20 Dec 41
I have been owing you this letter for a long time. If I remember correctly the last letter I wrote you was after my Capetown visit. Well, a lot of water has slid under a lot of bridge since then. I hardly know where to start.
In one of your letters to me, you mentioned something about warm breezes, and gentle seas referring to the voyage out. Well that was more or less what the trip was like. We had no trouble from enemy action, and the voyage though monotonous at times is something to look back on with pleasure.
When we landed we had half a day in Bombay and I must admit that I was rather disappointed. It has the characteristics of most Indian cities i.e. dust, heat and a variety of smells.
We left for Jhansi on the 9:35 pm train and arrived at 10 pm the next night.
Although we travelled 1st class, I would point out that there is a decided difference between first class on British railways, and the same thing on their Indian counterpart. The carriages are reasonably clean at the beginning of the trip but after going a few miles they become absolutely filthy. The dust has to be seen to be believed. Anyhow we arrived at Jhansi , were met at the station, secured quarters (very good ones), bearers (mine was Habib Khan, an elegant gent with bushy moustache, orange turban and flowing white pantaloon things.). After a very happy time in Jhansi I was posted to Quetta which as you may know is in the country of earthquakes and cold (in winter). Quetta is not in India proper as you may know, but in Baluchistan. It is completely surrounded by damn great mountains one of which I endeavoured to climb last Sunday. Fortunately it lacks the variety of insect and animal life seen at Jhansi, but is extremely cold in the evening. When I first arrived I was accommodated in a tent and it was absolutely A1, b— cold. Only 18ºF you know, a nice working temperature. During the day it is quite warm but when the sun sets- look out.
I am now in quarters at the Staff College although not attached that august establishment, and I am very comfortable. My new bearer speaks no English and I endeavour to may myself understood in my pidgin Hindustani
e.g. muji-ko ek bottle of beer, aut do bara cups of tea chahie.
i.e. I want 1 bottle of beer and two large cups of tea, etc.
To my mind all the natives of this country are crooks. If a shopkeeper sees an officer approaching he immediately doubles his prices on principle.
Of course this may be due to the fact that even the humble 2/Lt gets 490 rupees or about £36 per month (less income tax).
Also before I came to India I was of the opinion that ‘India for the Indians’, and self-government should be the order of the day. I don’t think so now. Nearly everything that is run by Indians is lousy and full of graft. An example- when I was posted to Quetta I spent the best part of one whole day at the station at Jhansi endeavouring to find out the times of trains for Quetta. I worked up by degrees from, Booking Clerk to Ticket Collector, then to Asst. Station master and at last to the British Station Master before I got any satisfaction.
These wallas who blurb in the House of Commons about Indian Independence are talking rot. They are no more fit to govern that my aunt’s cat.
My bath is now ready so I’ll leave you for the moment. (I have one per day- aren’t I a nice clean boy?
Issac Walton’s are crooks also. The charged me £2:10 for a pair of slacks which were lousily tailored, and I can get perfectly fitting dittos out here for 10/6, and they don’t shrink. However—- to bath.
Bath finished and Richard is himself again.
Before I forget thanks again for the Lilliputs. They are even more welcome now when I am far from home. Also for the birthday and Xmas cards. Although the former was a trifle late in arrival, that was my fault not yours.”Bahut meh bari, kbub-surat.” i.e. “Thanks a lot, good looking!”
I will think of you fire-watching on Xmas & New Year’s Eves. I am Orderly Officer on Xmas Eve, so if your ears are burning, its’ because I’m looking at the same stars and wishing you were going the rounds with me. Tut! Tut! I’m afraid that’s rather suggestive! However, it’s said now.
Your letter of 21st Sept was most lyrical about the country. Believe it brought a pang- you know “Oh to be in England, etc” “What do I think of when I think of spring?”:-
The end of dreary winter with its’ rain and sleet. The casting of heavy clothing and the advent of sports shirts, and grey flannels. The stirring of the pulse to the primitive melody of the earth and its produce; a girl’s pleasant laugh: cool drinks in hot weather: the merry ping of ball meeting racket. The sensual joy of a deck chair in a sunny spot. The trippers bound for the sea-side: light flowery frocks: white shorts and the smell of the grass: the bitter-sweet shock of a cold shower after tennis- oh! I could go on for pages and pages. I won’t mention the rest of the seasons, I’m too homesick already.
Re Zinnia Margaret. I have been to S. Africa but I don’t know it! So what!
I’m sorry to hear that Mary has left the ATS. I expect she got pretty fed up with the “How I broke in my favourite hunter” type. I do out here- officers wives are pretty lousy with all due respect to Jessie.
It’s about time I stopped this epistle. I think I’ve done you proud, don’t you? I am including an extremely handsome photo of myself to be secreted with all your other feminine treasures in the hiding place of the ages.
Please give my regards to Dr. and Mrs Ewing and thank your mother particularly for her nice letter.
All for now