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War Around the World

India & Ceylon

03-14-44

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03-28-44

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War Around 
the World

India & Ceylon
03-14-44
page 2

The date links will take you to a page with maps and/or pictures to give a little context for that day's events.

March 5 - Sunday. Wake up in tall white room, with high ceiling of dull red planking. Delicious breakfast in big wardroom, chairs covered with white linen with anchor and U.S.N. in blue, Stuart's portrait of Washington over mantel, slowly revolving fans aloft. Get word from Colonel McDonald that he and I will fly to New Delhi at 1230 in C-48 staff ship, with upholstered seats! Rest of shipmates must wait for night flight, because of shortage of ships due to what's cooking in Burma. Get orders endorsed and Lt. Comdr. Smith, skipper, who has breakfasted with me shows me all over. Cool, lovely lounges tastefully furnished. Big choice at bar, his office neat, his bedroom and bath - everything all found and snug in one building - afterwards I find one of the best mess quarters in India, and I see right away, one of the best skippers. Show him my books and pictures and have him sign North Atlantic Patrol, as I always do, everywhere. Colonel arrives at 1200, wallahs load gear and we are off to field. Temperature in plane 120 from sitting in sun. Take off 1335 and head out over Great Indian Desert. The only green thing is the drab olive of the plane's wing. Below misty yellow fading into vague mauves against soft hazy blue sky. Sleep for hour and half in soft tilt-back seats. Awake 1600 - Great cloud forms have developed on our level of 7000 feet and roll a mile high in the distance. The trip which has been rough so far now develops into a dropping, bumping and jumping of no mean proportions. Over many circular desert villages with small oasis here and there. 1645 - See bright arch of rainbow below and crash into deep purple storm and rig belts to hold us in our seats. Ship now being flown by hand. Below through the swirling blue vapor we see a cone shaped hill with white temple on top and toy white town surrounding base. Making very heavy weather now, with ship yawning badly. Land has become a strange orange tint. The surface and the villages scattered over it appear to be models a few feet below us, just like a Bel Geddes layout at the New York World's Fair. Dark mountains to port melting into the deep purple obscurity of the storm. Splitting flashes of the lightning's bright tongue. Finally skipping and glancing like a sea shell we skim out of the storm into sunlight and calm. Now Man has scratched the earth, and with the aid of water, has turned it into pleasant squares of bright green, lesser green, terra cotta reds and faun-colored plots. The growing, the beginning to grow, the plowed and the uncultivated. Trees, good Lord, dark trees. We bank over the bright town, shoot over the field and land at New Delhi, at 1730. Our voyage of 3100 miles is ended, and old dusty Cairo seems years ago. Met by Lt. Hunt, USNR and driven to the billet office. Same old song of London, Cairo et al, "Awfully overcrowded." Get room, temporarily (no chance to really unpack) with Amy Lt. Colonel in Imperial Hotel. There are eighteen of our Generals here. Dump gear and go with Hunt to Exec. Lt. Thomas' room where highballs await. Several other officers have seen my things in Life, very warm and friendly. At 1900 Captain Gene Markey arrives. I first met him in San Francisco on my way to Pearl Harbor in 1942. He greets me as if it were yesterday and hustles me off to another room. There I find Major Larry Thaw filling his chair with fat good humor, and exaggeration, just as he did in New York and Cairo. A Colonel and Army Captain help fill the room with "breeze". The Skipper takes us all to dinner.

March 6 - To office and log in, and get some welcome mail from home, on the opposite side of the world. Captain Markey has me in his office a long time discussing plans, old friends, and trying to get Admiral, The Lord Mountbatten's Aide for an appointment. We find he has just left for a week or a little more, so I must wait to deliver my letter from Admiral Kirk in London and from the British Information Services. For from now on, if he so wishes, he can help my duty and relations so much with the British Navy. Lunched with the Captain. Back along marble floors to my room. Bearers squat in front of each door, leaping up as I pass with a raised knuckle humbly to brow. My bearer Kallan spends afternoon squaring me away, blues to cleaners, khaki starched and rigged, wash dispatched. Tea and orange at bed side and a Navy table in the big dining room below, is wonderful after my lonely room and long walks to hotels in Cairo. Kallan a rascal I'm sure, but an excellent servant, gives me tea in afternoon. Read mail and find enclosed many clippings and a long article in "Town and Country" on "Victory at Midway". 1800 - To photographic exhibition on India sculpture with Lt. Hugh McLean, USNR, a friend of mine from New York, who has offered to act as my guide here. Five of the Captain's officers, and they are his officers, for he runs a "Happy Ship" with a firm hand; celebrate by dining in the Grille where steaks can be had for a price. Hire "tonga" (two-wheel cart) two sit forward, three face aft. Driver, tonga wallah, trims ship by sitting on the shafts. To Imperial Indian Broadcasting building. Very modern, like Radio City. Into large empty room with sound preventing walls. White mat in center, where squat with bare feet turned up Hindu fashion, leader and five players. Mike only two feet from mat. Woman singer comes in, usual diamond embedded in side of nose, tosses back cape and squats. All manner of queer instruments, finder drums, string instruments with big round gourds at wither end. They all take turns in playing for us. Then we retire to control room and watch them through glass. Woman plays with her bare feet as she chants from book. All smile at each other and nod approval. Song and playing never ends, just goes on for half an hour. Then another program. To us, just the same goes on for same period, never ends - just cut off.

