Left to itself, moral uprightness can degenerate into joyless self-righteousness or intolerance of the opinions and behavior of others. It can shrivel into a dead end of blood drenched eloquence. The presence or absence of music and the type of music to which a society responds draws a thin red line between the balance of its degree of righteousness and self-righteousness. Cultural continuity, and the intensity of its practice can be studied in components of society that seek to preserve its status quo even at the risk of life and limb, which is one way to describe an army.
Punjab Regiment L to R : Pakistan, undivided & India : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/33rd_Punjabis_(15_Punjab)_(PMs)_1910.jpg; http://defence.pk/attachments/8000c3ece83dfbdfb15dd6309b0f74b7-jpg.85154/; http://media.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/photos/images/2011/jan11/republic_day_sm/republic_day_10.jpg
Let’s take a look at the symptomatic evolution of war marches of India and Pakistan considering that India seems to be heading Pakistan’s way.
Like all warlike cultures, India and Pakistan, whose regiments were divided only sixty-seven years ago, cherish their war songs they don’t sing, since of course they are neither sissies nor mirasi minstrels!
The exception is the Indian Army’s Assam Rifles which owes a debt to Captain Manjit Singh, a Christian officer born in Jammu, graduated from Madras University, an ace hockey player and the guiding genius behind the Badlu Ram ka badan song.
The light-hearted words reflect the dashing merriment expected of young officers close to their troops, enjoying their chota pegs. A rifleman, eyeing up a pretty girl, was put on pack drill for neglecting to clean his rifle.
Enter Badlu Ram, who died in the ‘Japan Waar’, but the quartermaster was smart, didn’t declare his death and kept drawing rations in his name! The refrain, acknowledges that while Badlu Ram’s body is under the earth, his rations are still drawn— 100 years Hallelujah— bang on John Brown’s body! And here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIl1nL64KNI
This lilting march says that at least Assamese warriors do not take themselves too seriously, in accordance with General Ingle’s advice in A Soldier’s Prayer for his Son. Even their battle cry is neither religious nor nationalistic— Rhino charge!
A choice uncharacteristic of India and Pakistan whose battlefield losses indiscriminately come under Martyred and not Killed in Action, with both countries seeking to claim the self-righteous high ground.
For example, musically, one cannot disassociate the Pakistan Army from Ae Mard e mujahid Ja’ag zara https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFmHxJcG7u4. Although secular India might allow regiments to keep their religious battle cries such as Bol na’ara Haidari, Bolé so Nihal and Jai Ma Kali, their marching songs enshrine cheerless nationalism, such as Qadam Qadam, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sJqJeLwww0, the delightful exception being the Madras Regiment’s Bollywoodian Suhana Safar aur yeh Mausam Rangeen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhto634aZIU — Jeeyo veer Madrasi!
But it was not always so glum.
From Sepoy to Subedar: the memoirs of Subedar Sita Ram Pande (1873), reveal that the Bengal native Infantry, formed of Punjabis, Pathans and Uttar Pradeshis, used to sing Kabhi sukh kabhi dukh, angrez ka naukar— sometimes pleasure, sometimes pain, a servant of the English!
The Karnatic Regiment went even further, singing of Queen Victoria being a “very good man…” http://research.culturalequity.org/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=24077
The pre-partition, undivided elite Punjab Regiment marched to the pederastic, Zakhmi Dil, which means Wounded Heart. John Masters in Bugles and a Tiger writes of “one of the most famous of Pathan songs, the ‘Zakhmi Dil’ (‘Wounded Heart’) begins with the words, ‘There’s a boy across the river with a bottom like a peach, but, alas, I cannot swim”.
Alpha males have always flirted with homosexual phrases and conduct to flaunt their heterosexuality like sportsmen patting each other’s bottoms. Soldiers of elite units are no different.
Take into account Le Boudin, anthem of the French Foreign Legion, in time and space as far apart from India and Pakistan as it could be.
The prelude refers to a round-bottomed bum-boy getting sodomized in the priest’s tent, and closes with Hey round-bottom, drop your trousers, censored in public in the interests of lofty political correctness!
The South Asian constituents of a five thousand year old tradition have been successfully battered by self-righteousness. The obscurantist wind that suffocated fifty centuries of renowned tradition has become a tsunami. It has spawned mass murder in Pakistan and not to be outdone, India’s restless zealots also threaten to lead its secularism astray. .
Badlu Ram is a gust of fresh mountain air to ease the suffocation and touch base with a balanced past. India and Pakistan should be bellowing their lungs out singing Badlu Ram ka Badan.
Thank you, Major Manjit Singh.