And some less cheerful/funny excerpts, which capture just how horribly awful the conflict was and how hard it was to be far from home:
"Do not think that this is war. This is not war. It is the ending of the world. This is just such a war as was related in the Mahabharata about our forefathers.”
“‘As tired bullocks and bull buffaloes lie down at the end of monsoon, so lies the weary world. Our hearts are breaking.”
"Poisonous gases, bombs, machine guns which fire 700 bullets per minute, large and small cannon throwing cannon balls 30 Bengali maunds in weight, Zeppelins, large and small flying machines which throw bombs from the air … liquid fire that causes the body to ignite."
"There is no telling whether the war will be over in two years or in three, for in one hour 10,000 men are killed. What more can I write?"
“"Having seen this war, all that has been written in Mahabharat and in the Ramayan is altogether true.”
"The mud is up to a man’s knees, and the trenches are full of water up to a depth of about 2 feet. As in the history of Ala."
”As a man climbs a plum tree and shakes down the plums [so that] they fall and lie in heaps, so are men here fallen …”
“Tell my mother not to go wandering madly because her son, my brother, is dead. To be born and to die is God’s order. Some day we must die, sooner or later, and if I die here, who will remember me? It is a fine thing to die far from home. A saint said this, and, as he was a good man, it must be true.”
“You enquire about the cold? I will tell you plainly what the cold in France is like when I meet you. At present I can only say that the earth is white, the sky is white, the trees are white, the stones are white, the mud is white, the water is white, one’s spittle freezes into a solid white lump, the water is as hard as stones or bricks, [and] the water in the rivers and canals and on the roads is like thick plate glass. What more am I to say?”
“Chur Singh has suffered martyrdom in the war. The 47th Sikhs were charging. The Sahib (English officer) said,” Chur Singh, you are not a Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh, (you) who sit in fear inside the trench. Chur Singh was very angry. Chur Singh gave (the) order to his company to charge. He drew his sword and went forward. A bullet came from the enemy and hit him in the mouth.”
“So long as the war goes on, no sound man can return to India – only those who have lost a limb can return. In my heart I feel that I shall have to go back to the war.”
“The German is very strong. His planes sail the clouds and drop shells from the sky: his mines dig up the earth and his hidden craft strike below the sea. Bombs and blinding acid are thrown from his trenches which are only 100 to 50 yards from ours. He has countless machine guns which kill the whole firing line when in attack. When he attacks we kill his men. The dead lie in heaps. England is full of wounded. No man can return to the Punjab whole. Only the broken – limbed can go back. The regiments that came first are finished – here and there a man remains. Reinforcements have twice and three times brought them up to strength but straightaways they were used up. The German is very strong.”
“I am not one of those who are to return to India. Only those go to India who have but one arm or one leg. This is the fact. German has made us a fine lot of specimens. It makes one cry and even laugh to see them.”
“What you say in your letter about not being disloyal to the Emperor and it being the religion of Sikhs to die facing the foe – all that you say is true. But if only you yourself could be here and see for yourself! Any shriveled Chars – Sodden fellow can fire the gun and kill a score of us at our food in the kitchen. Ships sail the sky like kites. Wherever you look, machine guns and canon begin to shoot and bombs fly out which kill every man they hit. The earth is mined and filled with powder; when men walk upon it, the powders is lit and up go the men! There is no fighting face to face. Guns massacre regiments sitting ten miles off. Put swords or pikes or staves in our hands and the enemy over us with like arms then indeed we should show you how to fight face to face! But if no one faces us what can we do? No one stands up to fight us. Everyone sits in a burrow underground. They fight in the sky, on the see in battleships, under the earth in mines. My friend, a man who fights upon the ground can hardly escape. You tell me to fight face to the foe. Die we must – but alas, not facing the foe! My friend, the cannons are such that they throw a shell weighing twelve maunds (12x40 kgs) which destroys the earth five hundred paces round about where it falls. We are in France. It is very cold country….. It is a fair country and the people are like angels. All they lack is wings….. The fighting is along a line of 300 miles. England, France, Italy, Belgium, Russia – these five are on one side; Germany, Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria – these five on the other. The battle sways evenly balanced. None can kill the other. When it ends there will be peace. No one knows when this will be.”
"For God’s sake don’t come, don’t come, don’t come to this war in Europe. Write and tell me if your regiment or any part of it comes and whether you are coming with it or not. I am in a state of great anxiety; and tell my brother Mohammad Yakub Khan for God’s sake not to enlist. If you have any relatives my advice is don’t let them enlist. It is unnecessary to write any more. Otherwise there is a strict order against writing on the subject. Cannons, machine guns, rifles and bombs are going day and night, just like the rains in the month of Sawan (July – August). Those who have escaped so far are like the few grains left uncooked in a pot. That is the case with us. In my company there are only 10 men [left]. In the regiment there are 200. In every regiment there are only 200 or 280 [the average number of soldiers in a full regiment was approx. 760].”
"We perish in the desert: you wash yourself and lay in bed. We are trapped in a net of woe, while you go free. Our life is a living death. For what great sin are being punished? Kill us, Oh God, but free us from our pain! We move in agony but never rest. We are slaves of masters who can show no mercy. The bullets fall on us like rain, but dry are our bodies. So we have spent a full year. We cannot write a word. Lice feed upon our flesh: we cannot wait to pick them out. For days we have not washed our faces. We do not change our clothes. Many sons of mothers lie dead. No one takes any heed. It is God’s will that this is so, and what is written is true. God The Omnipotent plays a game, and men die. Death here is dreadful, but of life there is not the briefest hope."