blog 347: hobson’s plungers

August 23rd
MI 1 is intercepting propaganda coming from Delhi which they are keeping sealed off and isolated. No dak couriers get through the MI 1 gauntlet — if they get through the Dacoit garrote. The Dacoits sell propaganda and dak couriers coming out of Delhi to MI 1. Another way to make a rupee! Capitalism is just killing the Rebels! After the initial blood bath and slaughter of unarmed civilians , unarmed women, babies, odds and sods of desk jockeys, civil servants, police, and whatnot there has been a drying up of victories for the Rebels. Morale is unraveling accordingly. Cawnpore has recoiled on the Rebels as disastrous propaganda. It crazed the British and disgusted the Europeans. Now parts of the Loyalist Army are going berserk. But most of the berserking, thank god, is against Rebels who are being lynched or blown away by cannon. Canning is ordering his officers to ‘Rein in your men! We will not win this war if we run amok!” But everyone is worried because of Lucknow. If Lucknow falls in a bloody massacre like Cawnpore there may not be any way to rein in anybody! If I find out that Henry Lawrence’s body has been defiled I will go berserk!

Lucknow has not fallen despite overwhelming bombardment. The Army on the Ridge has not won but they have not budged either. Again, against overwhelming odds. The few battles have all racked up as wins for us. Often routs in our favor. Apparently, on the battlefield the Rebels proved inept or cowardly. When push comes to shove they run because they don’t have officers who have the guts to lead from the front. If the men are not led by valiant and smart officers then they crumble in battle. It is not so much the caliber of the men as the lack of caliber in the lack of officers among the Rebels. And the squandering of lives, as cannon fodder, the utter wastage of valor, the sheer slaughter as Enfields and horse artillery blow them away has to been demoralizing.

And in the first two defeats Meerut Morons captured over half of the Rebel field artillery leaving them with limited guns other than city guns mounted on the walls. That is coming back to haunt the poor cannon fodder now. So is their scorn of the Enfield. Their guns are useless after 100 yards and Enfields can blow men away at 1000 yards. The slaughter is just ghastly. Their initial supplies of gunpowder and munitions are being squandered recklessly but cannot be replaced. Our own industrial complex at Dum Dum is mass producing 24/7.

Industrialization of war is kinda hard to fight on the long run. It is also kinda hard to fight a modern war with antiquated or feudal weapons and fatwas pinned to their chests and cheap tin keys to paradise. The Bengal Army had become the least modern and most obsolete of the Armies of India and they mutinied out of protests about the need to modernize. Increasingly the Bengal Army was openly called ‘ballast’ as more and more mediocre soldiers coasted on the past greatness of an once great army. Now they are paying with their lives.

Day by day they have watched the Moveable Column arrive to a beautifully laid out staging arena to wage the siege. The Ridge is getting cleaned up. The stench of death is receding. The soldiers have clean clothes. There is clean food and water. The forward positions are being massively reinforced. There is no way the Loyalist Position on the Ridge can be pushed off now. But seige? We still lack cannon. Our Siege artillery is being hauled to the Ridge by elephants. Some of the siege artillery feature gigantic cannon designed to bring down city walls. Rajahs rushed every elephant across half of the Punjab to queue up elephants to haul the massive cannon. Once they arrive then we can systematically commence the mathematical science of the siege. Then it comes down to numbers and logistics as the garrote slowly tightens around a desperate city.

A siege is slow but precise and India Sieges are especially slow and precise. I mean to wage the siege in half the time of course. Engineer Baird-Smith, my Indian Brothers, and I have been surveying the landscape, measuring, computing, calculating everything. It is a precise art. Snappers and miners and engineers are all busy. My Headquarters Tent is now the Engineer Durbar Par Excellence! Maps cover the walls. Tables are filled by men with calculators. Blueprints of the original construction of the city walls are draped across tables to be studied. Once the guns arrive we will commence immediately. We know exactly what we want to do down to the punch list! There are a last few pieces of data of course to gather but we are prepared to launch the siege immediately. The pre-preparation is all but finished!

