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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 3, September 2014

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Angelee Deodhar
Chandigarh, India


Cantonment

As the daughter of a doctor in the Indian Army, I traveled the length and breadth of India. My father joined the RAMC (the Royal Army Medical Corps) and had been incarcerated in Malaya as a prisoner of the Japanese. He was often posted to remote small hill stations where there were no schools . . . except those boulders sculpted by the resin scented breeze, the rushing streams and the wildflower strewn hills.

For entertainment there was a movie every week, screened in an open air theatre, where weather permitting, black and white flickering images pulsed on a wind whipped screen. The projectionist often mixed up the spools and we saw the end first . . . and then in the larger towns there were the exclusive Officers’ Clubs which had a strict dress code, whites for those playing tennis, badminton or table tennis and jacket, ties and formal shoes in the card room. In those post colonial times one had to be a pukka sahib as one carried on the traditions of the Raj. While our parents busied themselves with bridge or rummy, children were to be seen but not heard; they tiptoed into the dining room to get some lemon squash and finger chips. On special occasions there was an Army band and ball room dancing . . .with handsomely dressed officers with their glittering ladies in sarees dancing to Strauss . . .

I can almost hear the Koi Hai? of a British officer comfortably ensconced in a tea planter’s teak chair nursing his gin and lime . . .

monsoon skies—
a blue black bruise
on the urchin's face


Author's Note:

koi hai: 'is someone there?'

pukka sahib: a slang term taken from Hindi words for "Absolute." The word "pukka" is still used formally in 19th- and 21st-century English and Greek to describe something as "first class" or "absolutely genuine." As a slang term, it is often used by British service-people.

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