March 7 - Tea at 0700 by bearer, still dark in India. 0830 Make time report for orders, post notes for report. To office and to Army clinic as I have what all newcomers must go through, "Delhi Belly", slightly. Doctor gave me long fright talk about the East. Go more slowly, see that bearer boils drinking water, no salads, etc, ordered to take afternoon off. Lunched with Colonel McDonald and sunned on roof and took bath and nap. Start down to lovely terrace find bearer squatting outside my door shining cap visor and shoes. Tries to spring up but I motion him down. Gentle, browbeaten people, the Hindu servant. Sit under row of polished green tile columns and watch endless procession of laborers pass on street beyond the hotel lawns. Big kites, hawk and scavenger, sailing like buzzards at home, resting on trees all out of scale with green parrots and other small birds and cawing crows. Have tea with fellow officer as the sun sets red and blurred in the soft Indian sky. My bearer appears at my elbow and says he's moved me, as a Colonel has returned and I am thrown out of my room. "Never no peace." Climb the long stone flights to check all my gear and find every little item. Moe and stowed in exactly the same place in new room all shipshape. I am alone with one bed, and big bath. Can't believe it. Go happily to office and am told not to unpack but be ready to move on a minutes notice. I have same bearer, and am thankful. Turn in early and find bed shaped like a "U". I see my feet on the level with my eyes. My body curves gracefully down, my legs stick stiffly up to join the feet.

