By Claire Buck (auth.)
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Additional info for Conceiving Strangeness in British First World War Writing
63 In the years in which Grimshaw drafted his story, war service played an important part in gradualist arguments in favor of increasing levels of Indian self-government. Grimshaw’s conventional dedication to those “gallant gentlemenwarriors” of the Indian cavalry “who went west in 1914” points to the sacred bond implied by Indian service (7). Even more explicit is his framing in his foreword of the value in demonstrating the bonds of sympathy, affection, and camaraderie between officers and men.
His military fervor and dreams of glory are still at the service of the British. Anand leaves it to the reader to understand Lalu’s future better than himself and to recognize the full implications of the reference to the Rani of Jhansi. In so doing, Anand insists on a subaltern reading of Britain’s history in which the dominant theme is not progress but barbarism. 83 Lalu exchanges looks with a young and attractive French girl, at whom “he stared hard” while she “smiled coquettishly and then turned her blue eyes away” (35).
A key example, already discussed in the context of Grimshaw’s diary, is the entry reporting the care he took to protect the mutilated body of the Muslim soldier Ashraf Kahn from trampling. Grimshaw includes this event in his novella, but makes some significant revisions. Beji, who is blown up by a trench mortar, is Ram Singh’s relative and a soldier for whom Sahib Smith feels “more than a passing regard” (50). His death is an occasion for turning Grimshaw’s one-sided encounter with Kahn’s physicality into an instance of reciprocity.