quotes_jaug1_2010.htm

(August 1st to 7th)



Format: Triple

A solid line of blue, rising and falling like the back of a caterpillar in haste, would swing up through the quivering dust and trot past to a chorus of quick cackling. That was a gang of changars— the women who have taken all the embankments of all the Northern railways under their charge— a flat-footed, big-bosomed, strong-limbed, blue-petticoated clan of earth-carriers, hurrying north on news of a job, and wasting no time by the road. They belong to the caste whose men do not count, and they walked with squared elbows, swinging hips, and heads on high, as suits women who carry heavy weights. A little later a marriage procession would strike into the Grand Trunk with music and shoutings, and a smell of marigold and jasmine stronger even than the reek of the dust. One could see the bride’s litter, a blur of red and tinsel, staggering through the haze, while the bridegroom’s bewreathed pony turned aside to snatch a mouthful from a passing fodder-cart.

  

This is from Kim, and descibes the scene when he and the Lama reach the Grand Trunk Road..


… he did not once lift his eyes to the mellow landscape around him, or throw a word at the life of the English road which to me is one renewed and unreasoned orgy of delight. The mustard-coloured scouts of the Automobile Association; their natural enemies, the unjust police; our natural enemies, the deliberate market-day cattle, broadside-on at all corners, the bicycling butcher-boy a furlong behind; road-engines that pulled giddy-go-rounds, rifle galleries, and swings, and sucked snortingly from wayside ponds in defiance of the noticeboard; traction-engines, their trailers piled high with road metal; uniformed village nurses, one per seven statute miles, flitting by on their wheels; governess-carts full of pink children jogging unconcernedly past roaring, brazen touring-cars; the wayside rector with virgins in attendance, their faces screwed up against our dust; motor-bicycles of every shape charging down at every angle; red flags of rifle-ranges; detachments of dusty-putteed Territorials; coveys of flagrant children playing in mid-street, and the wise, educated English dog safe and quite silent on the pavement if his fool-mistress would but cease from trying to save him, passed and repassed us in sunlit or shaded settings.

   

This is from “The Vortex” in A Diversity of Creatures”. The narrator has set off on a drive into the country with companions who include Mr Lingnam, an excessively boring theorist of Empire. Lingnam talks away, ignoring the splenid panorama of the English road. Later he gets his come-uppance when a swarm of bees escapes.


The city thrust more treasure upon me than I could carry away. It came out of dark alleyways on tawny camels loaded with pots ; on pattering asses half buried under nets of cut clover; in the exquisitely modelled hands of little children scurrying home from the cookshop with the evening meal, chin pressed against the platter’s edge and eyes round with responsibility above the pile; in the broken lights from jutting rooms overhead, where the women lie, chin between palms, looking out of windows not a foot from the floor ; in every glimpse into every courtyard, where the men smoke by the tank … and, above all, in the mixed delicious smells of frying butter, Mohammedan bread, kababs, leather, cooking-smoke, assafetida, peppers, and turmeric.

   

This is from Kipling’s descriptionj of Cairo, which he visited in 1913, and wrote of in a serises of letters entitled Egypt of The Magicians. He was delighted to find many similarities with Lahore, another great Muslim city, where he had worked as a journalist as a young man, some twenty-five years before. it is collected in Letters of Travel (1920).

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