I am reading a book called “Hira Singh: When India Came To Fight In The Flanders”. This book is set in the early part of the last century. I think it is set in or around World War I. I am not sure, because this is a bit of history that I have no idea about.
In my view this book, though unknown, ranks up there with books like “All Quiet On The Western Front”. It tells the story of ordinary soldiers, those who have been sent in to fight and die, by the wise leaders we sometimes vote into office.
This is an extraordinary book on a few fronts. One, while it is told in a rather matter of fact manner, it tells of the horrors of war, of trenches being converted into graveyards, for the forgotten and unknown soldier. There is enough wisdom in the book, for me to actually sit there reading with a notebook, writing down quotes from the book.
I shall, in the coming weeks, inflict some of these on you. They are worth pondering over.
It is a story that tells of honour, of comradeship, of leadership in some of the harshest conditions you can imagine; it tells of pride, of conviction.
These are values that we would do well to remember, in my view.
We often talk against war, and I am against war as anyone else. Yet, there is great honour in those who are sent to fight. There is much that we need to learn from them.
They are not perfect, yet they are people who we can look up to, often, and salute.
Why are they sent to war? Why are they sent to die, to suffer, to suffer psychological trauma for us, often when this is not necessary?
And how is it that, despite all this, they maintain some of the highest standards of valour, of pride, of leadership and comradeship?
And how is it that, when we send them to war, we often forget these very values that we expect them to maintain?