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Thread: Kim - first impressions

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Kim - first impressions

    I have started reading Kim. Kim is quite a different boy to Mowgli from the Jungle Books. All Mowgli's friends and enemies were animals. Kim is trying to make his way as an orphan in a complicated human society. To me it is interesting that Rudyard Kipling was British, but seemed to have perfect confidence is writing about Indian people. Since he lived there for so much for his life, perhaps that is no great surprise, but he appears confident in knowing how Indian people would interact even without any British people about. The India he portrays is rather different to today, I expect. For a start, much of the story seems to be set in modern day Pakistan. India has split into three countries, but then Kim is Irish by parentage, and Ireland has not been a part of the UK for over ninety years. I like all the different religious groups portrayed in the book. There are Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and a Buddhist lama from Tibet, who young Kim is either following (or more likely leading). Later, I gather there are Jains. Among the Hindus there are numerous castes, but nobody seems very dogmatic. Train travel play an important part of the story. One thing that often surprises me with books of this era is that it is now so long ago, when people's values were so different to today's, and yet they possessed sophisticated technology. The other thing that amused me are the sly references to prostitution. The woman who looked after Kim as an infant "pretended to keep a secondhand furniture shop by the square where the cheap cabs wait".
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User 108 fountains's Avatar
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    It's been several years since I read Kim, but I remember that it brought me back to the days when I lived and traveled in Nepal and northern India - in the late 70's early 80's. I don't think the India of today (or at least the rural India and Nepal of 30 years ago) was all that different from the days when Kipling wrote Kim - at least not the attitudes of the people and the vibrancy of the various religious, caste and ethnic groups. In fact, what always impressed me most about India and Nepal in those days was the acute intensity of just living daily life, an experience that I think is expressed well in Kim

    In 1993, I traveled to the Rann of Kutch - it's this little place in Western India on the border with Pakistan adjacent to a peninsula that hangs down into the Arabian Sea, and on the maps it has all these horizontal lines on it. I went because I wanted to know what all the horizontal lines were. Turns out they were salt marshes. All throughout Rajasthan and Gujarat, it's possible to see the ruins of ancient walled cities - when I went to Bhuj, the capital city of Kutch, I felt like I had travelled into the past because the city was still thriving behind its ancient walls. The marketplace of Bhuj could have come right out of a description of a market in Kipling's Kim. While in Bhuj, I visited the Aina Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), and in fact the walls and ceiling of one of the central chambers of the palace was covered with tiny mirrors (oh, maybe one inch by one inch square - it's a tradition Gujarati decoration that you find on artwork and even clothing). I decided to take a bicycle from Bhuj to the coast and ended up in a place called Mandvi. From the crowd I attracted, I figured I must have been the only Westerner to come there in a generation - maybe ever. On the way back to Bhuj, I came across a camel caravan. I spoke to the chieftain (for lack of a better term) and between my limited Hindi and his limited English, he invited me to join the caravan. To this day, passing up that offer is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

    I would like to believe that rural India remains unchanged from the days when I used to travel around there, but I'm guessing that advances in communication and transportation in the past 20 or 30 years have made inroads even into these places. I heard that the Aina Mahal and most of the city of Bhuj were destroyed in an earthquake not many years after my visit there, and it broke my heart to hear that.
    A just conception of life is too large a thing to grasp during the short interval of passing through it.
    Thomas Hardy

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Very interesting.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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