We don’t bother with The Goat. He is always sick in his tent. We utterly ignore him. I have commandeered command. I do brief Chamberlain each evening in his tent however. Chamberlain from his cot does the soothing of wounded pride of officers as I storm across the Ridge like a dictator. No one likes me and many hate me but I have never won popularity contests. And years of engineering roads and canals and surveying for the railroad and stringing the telegraph and this and that and every other sort of thing, I am educated to work with engineers and snappers and miners. They are my sort of men! And I think I am their sort of officer!

My Commissariat Commandos are commandeering away! My Military Police have the Ridge so lawful we are now rounding up every single criminal released by the mutineers during the initial fasad and sasad and danga and baghy and gadar and lootmaar. I am reconstituting Civil Police and law and order. Mother has set up a Loyalist Lend Lease to assist in civil reconstruction, rebuilding, and replanting. We are rounding up the few odds and sods of mutineers still trying to get into Delhi — which is less and less. We let the mutineers deserting Delhi flee as long as they do not loot or break any civil laws. Always offer a golden bridge of escape! My Net of Eyes and Ears has redeployed to protect the Siege Train which is moving toward us! And Khan Son # 1 still finds time to play cricket and polo. Brother # 2 is liaison with Hobson and MI 1. I am Chamberlain’s Liaison. I don’t bother to liaison with The Goat at all!

Son # 1 and Mother are launching ‘simple morale building’ durbars for everyone wrapped around entertaining ‘ musical proms’ or else Dickens or else cricket and polo which are fine because I do not have to talk during any of it! And I love to watch Khan Son # 1 being utterly wonderful on the field. He and Hobson lead the best polo teams in the Ridge. I have seen officers looking oddly at me but how can I not be proud of Khan Son # 1? My son — by another. It actually pleases me when people say we look alike! Khan Son # 1 and myself! My son — by another. I sit with either John Rao or Mary Lata on my lap as I watch Khan Son # 1 play. They are so adorable! My children— by another. I remember my Irish Family of course when I hold Mary’s Umbrella during monsoon downpours but otherwise. Mrs Tytler one day said “I know how one can grow to love the children of others. I am the Second Mrs Tytler. But I adore Mr Tytler’s children as much as our baby Stanley Delhi Force Tytler. One can sincerely love vicariously….”

Our music ‘proms’ durbars have expanded to offer music to mess halls of the regular soldiers. A sample of European classics. Some Strauss. Some regimental. Some patriotic. Some Indian classics. We have over 28 amateur performers to augment our quartet and regimental band. We continue to have a Dickens durbar every Friday. I call Dickens my Catholic Night because anyone can come. I think Dickens would want every soldier who enjoys his books to come! When I host for NCO’s there is such a parade of beautiful uniforms! I remember my youth when my NCO’s could not attend a function with me because of ritual pollution and caste phobias. At least that has changed for the better! On NCO night Son # 1 pulls out all of the stops and does a full durbar with pomp and circumstances because the NCO’s are the army as far as I am concerned. And Son # 1 has found a sitar player who plays with the quartet. The man is amazing. He plays Western music on his sitar and can adopt Western music into Indian music! The effect is amazing! It is like a fusion of two worlds.

I always thought this damn civil war was caused by a few malicious troublemakers, religious fanatics, both Christian and Muslim, hammering a wedge between East and West to drive us apart. Everyone agrees that the Christian missionary Jennings, a real bigot, played right into the hands of the Wahhabists with his fanatic and bigoted behavior here in Delhi. The irony is Jennings and his fanatic Kirk Puritanism is amazingly like fanatic Puritan Wahhabism . Both hate women and science and music and singing and dancing and even chess! And most of all, both hate India! But when I survey the Durbar Tent and see my NCO’s in their beautiful Indian Uniforms while a fusion of East West Music plays I see the real India. East Meets West. And we can be the bridge across which East and West can meet!

