Kim


Chapter VIII

Notes on
the text


by Sharad Keskar

The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan Uniform Edition of Kim, first published in 1901 and frequently reprinted since).


[Mar 11 2004]

[Page 186, verse heading] This consists of the first and last verses of Kipling’s “The Two Sided Man”, but with some changes. Here the first line begins with “Something I owe”, but in the Definitive Edition, we have: “Much I owe”. So too, in the last verse, “shirts” and “shoes” are “shirt” and “shoe” making the third line scan: “Sooner than lose for a minute or two” as opposed to “Sooner than for an instant lose”. The meaning is plain in each case, but the reader must bear in mind that Chapter VIII is the centre of Kim’s 15 chapters and presents the very crux of Kim’s dilemma.

This context is made clear on Page 203, when Mahbub’s advises Kim: “‘remember this with both kinds of faces. Among sahibs, never forgetting thou art a Sahib; among the folk of Hind, always remembering thou art—’ he paused, with a puzzled smile.” Mahbub gauges Kim’s trouble with identity, and his intuition is confirmed by Kim’s reply: “ ‘What am I? Mussalman, Hindu, Jain or Buddhist? That is a hard nut.’ ”

[main text, line 13] balushai a sweet of pastry, sugar and ghee. [clarified butter]

[Page 189, line 27] Eblis [Iblis] the chief evil spirit or devil of Islamic mythology.

[Page 191, line 29] bhang pr. bhung, intoxicating drug made from hemp leaves.

[Page 192, line 1] madrissah [Urdu} school.

[Page 192, line 1] punkah fan; in the days of before electricity, the ceiling fan, almost room wide, was a horizontal short screen, attached to a rope, and pulled by a man-servant [punkah-wala], who sat outside the room, thus moving the screen to and fro. The stirred air, within the room, keeps it cool. It was a monotonous job and the punkah-wala was kept alert by frequent shouting by the sahib in the room.

[Page 192, line 3] Heaven-born although correctly applied to the Brahmin, the term was, as a mark of respect, directed to the ruling white sahib by sycophants. Kim was a cadet white sahib, and Mahbub’s sarcasm is directed to his youth and inexperience.

[Page 194, line 3] rough ridge print the rope bruise mark on the thumb of a man who trains and works with horses.

[Page 197, line 22] culvert a small bridge over a pipe which channels water that would cross a country road or path.

[Page 200, line 21] dole that little extra quantity of grain kept aside for charity to religious beggars, and not recorded in accounts for audit; in general meaning, very much the same as the English word dole.

[Page 203, line 4] stage-carriage as the word “stage” suggests, before the railways, the journey to Simla had to be done in stages, involving a change of horses.

[Page 203, line 10] Colonel Soady Sahib Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG notes, “he was at Abazai which is some 24 miles north of Peshawar in 1860; he was promoted Major-General and died in 1889. A story about him was [is] in the Kipling Journal No. 99, Page 16.”

[Page 203, line 26] Fools speak of a cat This is rather droll. Kim instances men who pretend that the overheard sighs of a woman “brought to bed” are those of a cat, But their attempt to hide the truth serves only to raise suspicions or (in Mahbub’s words, said earlier to which this is Kim’s response), “He is more like to search truth with a dagger."

[Page 204, line 11] Sunni the larger and more orthodox branch of Islam.

[Page 205, line 16] their eyes are blued etc. many (rank and file) European soldiers had liaisons with low caste Indian women. Their offspring, often blue-eyed and pale skinned Eurasians, while looked down upon by the British, were in time trusted and given jobs in the railways and the police. Their loyalty gained them privileges, of which schooling in places like St Xavier’s, was one.

However, as Kim suggests, their low caste “blood” could not be disguised and it was not an uncommon belief that dark finger nails or those without ‘half-moons’ were proof of this fact. [Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG amended] Sadly, all Eurasians were tarred by the same brush, so that better educated Eurasians, and offspring from marriages to middle class Indians, called themselves Anglo-Indians. The term Anglo-Indian has now acquired its new usage.

[Page 205, line 18] metheeranees or metharranis, fem. of methar and thus women sweepers and cleaners of refuse.

[Page 206, line 23] Allah Kerim God is gracious.

[Page 206, line 29] Punjore Gardens of a Moghul Palace near to Kalka and Simla.

[Page 207, line 4] screws “a slang word for poor horses.” [Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG]

[Page 207, line 16] deodar the Indian cedar.

[Page 207, line 22] dry washings before prayers the Muslim goes through a ritual washing of hands and face. Away from a washroom he merely goes through the motions.

[Page 208, line 6] Mackerson Sahib’s well As Commissioner of Peshawar, Colonel Mackerson, according to Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG, was assassinated in 1853 by a religious fanatic. He is deservedly remembered, more than a generation later, for the good work he did to improve the Cantonment’s water supply. His statue in Peshawar had its inscription written by the Marquess of Dalhousie, who was Viceroy from 1848 to 1856.

[Page 208, line 16] jhampanis sedan chair carriers.

[Page 208, line 17] rickshaw a hand-drawn two-wheeled carriage with a simple hood.

[Page 209, line 9] Lurgan Sahib This is a portrayal of a real person named Alexander M. Jacob. The detailed note on him by Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG, cannot be bettered, and Kipling Journal Nos. 13 and 14 are worth studying.


[S.K.]