March 8 - Lt. McLean and I drive off in jeep at 0900 to give me view and bearings, with lunch put up for us. Head for the tower of Kutab Minar. On the road are endless line of men, women and children going to work. Laborers get one rupee a day, thirty-two cents. Baby's carried straddled side-ways on shoulders holding top of parent's head. Men with spindle legs, leg bones protruding in round bulge at side of knees. Not like the sturdy legs of the Egyptian wog. Long strings of heavy carts drawn by two bullocks. Through village with old shops of stone and marble, road always lined with thick trees. Thousands of round well-shaped, open brick enclosures, housing new trees, and protecting them from goats and cattle. Many tombs standing, or partly fallen along the road. Drive in and climb out, and enter gateway. There stands the extraordinary tower of Kutab Minar. Warm reds, dill oranges and rich whites against the singing blue of the sky. Perpendicular reed-like orders soaring upward. The alternately semicircular and rectangular convex flutings, divided into 24 facets, gives a curious beauty to the towering design. 300 steps to top, but I bypass the view due to temporary weakness. Tower stands on center of site once covered by the citadels built by Sakars before Christian era, and dates back to 1200 AD. The Kutab Mosque, in the shadow of the tower, is the earliest house of prayer. Very interesting architecturally. The stone lacework of the arches, amazingly delicate and intricate. Like so many ancient buildings of the many Delhis, it was originally a Hindu temple, later turned into a mosque and covered with plaster. This has disappeared exposing the Hindu work that ironically outlives the Koran. The whole place is quite, sunny and tranquil. No guides, no beggars, just a number of very small and exceedingly attractive squirrels, scampering about. Close to the northwest is the oldest tomb in India, very fine and richly carved. Build by the Empress Rozryyah for her father Attamash. Climb about the ruins of Lal Kot, finding section of wall still standing, thirty feet thick. The British have made a lovely park of the whole place, much enjoyed by hundreds of bright green parrots. We wonder at the high solid iron pillar of Lal Kot standing in the court. Peer into the cool gloom of the Yogmaya temple. The sin is very hot, the sky deep blue as we climb into the jeep and drive off to a great fortress high on distant hills. As we climb into the jeep and drive off to a great fortress high on distant hills. As we approach down the road flanked by large grey trunked trees, we find the branches filled with monkeys, chattering swinging, leaping about. Stop outside one of the greatest gates of Toughlakababa, the massive stronghold built by Chias- ud -Din on this steep rocky ridge in 1322 AD. Even the hill rising to the base of the great walls is faced with stone. Impregnable against 14th Century attack, the long ranges of inward slanting towers and bastions rise forty feet above, the hill to a seven foot parapet, surmounted by fifteen foot wall above. Leaving the driver to protect the car against the mischievous monkeys, Hugh and I climb the hill and enter the mighty gate. The ruins of the once great city stretch away in sunshine and silence. Not a soul, not a sound. We climb stone stairs to crumpled towers, we descend beneath the ruins to blackness that halts us in deathless stillness. In one big square we find a well-like opening go down and discover rows of underground stone rooms divided by a long corridor. There is enough light from fallen-in holes above, to give us vision. We watch carefully for snakes that India is famous for. We feel like discoverers, the first to stumble on the shadowy dream of the dim past. Finally hot and exhausted we sit in the shadows of the inner base of a great tower and spread out lunch of sandwiches and canned warm beer. Hugh says. " I have read that Tughlakabab is said to be cursed by the Saint Nizan -ud- Din. The curse is - 'May it be inhabited by Gujar, or may it be desolate.' Gujar you know are goat herds." "Well", I say, "It's certainly desolate and eerie even in this drenching sunlight, but where are the goats?" Instantly two sudden nasal breaths startle us and looking quickly down towards the Gate we see goats peering up at us. The death-like stillness, the sudden appearance, are they ghost goats? Up they come herded by a dirty-little Hindu boy. They crowd around us on the narrow parapet, try to eat our caps, our lunch, the cans. We push them off good humouredly and gently with out feet, not wishing to touch their dirty hides. Without warning, from above comes a shower of stones and dirt. We snatch up our lunch. A dozen of the devils including several little kids are climbing along the stones of the steep ramparts, like flys on a wall. They lose footing and come skidding and crashing all about us, missing us by inches, bleating with devilish derision. We give up, leaving what's left of our dirt covered sandwiches for them, as the boy leaps for the beer cans which are of great value to him. We descend and pass out from the protecting archway of the great gate and are met with another shower of small stones. Dodging, we look aloft and behold a large monkey, high up on the parapet grinning evilly, and we feel sure, chatteringly repeating the old curse. "May it be inhabited by Gujar, or may it be desolate." We almost expect out jeep to have disappeared with driver, but there is squats, and we cross the road to the South and ascend a few steps to the 600 ft. stone causeway leading to the heavily fortified tomb of Chias -ub- Din. Many baby monkeys leap from the warm stone and scamper up the trees. Pass through the thick wall under the entrance gate and climb the narrow warm stones of the uneven steps. In the center of the large paved court surrounded by battlements in the form of a pentagon stands the massive Mausoleum. The lower walls of red sandstone are enhanced happily by mellow marble above. The whole place is more like a fortress than a tomb. The three pure-white Sarcophagus with their rounded tops are no larger than coffins. Due to their human scale they somehow have great dignity under the large empty dome. The echo is astonishing. We sing a few base variations and they vibrate with all the scales, as deep as a cathedral organ. This is mist gratifying and we think that a paradise for bath-room singers this mausoleum is. Stroll over the ramparts in the silent sunlight, marveling at the engineering and seeing how easily this could be defended, with bow and arrow and firing piece. Drive off again to an old temple south of Delhi. Climb out at the entrance to a narrow lane that leads into a tiny white village, surrounding the very small temple of Kalkaji. Delighted to see no one, but hear the sound of temple bells and know the priests are there. The first miniature house has its walls splashed with bright murals, depicting tigers, birds, flowers, contorted nursing mother, naively drawn and archaicly balancing each other. There is much other small decorations on the few little buildings and we come upon the miniature Hindu gods. This place is very sacred to the Hindus of Delhi and is dedicated to the goddess Kali Devi. A wizened priest comes forward in rather soiled robes. Between his brows is a red spot of fresh red paint. We bow, salute and smile and he leads us to the temple door under the small scale colonnade. Here sit several women with babies and we are instantly surrounded by a crowd of curious children, shrill in voice. Take out shoes off and enter the small circular interior; at the base of the dome is a frieze of bright paintings divided into separate scenes. In the center is the alter on which rests the idol entirely covered with elaborate tinseled cloth with two holes drawn as eyes, through which, unseen, the idol observes us. We are given a handful of sweet pellets to eat, munching convincingly. Are offered some horrid sweet mixture out of a little vessel in which the priest first dips his dirty fingers after brushing off the flies. Again we bow and smile but politely and firmly decline the sweet mess. Two priests now hang garlands of flowers around out necks and we make a contribution of several rupees. We step across the little court and see the pilgrims quarters. The legend is this temple stands on the site of the original, built 5000 years ago. The little crowd follows us to out car and we give annas to the noisy children. Drive off with out flowered leis fluttering in the wind of our going, with cheers from the young blessings from the priests, much like Hawaii. Back to the office and have coffee and talk over plans with my hospitable friend Skipper, Captain Markey, who invites me to dine with him tonight. 

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