soldier sahib, sometimes I hear
A bugle calling, soft and clear
across the empty barrack square
as it called to you when you were there.
The barrack rooms are silent still,
no punkah swings, it waits until
they fill again with ghostly throngs
and echo with your soldier songs.
They’re growing rice on the hockey pitch
and there’s six foot weeds in the monsoon ditch
An old pi-dog is scratching a flea
where the bobbajee khana used to be.
Remember, sahib, those long hot days?
when the bugle sounded “no parades”
And me, at whom you used to fling
a boot, when the punkah ceased to swing?
soldier sahib, you left your mark,
down by the dhobi - ghat after dark,
her name was Thula - you called her Sal,
and you left her weeping at Naina Tal.
The charwallah wrapped in his dhote has gone
- the dhurzi was old, he didn’t last long,
the nappi, boxwallah and the chowkidar
well, after you left, they didn’t go far.
Old soldier sahib, you’re long, long gone,
but I’ve heard of the battles you fought and won,
and we’ll wait for you sahib, ‘neath the mango
the nappi, the dhurzi, charwallah and me