The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘D’. Explanations and translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is an 82-year-old Punjabi father and grandfather, a former military man, born and raised in what is now Pakistan, but moving to post-partition North India.
D: I am a retired infantry officer. In the 1965 war against our neighbour, I was a young officer. I was not fully trained, in… in weapons. War started and I was sent to a picket called [X] picket, along with my hundred-and-twenty men. As a young officer, whenever the enemy fired their shells, I used to go on top of my bunker and see it, take reconnaissance. I did not know that the enemy had been firing star shells, those are the shells which are air-burst—they burst inside the air only, can kill a person who’s standing on his bunker. [He smiles] God saved me that I was not killed… but I kept doing it, out of ignorance and youth. There cannot be a bigger story than this from my many years in the military.
I: Is there anything you would tell your men, something motivational, to boost morale in times of war?
D: I would raise the morale of my troops, I would say what I remember being told to me, what I hope to have been told to others in—in the future. “Mere bahadur gujar jawaanon, yaad rakhna ki jahaan bhi ham honge, jeet hamari hogi. Apni paltan ki aan aur shaan hamari zindagi se hamesha upar hogi.” (My brave, fighting young men/armymen, remember that wherever we are, victory will be ours. Our platoon’s dignity and pride/honour will always be above our life.) It was like… what you call a pep-talk, like that.
The words in this may not be proverbial, as such, but I would classify them as folk speech because they are inherently a performance, and one that was passed on from person to person, echoing the same sentiment, even if the words were different. Even as an eighty-two year old man, my informant shone with the same honour and dignity that he spoke of, as he performed these words, while also admitting to his own faults, earlier on. He does state that these words were passed down to him and from him, a cultural idea of patriotism, one that arose especially strongly after the partition of India and Pakistan, and the ensuing decades-long, violent bloodbath. Putting my own not-so-favourable-or-popular views on the India-Pakistan feud and the military/militarism as a whole aside for a second (we would be here for hours and I’d probably get mobbed, I’m against both the feud and the military), just hearing him speak like this was especially intriguing because he spoke with what seemed like a hundred voices. There is more to this than simple patriotism for a motherland, because technically this was his motherland in name but the other was in place. There may not be a rhyme or a special poetic structure to what he said, but when performed live, this was a sentiment that could be felt, palpable, even though a video-call interview. Again, this is especially odd to think about, especially since he was a man that was born and raised partially in what is now Pakistan, but this same speech that was given to him, and this same overwhelming post-partition sentiment of patriotism, honour, and nationalistic pride, led him to fight in several wars over the years, against essentially what became of his birthplace.