We do not do officer mess stuff because I hate that. But I don’t turn officers away despite eight officers having their memsahibs here. Memsahibs all but caused this war. At least that is my opinion. Even now some of the damn memsahibs are snobbish bitches. All class this and caste and calling cards in the middle of hell on earth and social protocols and we cannot talk to tea planters or newspaper reporters because they are riffraff and we cannot talk to mere common soldiers …. and the rest of that crap! ‘Oh that terrible Nicholson just said the f word again! Can’t that terrible Nicholson say anything without using the f word?’ No! So fuck off you fucking battleaxes! But I am trying to not use the f word around the children because now Mary Lata speaks like a soldier!
I have not seen my younger brother Charles. I won’t go out of my way to search him out. He won’t go out of his way to search me out. Perhaps we are too much the same? Stiff neck pricks with our chins jutting high up in the air like arrogant bastards? The Spawn of the Devil? Or perhaps he dislikes my Indian Family. I feel sorry for Mary but I don’t need my unraveling Irish Family. He clearly does not need me. So we exist like strangers on this same mile long ridge.
Chamberlain said he feels sorry for The Goat. I said “Don’t make me laugh!” . But Chamberlain said he feels sorry the Wilson the Weak Wrist Witless Wingnut Scion of Heroic Gerbils! I asked why?

“Because he fucked up at Meerut and everyone now blames him for this whole situation. Sooner or later the rebellion was going to happen some place! Wilson’s eternal misfortune will be it happened on his watch. And he was hampered by senile senior generals.”

“I would have just ignored Hewitt the Hermit and Bernard the Bumbling Buffoon and the other senile old nutters!”

“You are you John! Most officers cannot simply commandeer command like you can. Wilson did not have enough men to take Delhi right on arrival. Even you admitted we had to wait for the siege cannon to arrive. He kept the Ridge going despite cholera. His health will never recover. He is a ruined man. And you waltz in and take over. For all intensive purposes you are the commanding general despite being officially only a captain. And Wilson is physically small and you tower over him physically and intellectually as well as in heroism and decisiveness. And he looks silly with his boot lifts and wilted goatee and you look magnificent with your towering and powerful body and piercing eyes like a tiger. And you do everything! Spying. Military police. Liaison with everyone. Engineering side by side with Baird-Smith. Securing the countryside. Judicial law and order. Where do you get the energy?”

“You are injured. But for your injury you would be doing all of this instead of me” I replied.

“You have a good staff who is also your family. You delegate. That is a fine art. And you are a workaholic. And you don’t crucify yourself with self doubt. Wilson crucifies himself with self doubt and what-ifs.”

“Well, you better not do that!” I replied and I helped him drink some boiled water.

Chamberlain shifted in pain on his cot. “You are Destiny’s Darling. Luck did not favor me. And Hobson……”

“Those rumors are balderdash!” I shot back.

“Hobson has this strange curse that tails him. For all of his shining talents and sparkling laughter he has a brooding shadow that dogs him.”

“He is just unhappy because his black widow bride he waited half of his life to marry is never around”I explained. “No one is more black Irish than me!”

“But you are Irish —- if you know what I mean. Hobson —–should not have that brooding shadow. Yet he does. Darkness against the face of the moon is expected. Darkness against the face of the sun is disturbing. Hobson’s superficial sunniness makes his darkness disturbing. But no matter! The garrote is tightening John. The rebels must see it! They should have attacked the Ridge by the rear before Baird -Smith blew the bridges and before the Moveable Column arrived. Now it is too late to attack us. They must make one last desperate try to detail the siege! The siege train that is coming! They must attack that! So you have to be proactive in foiling their attack.”

“They don’t have the professionalism” I said. “Or they would have annihilated the Ridge when it was vulnerable. Raving fanatics with fatwas pinned to their tunics and cheap tin keys to paradise do not win professional battles against trained armies welding Enfields. They only want to die. We are fulfilling their wish for martyrdom. The big surprise will be when they end up in the wrong place!”

“Plot the counterattack before they realize they have to plot their attack.”

“Good advice as usual!” I said straightening the hospital covers. “You are still in command as far as I am concerned!”


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