by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
… a tale of the Boer War, vibrant with anger and with exasperation at the way the war is being waged. These emotions are expressed by Umr Singh …. and they are the more vehement for being poured through the narrow channels of his comprehension and his code.Charles Carrington (p. 310) calls this:
a powerful but vindictive tale … a hint of what the British imperialists might have done if they had behaved as they were expected to... The violence with which the treachery is answered is shocking, but then Kipling means to shock us, and, as always, he knows how.See also Jad Adams, Chapter 7 “No End of a Lesson”, a quotation from Kipling's verse “The Lesson”. Other verse in similar vein includes “Song of the Old Guard”, “The Islanders” “M.I.”, “Bridge-Guard in the Karroo", and “Boots”. See also “One View of the Question” (Many Inventions) and “In the Presence” (A Diversity of Creatures) Also "A Letter from Golam Singh” (From Sea to Sea, Vol. 2 p. 392) which examine life in Great Britain as seen through Indian eyes.
The scenario which you describe seems very improbable and although I do not know of any example of this actually happening, officers of the Indian Army were allowed fairly extensive time on furlough, so it would in theory be possible for one of them to have travelled to the war in South Africa. He would not have been able to join a regular regiment, so would have had to serve in one of the locally raised contingents. Other ranks would not have disappeared for extended periods of time on ’sick leave'.
The Indian Army may not have been deployed in South Africa as such, but there was a small Indian military presence. For example, Lumsden’s Horse, an Indian volunteer unit, served there, and the Queen’s South Africa Medal was awarded to a number of Indian soldiers. [M.B.]