Yet that alone is not a factor in my disavowing of army life. The whole ethos of fighting, fighting, etc. is a bit revolting to my conscience. I would fight to defend my family and my loved ones, but the current army ethos, whether it is the Indian army or the British army in India, is fighting for the sake of fighting. This is what is intolerable.

Guddi: Let us talk more later. For now carry on the merriment.

They carry on their Bhangra and Gidda to the dance tunes. At the other end of the Hall, Guddu is engaged in some conversation with Rani.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Forgotten Blood"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Kamaljit S. Sood.
Excerpted by permission of Wimbledon Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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