How an Indian woman’s quest in Belgium led her to forgotten soldiers of WW-I

Bhushavali at the graves of Indian soldiers who died in Belgium during World War-I.

When a tour guide in Belgium told fashion designer Bhushavali that thousands of Indian soldiers died in World War I with Ypres as the starting point (because England joined the WW-I during the Ypres battles and India was a British colony), she didn’t even know what to make of it.

Bhushavali hadn’t known of Ypres till she came to Belgium and had no clue of India’s involvement in World Wars. At least 10 lakh Indian soldiers participated in WW-I and more than 20 lakh in WW-II. Of those, at least 74,000 soldiers died in WW-I and more than 87,000 in WW-II.

Bhushavali, a fashion designer from Tamil Nadu who’s been living in Belgium since late 2017, "felt ashamed" that a foreigner had to tell her about the sacrifices made by her countrymen in a foreign land.

It was a wakeup call. The very next day, she went to the Bedford House Cemetery, very close to Ypres, which has some graves of Indian soldiers. She then decided to start visiting all the graves of Indian soldiers in Belgium, one by one to pay her respects. The Menin Gate Memorial has the names of 412 missing soldiers inscribed on it. She has visited all the 37 graves so far. The graves have a Hindu, Muslim or a Sikh headstone.

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