(Nov 27th to Dec 3rd)

Format: Triple

‘… He’s a Bengali of the Bengalis, crammed with code and case law; a beautiful man so far as routine and deskwork go, and pleasant to talk to. They naturally have always kept him in his own home district, where all his sisters and his cousins and his aunts lived, somewhere south of Dacca. He did no more than turn the place into a pleasant little family preserve, allowed his subordinates to do what they liked, and let everybody have a chance at the shekels. Consequently he’s immensely popular down there.’


This is from “The Head of the District” in Life’s Handicap, first published in 1890.

On the death of a Deputy-Commissioner in a wild district on the North-West Frontier, the Government of India, keen to demonstrate its commitment to the advancement of Indians in the governance of the country, has appointed a Bengali in his place. Here two senior local men are considering how best to explain the appointment to the local tribesmen, who traditionally despise Bengalis.

‘See! I begin with the North,’ said he. ‘There’s the Afghan, and, as a highlander, he despises all the dwellers in Hindoostan — with the exception of the Sikh, whom he hates as cordially as the Sikh hates him. The Hindu loathes Sikh and Afghan, and the Rajput — that’s a little lower down across this yellow blot of desert — has a strong objection, to put it mildly, to the Maratha who, by the way, poisonously hates the Afghan. Let’s go North a minute. The Sindhi hates everybody I’ve mentioned. Very good, we’ll take less warlike races. The cultivator of Northern India domineers over the man in the next province, and the Behari of the Northwest ridicules the Bengali. They are all at one on that point…’


This is from “The Enlightenments of Pagett, M.P., an 1890 story which is only collected in the Sussex and Burwash editions.

Pagett, a Member of Parliament of liberal tendencies, and a lifelong Radical, visits India at the invitation of Orde, a Deputy Commissioner at Amara, a man with whom he was at school. They settle down on the veranda after breakfast to continue their discussion of events since they last met twenty years before. Pagett is anxious to discuss the Indian National Congress and is puzzled as to why the other Englishmen he meets are reluctant to do so, not grasping that most illiterate Indians had not heard of it and were more concerned with where their next meal was coming from than with voting. This was a concept they did not understand, having always been ruled by force of arms. Here he is describing the enmity that existed between different Indian peoples.

… as Purun Dass grew up he felt that the old order of things was changing, and that if any one wished to get on in the world he must stand well with the English, and imitate all that the English believed to be good. At the same time a native official must keep his own master’s favour. This was a difficult game, but the quiet, close-mouthed young Brahmin, helped by a good English education at a Bombay University, played it coolly, and rose, step by step, to be Prime Minister of the kingdom. That is to say, he held more real power than his master the Maharajah.


This is from the opening passage of “The Miracle of Purun Baghat” in The Second Jungle Bookn written in 1894.

It describes how a young Brahmin rises to be Prime-Minister of a native state, though sheer ability and judgement. Later in the tale, when his reputation is at its highest, he decides to give up his official career, and become a wandering holy man, pondering the meaning of existence.