The Beasts of India
I remember looking up, towards blue unbroken sky. My vision was obscured by a white net, which later I would understand to be laid over my Moses basket in order to ward off mosquitoes. The sun rose high, its heat radiating all within its reach. Insects danced about on the net, trying to find a way beyond its reaches. It was hot and getting hotter.
A sharp cracking sound echoed across the land, startling me. The staccato noise rang in my ears as a barrage of Lee Enfield rifles fired bullets at targets on a distant range, accompanied by the angry commands of a mans voice demanding accuracy.
Such was the disturbance that I started to cry, but after a few short moments a large white hat appeared above my basket, blotting out the sun and casting me into cool shade. Beneath it, the smiling face of my mother beamed back reassuringly at me, gently lifting me out of the basket and handing me to another set of arms, the skin tone very dark but the face just as friendly, only without a hat to blot away the sun.
I was born in Poona, India. My father was a Sergeant in the 27th Field Battery of the British Army, Southern Command. We lived in the married quarters of Poona barracks, also known as Poona camp, which is of course now called Puna in modern-day India.
The year of my memory was 1924 and it was late December, not long after the monsoons rain laden clouds were replaced by unbroken blue skies, hot, dry air and a brightness of sunshine typical of India. Mosquitoes were rife during this season, the new, refreshed offspring being born having been conceived during the monsoon season. It was stressed the importance of having your skin covered, as contact with mosquitoes left you vulnerable to Dengue fever, a very nasty infection that can lead to haemorrhaging or shock, or Malaria, a disease that needs no introduction.
Pune is in the region and the capital of Maharashtra, which is situated on relatively high ground, being located over five hundred metres above sea level. Even in the 1920s, it was a bustling market town, situated approximately one hundred and ninety kilometres to the east of Bombay, and one thousand, five hundred and ninety kil