Amritsar was in for a tragic jolt in early 1919 when Brigadier-General Dyer, along with 50 other soldiers, opened fire on a massive gathering of 15,000 to 20,000 Indians in Jallianwala Bagh. The main reason presumed for General Dyer seeing red was his psychological fear that this was an insurrection against the British government. The fact that not even one out of all the men, women, and children attacked had raised a gun to retaliate, failed to register in his slightly dim mind that this might have been a peaceful gathering to celebrate a festival alien to the clueless British.
On the morning of 13th April, Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer woke up resolute and determined to shorten his name. With a title that puts tongue twisters to shame, no one could have blamed him for having recurring nightmares about the time when he was beaten at home, leading to his exceptionally frequent bouts of frustration. The most logical catharsis would obviously relate to aiming fifty .303 Lee-Enfield rifles at a large group of peaceful, unsuspecting Indians. Not only did he get (in)famous for what is now referred to as the Hindu Holocaust, he had an entire nation seething in anger and an iconic old man in flimsy white garments calling off a non-violent anti-cooperation movement. General Dyer, his name-shrinking dream now accomplishing the herculean task of ending his humiliation, would have been quite an inspiration to Hitler, had he not been blown to bits by angry young man Udham Singh. To add to his already swollen pride, he was awarded ‘The Most Honourable Order of the Bath’, the fourth-most senior honour of the British Orders of Chivalry. I guess all the men around should note that pulling chairs and opening doors is tame; try shooting your neighbours instead.
What Dyer sorely lacked was proper future planning. Despite the immediate loss of his duty as a Brigadier-General, he was showered with accolades back home, lulling him into a false sense of security. Little did he know that within a few years people would be jumping around bonfires, burning down massive effigies of him and everything that he stood for while shouting the filthiest abuses on top of their lungs.
If I were unfortunate enough to switch places with him, I would get my wife along with me to India. As hard as it might be to find one for a man like him, I think the introduction of sex might have brightened his mood. However, due to his foul temper, the poor soul might have faced BDSM almost a century before the release of the erotic 50 Shades trilogy. That would have surely led to him consulting a psychologist for anger management issues before deciding to lead a mini army into massacring thousands of innocents. Even if his mood swings did get the better of him, as Mister Dyer I wouldn’t have been illogical enough to fire at a gathering where I later used the defence of an insurrection being planned, with only 50 men against what could have been a well equipped army of ten thousand and more. A better excuse would have been instrumental in changing your case, General Dyer. However, if his temper had been moving towards the chillier side after a few counselling sessions, it might just be safe to say that so many lives wouldn’t have been lost on that fateful day.
In an alternate reality, Britain’s most famous chain of hair dressers, ‘Dy-yer-Hair’ would have been the product of a much calmer General retiring at a young age and seeing the wisdom in the Gandhian path of non-violence. Now that would have been a much better compliment to his name.