‘I’m 93 you know – and i’m only telling you that to impress you.’ And that was how I met Ram Advani, the nonogenarian bookseller with the power to take away a little lady’s breath not once but twice within 5 minutes.
The first time was when I’d picked up a book by Khushwant Singh in Ram’s bookshop called ‘Train to Pakistan’ which tells the story of the river of blood created when the British decided to slash a line through the heart of the Punjab in 1947 to make way for the new country, Pakistan. Many millions of Hindus and Muslims died on both sides, trying to cross the border. ‘I was there’ Ram said, ‘I was on one of the last trains before they started murdering. I’m very lucky to be here’.
He ushered me to sit down and told me the story of India’s independence.
Panic not, i’m not about to give you a history lesson, but I will tell you a little known fact that Ram told me about how animal fat played a part in India’s independence.
The first war of independence started with a mutiny by Indian soldiers. While there was already a lot of underlying tension between the soldiers and their British bosses, what actually sparked their first revolt was being asked to bite off cartridge papers for their rifles which were greased with pork and beef fat. As Hindus worship cows and Muslims don’t touch pigs, both rose up with an almighty fight against their insensitive foreign rulers – marking the start of the end of the British Raj.