When your countree’s not at war and politicians are shaking hands,
You need to thank Brahma for the peace in your land,
For when them guns start chattering and explosions mushroom
Then it’s ‘Goodbye, suburban mansion; ‘Ello, refugee camp!’
And nobody knows that better than me –
In many a conflict, I served as the regimental bhisti .
Believe me when I tell that many a soldier
Has lain on the corpse-scattered battleground whispering, ‘Water…water.’
‘E thinks I’m dead but I’m still breathin’ –
I did get shot while taking him some life-saving water,
As ‘e lay in the dust with a bullet in his spleen,
But when everyone thought I was dead, I was shammin’!
‘E was born right ‘ere in Bombay and ‘e often called me ‘brother’;
‘E told me ‘is dream was to become a respected writer.
‘E’d pause from ‘is writing to scratch ‘is shoe-brush moustache;
‘E said ‘e wasn’t ‘appy unless ‘is work ‘ad ‘that magical touch’.
The war was like them epic battles of the Bhagavad-Gita;
We were behind the fight and I prayed to Lord Shiva
As I sped towards sa’ib, bullets singing in my ears.
If ‘e was wounded and the enemy came over to claim the prize,
‘E’d turn ‘is rifle to hisself and go to ‘is God like a soldier!
The minute I stood up, a rose of blood blossomed from my chest.
The pain that spread was akin to a blacksmith’s fire
But I decided to play possum rather than risk another bullet:
The sa’ibs were going down like flies and I didn’t want to be next!
’E was even kind enough to write about ‘is wartime brother, Gunga Din,
But ‘e couldn’t understand ‘y I risked my life for his.
Sa’ib, I’m an illiterate bhisti but you have so much to offer.
Though we made fun of your moustache and English accent,
By the living God that made the world we live in,
You’re a better man than me, Rudyard Kiplin’!
shammin’ – pretending
(c) Alex N Nderitu http://www.alexandernderitu.com/
Buy Alexander Nderitu's prose and poetry books at: http://stores.lulu.com/NewShakespeare