This short poem by Ruskin Bond talks about the craving for beer of foot soldiers during the British Raj. Ruskin got this poem from his grandfather, who was in the British Indian Army; and he used to sing this poem as a song.
As per the poem, a low-ranked soldier asks about Solan because it is famous for brewery. Based on an assumption that they will get plenty of beer to drink in Solan, a troop of foot soldiers sets on a foot journey from Delhi, their based unit, to Solan in Himachal Pradesh.
They march in dust and scorching sun. They know that there they will not be welcomed by women, like their aunts, their language goes profane thinking that they have to return to Delhi on foot again.
Overall the nature and theme of the poem is taking an expedition to fulfill one’s craving.
Foot Soldiers by Ruskin Bond
‘Where’s Solan?’ the private was asking.
‘Somewhere in Tibet, I should think.’
‘There’s a brewery there,
And it’s brimming with beer,
But we can’t get a mouthful to drink!’
So we route-march from Delhi to Solan
In the dust and the devilish sun,
And we’re cursing away like Hades,
‘Cause there ain’t any ladies
To hear every son-of-a-gun!
And when we have climbed up to Solan
Our language continues profane
For right well we know
We shall soon have to go.
Down from Solan to Delhi again.