My name is Mohsin Husain, but I write under the name of Mo Husain. I am the author of the novel A Soldier of the British Empire. I was born in Pakistan in 1959. Our family immigrated to England in 1965 when I was six years of age. Although I am of Muslim heritage, my brothers and I were raised in a secular household in South London.
Like most people who have an interest in the First World War, I first became interested in the subject at school during a history lesson when I was thirteen years of age. As I grew up, this interest became an obsession, following me into my registered nurse training. As a student nurse, the old soldiers I met and nursed in the hospital were most taken aback at being asked about their wartime experiences by a young man. They freely recalled to me so much of their time in the trenches. As I have been blessed with a very good memory, I was able to use their detailed first-hand account of life in the trenches when I began to write my novel.
During my adult life, I have read extensively about the Great War, mainly first-hand accounts, particularly diaries and journals of how soldiers found life in the trenches. Then, in my early twenties, I 'discovered' that Indian soldiers of the British Empire, two thirds of them who were Muslims, fought and died in their thousands for their colonial masters in the trenches of Flanders and France during the first two years of the war. Prior to and even during the centenary commemoration of the war, little is mentioned about those Indian soldiers. To me, it almost seemed as though they had either been forgotten or written out of the history books! I had a burning desire to right this wrong; however, I did not want to become a historian by leaving nursing, a profession I love very much.
By the late 1980s, I became interested in writing stories. My other passion was literature. The natural choice for my debut novel would be a story about a Muslim Indian soldier of the British Empire. The first draft of the manuscript was finally completed in 1997; after about five edits, the novel was put away, gathering dust until 2011.
When the novel was originally written, I used the format of a single diary to tell the story of the main character. The soldier writes about his experiences through regular diary entries throughout the book.
Three years ago, I began a complete re-write and restructuring of the novel. It now has five sections. The first three parts became three separate diaries. They mirror the actual time that most of the Indians spent on the Western Front or in Brighton, England. The novel is written as a first-person narrative, reflecting the style of a first-hand account of how life was like for the main character of the story, Ghulam. The next part of the novel is a short section consisting of three letters. The epilogue is a short story which gives the novel its closure.