(Jan 16th to 22nd)

Format: Triple

Every single pot has to be tested for quality. A native, called the purkhea, drives his fist into the opium, rubs and smells it, and calls out the class for the benefit of the opium examiner. A sample picked between finger and thumb is thrown into a jar, and if the opium examiner thinks the purkhea has said sooth, the class of that jar is marked in chalk, and everything is entered in a book. Every ten samples are put in a locked box with duplicate keys, and sent over to the laboratory for assay. With the tenth boxful—and this marks the end of the challan of a hundred jars—the Englishman in charge of the testing signs the test-paper.


This is from “In an Opium Factory” one of Kipling’s reports to the Pioneer from his rail journey from Allahabad to Calcutta in January 1888.

It is collected in From Sea to Sea Volume I.

The factory floors are made slippery with the tread of bare-footed coolies, who shout as the tea whirls through its transformations. The over-note to the clamour—an uncanny thing too—is the soft rustle-down of the tea itself-stacked in heaps, carried in baskets, dumped through chutes, rising and falling in the long troughs where it is polished, and disappearing at last into the heart of the firing-machine—always this insistent whisper of moving dead leaves. Steam-sieves sift it into grades, with jarrings and thumpings that make the floor quiver, and the thunder of steam-gear is always at its heels ; but it continues to mutter unabashed till it is riddled down into the big, foil-lined boxes and lies at peace.


This is from “Some Earthquakes” Kipling’s fifth letter in From Tideway to Tideway, his honeymoon journey across America and over the Pacific to Japan. It describes the ‘firing’ of tea in a Japanese factory in 1892.

It is collected in Letters of Travel (1892-1913).

They remember, too, that for many years voices gave orders which they obeyed with their bodies, but their minds were abroad on all the seas. It seems to them that they stood through days and nights slowly sliding a bar backwards and forwards through a white glow that was part of the ship. They remember an intolerable noise in their burning heads from the walls of the stoke-hole, and they remember being savagely beaten by men whose eyes seemed asleep. When their shift was over they would draw straight lines in the air, anxiously and repeatedly, and would question one another in their sleep, crying, “Is she straight?”


This is from “The Devil and the Deep Sea” in The Day’s Work.

The Haliotis, a British steamer, caught in the act of illicit pearling in eastern waters, has been fired on by a local gun-boat and her engines wrecked. Now the crew are trying to repair them to make their escape and take vengeance.