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Rudyard Kipling’s Novel ‘Kim’, by Timeri Murari

In my last post I discussed how Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim provided inspiration for my historical novel The Imperial Agent. I’d like to use this post to share an excerpt from Kim:

Kim looked north, not in worship, but in memory.  It was gradually becoming light and it seemed, at first, a trick of the eyes grown used to the Indian night. The mountain peaks were just visible. Soon they would turn pink as the sun brushed the snow.

“Somewhere up there is the home of my old companion, the Lama. Long ago we travelled from Lahore to Benares in search of the sacred river. He found what he was looking for. He was fortunate. God blesses the innocent – and he was a child. I have never known such innocence. What chance had I, with the bazaars of Lahore and the Grand Trunk Road as the gardens of childhood? It is true I have survived and thrived, more fortunate than many of my chokra companions, dead, disabled, begging. My friend found strength in his belief that God guided him. I have no such belief yet. But one man, the Colonel, is the father I have never known. My mother is India herself; the sun, the dust, the waters, the odour of the hot earth. One day I too will have belief, I too will search. From up there in the mountains my friend’s spirit will be my guide in life.”

Kim stood up and stretched. He strolled over to a deodar, untied his pi-jama and urinated. The steam and smell imparted an earthiness like the smell of cattle, the sweet smoke of dung fires. It gave him life against this wintry chill. After retying his pi-jama he approached one of the Sikh bodyguards.

“Sardar, when will they finish?”

“When they are good and ready, and not when chuthias like you want it. Now return to the other coolies.”

“Salah,” Kim swore cheerfully. “You too would be squatting with me on the road if it wasn’t for that fine uniform. Where are you from?”

The bodyguard chuckled. “Near Ludhiana. And you?”

“Lahore,” Kim replied, conscious that his past was partly fabricated. He could not claim with such certainty a place in India; he had no village, no ancestors. “Do they pay you well to stand here like a statue?”

“Well enough to feed my wife and children and to buy my own farm one day.”

“Buy? For your bharti the sarkar will give you one free from their Crown lands, reserved specially for loyal sardars like you.”

***

Timeri Murari’s author website: www.timerimurari.com

Timeri Murari’s bio page

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