Indian-origin writer shares grandfather's unique war friendship in UK

Meraj Bhat

London, Nov 10 (PTI) An Indian-origin writer has spoken about her grandfather's unique friendship with a fellow soldier during World War II as the UK marks Remembrance Sunday in honour of those from the Indian subcontinent who fought with the British in the two World Wars.

Nima Suchak said that Remembrance had not felt relevant to her until she heard about her grandfather's story, a Hindu soldier who made a battleground promise to a fellow Muslim soldier to fast during Ramadan.

'Despite being Hindu, my grandfather had fasted during Ramadan all his life,' the Leicester-based writer recently told a 'Remember Together' gathering organised for the war martyrs.

'A Muslim comrade of his was shot fighting on the battlefield in the Second World War. Dying on the battlefield, my grandfather sought to ease the suffering of this man in his last moments by offering him water but, it being Ramadan, the man refused,' she recalled.

'Seeing his suffering, my grandfather promised that he would mark the Ramadan fast for the rest of his life if he drank the water – which he then did,' she said.

The 42-year-old began exploring this family history and discovered that her grandfather, born in India in 1924 before moving to the England in later life, had kept his word, fasting each year for Ramadan to mark the sacrifice of his fallen comrade.

'This is shared history of which we can all be proud. Britain's tradition of remembrance is as relevant if your parents came here from India, Pakistan or the Caribbean as it is for someone whose family has lived here for generations,' said Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future think tank, one of the organisers behind the Remember Together events alongside the Royal British Legion charity.

On Sunday, a two-minute silence was observed at 11 am local time across the UK as Queen Elizabeth II led a ceremony at the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall to commemorate the British and Commonwealth veterans of the World Wars.

This year marks 100 years since the first two-minute silence was observed to mark Armistice Day on 11 November 1919 – the end of World War I.

Thousands of recruits from the Indian subcontinent had joined in the British war efforts as former colonies and the Remembrance Sunday events across the UK annually commemorate this shared history. PTI AK MRJ MRJ