Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Book review: John Masters " Bugles and the Tiger"


Book Cover

John Masters was a rare breed of Anglo-Indians who wrote about India. He was a man with golden pen. Kushwant Singh the noted India writer says about John Masters ‘EM Forester understood India while John Masters understood Indians’.

John master lived in India and was born here. His father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Indian army and John Masters also followed suite. He was educated at Sandhurst and was commissioned in 1933. John Masters spent a fair amount of time with the Kings Own Gurkha rifles and served with them in the North West frontier. His book Bugles and the Tiger is an account of his life during that period.

The book

Sometimes, I wonder where this beautiful book has been hiding. It is a fabulous account of a young officer attached to a Gurkha regiment in the wild North West frontier where the watch word of the Muslims tribes was Jihad at all times. The Book makes fascinating reading and in my opinion is one of those rare books that one must read.
Masters autobiographical account recounts his passing out from the Military college at Sandhurst and his joining 2/4 Gurkha Rifles on India's Northwest frontier. The strain of the book brings out the love of John Masters for India, the country people and the Gurkhas. It is clear from the book that the Gurkhas loved him as well.

Last word

This book creates a vivid picture of a Gurkha regiment and the interaction between the common soldier and the British officer. In fact it gives a rare insight into military life.
I first read this book as a cadet at the Air Force Academy on the recommendation of my Instructor. The book surprised me and I have read it 3 times after that. The book is a joy to read and even if you are not a soldier it makes excellent reading. John Masters is intoxicating and once you have read this book you will want to read his other books. He was a master of prose and all India should be proud of him. John Master passed away in 1983, leaving behind a rich heritage of excellent books.