A letter just received from D. H. Ingram '16, who sailed for India with H. L. Nash '16 on July 1, to serve for a year in the International Y. M. C. A. in the work being conducted in the army posts in the East, gives some interesting facts regarding the work of that important branch of the army service, and life in the military outposts of India.
The great work which the Y. M. C. A. is doing in the war zone all over Europe, Asia and Africa, is to provide entertainment for the men in the base camps, the prison camps and the hospitals, in order to prevent them from becoming morose and unmanageable, and thus keep them in better mental health.
Ingram's letter follows:
"After all that's happened to me in the seven weeks since I left, it's a hard job to plunge into the middle of things and tell you what it's all like. As a matter of fact, this is a different world; part of the war zone, indeed, but unlike France, Poland and Mesopotamia (the places we all have read about in connection with the war), and so far apart from our own home civilization that I am tempted to follow the accepted American missionaries' principle that "it's no use trying to describe India.'
"In giving you a summary of how I landed in Gharial after traveling 13,000 miles in seven weeks, I don't need to spend much time over the sea voyage. Of course we had a couple of submarine scares in the Mediterranean, but sailing with no lights and over a zig-zag course with occasional lifeboat drills lost most of its excitement soon after we left Marseilles. The soldiers along the Suez Canal and the other signs of war, really the most interesting sights on the trip, I can't describe very well on account of censorship rules.
Heat was Terrific There.
So let's just jump to the night of August first, when we landed in Bombay. We found out right away that there wasn't much chance of our "going up the Gulf" to Mesopotamia for a few months, at least, because the staff there is now complete. To tell the truth, neither Nash nor I were much disappointed. We had met a few men who had really been there since we left New York, and there didn't seem to be much romance in going to the Garden of Eden until the summer heat had subsided and the thermometer wasn't much over 100 degrees.
"It took us two days in Bombay to get our hot weather outfits. Then we moved up on to the great central plain to Poona, where we had a couple of days looking around monist the convalescents from Mesopotamia, and where we left one of the Cornell fellows who came with us. Nash was sent directly to Murree, where the opening of a new field needed a man at once. The other Cornell fellow and myself were lucky enough to be sent down to Bangalore, away to the south and called the garden city of India. There we had a wonderful week of private lectures by some of the biggest missionaries in the country, inter- spersed with trips through Hindu temples where we had to take our shoes off. Finally we started on a 2,200 mile railroad trip that took us the entire length of India and lasted five days.
"Nash and I have been lucky in being allowed to stick together, as we asked. We may have to separate at the end of October when all the troops and ourselves move down to the plains (Gharial has ten feet of snow quite frequently and no one stays here but the nomad tribesmen). But for the present the two of us are in joint command of the first army Y. M. C. A. on the frontier.
One of the most interesting features of our work is its newness. Since the Indian Association hasn't taken up this field before, we can do anything we want to. And since, with the exception of one "movie" at Murree and a Y. M. C. A. just being put up at Rewat today, August 27, we have a monopoly on the amassment business for a radius of 46 miles; we don't have to be very clever to arrange things. In particular, Nash's job is to run the billiards, ping pong, checkers, chess (with occasional tournaments in all of them), and get a speaker for the Sunday evening sing-song. I manage the restaurant (with an average of 600 sales daily at about 2 cents each), provide a lecture on India every Wednesday, run a Bible class Sunday afternoon and a short prayer meeting every night, and spend every morning taking letters by dictation and such things in the hospital a mile away. Together we run "movies" on Friday and Saturday evenings, and on Thursday, which is both the soldiers' holiday and the closing of the English mail, we do nothing but dole out writing paper.
"You may wonder why I am satisfied to be planted so far from the war area. As an answer, remember that all the men we are working with are Territorial who are awaiting their turn to go "up the Gulf," wounded and convalescents who come back with nerves shattered by the "hell" of Mesopotamian heat and disease, and regulars who have to guard the "no man's land" dividing India from Afghanistan and Kashmir. This work is as necessary as munitions factories and telegraphs in the organization of a big army and after all the stories I have heard from men who have been away up the Tigris, I don't believe I can complain at being spared the rotten food and constant fevers of East Africa and Mesopotamia.