New Delhi: In the Christopher Nolan’s film “Dunkirk”, we don’t see much of anyone – neither Adolf Hitler nor Winston Churchill. There is no clamor around the negotiating tables nor blood on fields.
Another important ‘miss’ that people are talking about is the role of Indians in this narration of the horrors of war.
Here’s a list of a few books that Nolan should have read before making the epic Dunkirk.
The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War
By Dr Yasmin Khan
This book not only talks about Indian army but also brings out the role of services of nurses, seamen, bearers, prostitutes whose stories come from the sidelines of the war. She has made a comprehensive account of Indian society and the War by tapping the lives of ordinary voices. India had produced the largest volunteer army in world history - over 2 million men. Here, we read stories of the first Indian to win the Victoria Cross in the war to the soldiers imprisoned as ‘traitors to the Raj’. Among other ordinary people, we also have central European Jews, schoolgirls, Bengali famine victims, 22,000 African American GIs and even destitute from Kazakhastan, beggars from Iraq and orphaned children from Poland.
Farthest Field – An Indian Story of the Second World War
By Raghu Karnad
Indians get surprised at discovering the role of their ancestors in the World War. Such was the nature of recording the war history bereft of other’s contribution – both ordinary and extraordinary. But in his book, Raghu Karnad has corrected much of it, he has narrated the story of Indian participation in the world war through a single family. The years 1939-1945 are told with emotional strain brought in by Indians joining colonial forces, and rendering medical and other services in hostile terrain. Farthest Field brings the lost faces of India’s participation in the war, while navigating through Madras, Peshawar, Egypt and Burma — all through the journey of a young family in the midst of war violence.
Sepoys in the Trenches: The Indian Corps on the Western Front 1914—15
By Gordon Corrigan
The book narrates what happened four days after the declaration of the First World War. At that time, an Indian corp of two infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade were given an order to embark on a journey, unknown and unrelated to their own cause. They headed to the Western Front, covered with tropical uniforms and went through one of the bitterest winters in the history. For the following two years, they were braving the weather and violence for the honor of their regiment and the country. The author extensively draws from unpublished sources and interviews in India and Nepal.
The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy (War, Culture and Society)
By Gajendra Singh
What was the significance of Indian army for the British Crown? One must read this book to know how the colonial power drew on the reserves of Indian sepoys to fight at in the two World Wars. There was massive mobilization and recruitment of Indian soldiers who were shipped for the cause of the Crown. In the recorded testimonies, the Indian soldiers narrate how they faced the war and the thematic chapters Gajendra Singh trace the evolution of military identities under the British Raj.