One Hell Of A Life
One Hell Of A Life
An Anglo-Indian Wallah’s Memoir from the last decades of the Raj
Captain Stan Blackford
Ex Indian Army
Memoir | 322 pages
THE HEART-WARMING STORY of a backward boy, unable to talk at the age of four and sent to boarding school in order to learn to speak.
Branded a moron and dragged through ten schools in seven years, he suddenly “finds his feet” and becomes dux of one of India’s most prestigious colleges.
Later he becomes an officer in one of the Indian Army’s most famous regiments and Adjutant of its premier battalion.
He comes from a dysfunctional family and a broken home. He is an Anglo-Indian, a much despised member of the human race in the days of the Raj, rubbing shoulders with British and Indian officers.
Laugh at his misfortunes and exult in his successes; hold your breath as the four-year-old barely escapes a kidnap attempt; enjoy travelling on the world’s most famous mountain railway, Darjeeling’s toy train, which was once chased by a wild elephant.
Read of cobras, jaadu (Indian witchcraft) and schoolboys using toilet paper as currency to support their gambling habit.
Accompany the author as he goes to catch a monkey and shoot a panther; as his brigade confronts the Russians over possession of the Iranian oilfields and as he reads fairy tales to a blood-thirsty Pathan warrior who asks if the stories are true!
Feel the desperation of millions as murder and mayhem stalk the Indian sub-continent. See the refugee trains, ushered in by the granting of independence to India, when intercommunal violence spawned ten million refugees overnight and one million hapless men, women and children were slaughtered.
For the old India wallahs, this is a trip down memory lane to savour the aura of Calcutta, of Chowringhee and Firpo’s; of Darjeeling and Mussoorie, of Dehra Dun and Poona; of the railway institutes and the Auxiliary Force, and much much more.
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Katherine England, well-known Adelaide book reviewer, had this to say after reading the original (unabridged) manuscript:
“The book is informative, interesting and often very funny ... it holds the attention of the reader ... It explores an area and subject which has not, I think, been much written about in Australia. The style is very accessible - a generally straightforward narrative couched in plain, literate and slightly formal prose, and the voice is engaging and attractive.
“Although the tone is less ingenuous and the writing more educated, the book reminded this reader of Albert Facey’s A Fortunate Life and it is partly in comparison with that extraordinarily popular autobiography that the following recommendations are made ...
“The book is particularly effective and memorable when the author ... describes his life and surroundings (making and flying kites; Indian sweets; school routines; the proximity of the Himalayas; Indian trains and train journeys etc), the history of India (particularly Partition) and when he tells the story of some bizarre (often official) enterprise: the panther hunt for example, which is both suspenseful and funny, and the anti-aircraft exercise which made me laugh aloud ... The book ends neatly and on a positive note at a natural finishing point, leaving the reader quite sorry that s/he is not to accompany the author further into his new life.”
Those were the good parts. There were also four pages of comments which were less than flattering, but which contained constructive criticisms and extremely valuable recommendations which the author has heeded in producing this edition.Product Code: AI-014
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