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War Around the World

India & Ceylon


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War Around 
the World

India & Ceylon
page 3

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 9 - 0900 to 1230. Posting report. Enjoy heavy mess in big dining hall down stairs in Imperial. What a difference to Army's sloppy, dusty mess in Cairo. 1330-1830 working in room. Captain drives me to Old Delhi and we dine with guests at the Maiden Hotel.

March 10 - 1900. Start writing this report #7 for typing 1230. After lunch young Major comes over to Navy table and says he has snake-man for me. A few of us go back in tennis courts and Major bargains for me with two men in big turbans, one carrying two baskets on long pole over shoulder. They squat down and roll blankets. One does very good tricks. First with coin and stone. Then one live pigeon, then two appear out of an empty basket. Next he does the fire trick, ending by blowing flames out of his mouth for at least 40 seconds. In the meantime the big mongoose lies as flat as a small rug, very bored. Now Hindu collects out money. Makes mongoose fast to a stake with short teather. Produces long snake from basket. Mongoose stands on hind legs, straining at leash, around its neck. I have quick eyes and am bound to see the strike. Mongoose retires and lies down feigning asleep as snake glides forward. There is a flurry of Mongoose running around his stake, body puffed large, hair bristling, snake coiled around him, snake's head crushed in mongoose's mouth. No one saw the strike. The man has to beat the little beast to make him give up the five-foot reptile, dead as a doornail. Men pack up grinning and depart as we yell and swear for our promised cobra, but we paid and there they go. I have noticed men and boys with faces and clothes smeared with red very much like American Indians. Learn it's the great holiday of Holi of Daljatra. Several officers and I decide to take the rest of our lunch time and see what's cooking at the big modern Lakshmi Narain Temple. Dash off in car. Temple garish in sunlight as we approach. A blend of good Coney Island and New York World's Fair. Tall perpendicular domes are slightly rounded at top, and are crowded with huge "hats" with surmounting series of round finials. The domes are raspberry pink trimmed with candy yellow. Mosque is over a city block long. We enter through the central portal and learn we have missed the service, which was this morning. So up to the big terraced gardens with reflecting pools, swimming pool, statues and large stone elephants, which together with the distant surrounding colonades, are all raspberry and pink, staggering effect with the lively green planting. Like a Little Nemo world. To add to the illusion men are swimming in the pool, their faces still smeared with Vermillion red. The Hindu says, "Rarely art and religion is so combined. This is a place of purity and happiness. The building is matchless and grand. Its magnificence is remarkable. You will feel pleasure to see them all." 1430- to -1845. Writing report after unusual lunch hour. After dinner three young officers and I drive off to see other Tombs in the light of the full moon. Through Old Delhi with its walled gates, over the Jumna River and back over high ridge. Stop at large fortified gate, obscured in shadow. Push, pull and knock bit the ancient doors will not yield. As we turn away a small section of one gate startles us by opening slowly with an eerie creaking. The moonlight beyond silhouettes a tall thin spector with white beard and turban, the bony legs visible through the sheer floppy trousers. He holds a long staff in one gnarled hand. We enter the short tunnel of the arch and walk down the old paving stones through a garden to the inner gate. The dark arch forms an oriental frame for the big mass of the Mohammedan tomb of Humayun, its white Persian dome floating in the moonlight. We keep together and there's not a sound save our footfalls and the distant screams of jackals. Bats swirl about us, darting from the gloom of dark shrubbery, becoming black against the soft haze of the moonlight sky. The building rests on a large square base two stories high, surmounted by a delicate miniature rail. Before climbing to this broad terrace above, from which rises the tall tomb we explore one of the 18 arches that pierce the wall of the base. Set well back in the bottom of each arch is a square black opening, each a small tomb. I enter after Hugh and in a moment or two can just discern the small white slab in the spooky little crypt. Bill, wishing to give us light, flashes in his torch. The big bats we had not seen in the gloom, blinded by the light, fly for the small opening. One strikes Hugh over the eye, another thumps sickeningly against my throat, falls with a soft thud on the cold stones, as we compete with the rest to get out. Climb the large-scale stone stairs to the bright terrace above and enter the deep twilight of the lofty interior. In the center are the ghostly white monuments marking the graves below of Humayun and his ladies. Small valted chapel-like rooms, surrounded the main tomb and no we enter one. Through the arched window, the moon casts tender lacy shadows from the beautiful stone grills, over the small white tombs of three children. Sleepy fairy princesses covered by the delicate gossamer of the web of soft moon beams. If only some Eastern Magii could restore them to their slim dark beauty. We tiptoe out onto the silent terrace and look down on the gardens and reflecting pools, bathed in silver light, the trees and shrubs casting deep mysterious shadows. Perhaps the children's tiny feet pattered across this garden for long centuries ago, as they came to pay their childish respects to their father's large white cenotaph, in the center. We descend and walk to the nearby and earlier tomb of Isa Khan. After the light floating quality, that the intricately decorated stone surface gives to the Mohammedan mosque, at first this heavy honest stone monument seems squat and black in the tender light. The weighty low central dome rests on the hexagonal portico with its massive stone peers, surrounded by the six-sided garden. Beyond the thick walls of the fortification repeats the plan. In the end, as we sit on the cool stones of the garden wall smoking, we find this old tomb of the Prime Minister mist satisfying. Arouse ourselves in this dim world of ancient dreams, walk to the fortress wall and start to follow Hugh up the stone steps, to the parapet. A sudden apparition appears at the top, in the form of a large monkey. Like an ugly Hindu gnome, he bars out way, his teeth white in the moonlight. Hugh retreats and the creature drops on all fours and comes down at us, cheered on by his mates leering from aloft. "Gentlemen", I order, "We abandon ship to the goblins, we are taking to the boats!" There is nothing in Navy Regs. about bats, charging monkeys or sudden ghosts that open creaking doors without warning. The 'sudden ghost' is crouched in the deep shadow smoking his hookah, or is it he? Stumble through the dense gloom of the arch tunnel, thinking of cobras, and climb in our car. Again, closer, comes the screams of the jackals, like the shrieks of the tormented damned. All the dogs of the countryside are now mournfully howling, as the moon vanishes behind the white shrouds of the clouds. 

March 11 - 0900-1230 Writing this report long hand for typing. Lunch with Captain Markey. 1430 - 1830 writing report.

March 12 - Sunday 0900 To office taking my books and reproductions to show Captain and Exec. 1000 Captain drove me to Commodore Langley, RN, on Supermo's Staff whom I have a letter. Missed him. 1100-1230 writing report. 1300-1830 writing report. 1845 Joined three officers and a Mrs. Scott on terrace, for tea. Thought her well-groomed little English girl, just living here. Find out from Lt. Watson, messmate, that her husband is Jap Prisoner and she is working too hard at war job so as not to think too much. At same time she shows me photographs of his new baby back in Kentucky he has never seen. Also little announcement card pinned to their card with blue ribbon. This damn war makes lots of lonely people. But both are smiling. 

March 13 - 0900 writing report. 1430 to office and was driven to British Navy Hdqs. 1500 presented letter to Commodore Langley, RN. Charming officer, says Lord Louis will return any day now. Trust so as I want to get down to the sea and ships. 1600 to 1900 writing and finished long hand draft to date. 

March 14 - 1900 - To office, drive to Old Delhi in tonga. Through Delhi Gate and down narrow streets lined with small open ships with elaborate baloneys above. Thousands of people of every type and caste. Street crowded with tongas, rickshaws, sedan chairs, bullocks and water Buffalo crowding pavements, people all over street. Many coolies under great burdens, pattering barefoot through cattle dung. Wares, animals and humans under a swarm of flies. Living Saints almost naked walking along in a trance. Ghost-like women entirely covered in white save for two holes in sheet to see through. They themselves never seen by the world. Women sitting on filthy street, picking fleas from little girl's heads as small babies sit naked in dirty gutter. Monkeys at least live in the cleaner trees. 1400-1830 posted notes, added this day to report, read and corrected ready to deliver to yeoman tomorrow morning for typing. Captain Markey gave me charming dinner party in private dinning room so that I might meet distinguished Hindu high in British officialdom. Ladies in charming gowns we in whites, stiff with starch. 

Hope to see Lord Luis in a day or so, and then fly south to Colombo, Ceylon, where I can get to sea, after I have caught up with painting. There I can operate in any direction and am told I can really get a room to work in an unpack my paintings gear and join convenient mess. I am still in same room here but am not allowed to unpack and may come back anytime and find confusion of moved in gear mixed up with mine. Starting several sketches for paintings here while standing by for Supermo.

With warm regards,



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