The Smith Administration I

The Cow-House Jirga

(notes by David Page)

First Publication

4th November 1887 in the Civil and Military Gazette. Although the first story to appear in the collection, it was the fourth to be published.

The story

In which Peroo, the young son of the cow-man, went courting and was duly admonished together with the little girl’s nine-year old fiancé Imam Din, the young son of the coachman from the next door establishment.

Notes on the Text

[Page 341, Title] Jirga a tribal assembly on the Frontier. This is a light-hearted use of the term. Kipling defines the word as meaning a committee on page 343, line 32 below.

[Page 341, line 5] terai-crown defined in Hobson-Jobson as:‘a sort of double felt hat, worn when the sun is not so powerful as to require a sola topee’ (pith helmet). An illustration in Charles Allen’s Raj: A Scrapbook of British India 1877-1947 p. 54 shows a ‘Lady’s Terai’ from the A&N Catalogue which is not unlike a trilby in appearance.

[Page 341, line 11] Great Cow Question this great problem has bedevilled relations between Hindu and Muslim for centuries. To the Hindu the cow is a sacred animal, and is not to be harmed. To the Muslim, the cow is simply a source of food. Lockwood Kipling, in Chapter VI of his Beast and Man in India, describes the issue and the beliefs that lie behind it.

[Page 341, line 18] Peroo, the cow-boy A Hindu child, one of the Smith ménage, whose duty was to look after the cow(s).

[Page 342, line 2] Baktawri A little Muslim girl whose father worked for Corkler, Smith’s next-door neighbour.

[Page 342, lines 4-5] cow-dung cake or oopla. Used as fuel. See the illustration from Lockwood Kipling’s Beast and Man in India, p.148, together with a description of its manufacture.

[Page 342, line 13] If she be not fair to me from “The Manly Heart” written by George Wither (1588-1667) with ‘so’ for ‘fair’ – the next line is: ‘What care I how fair she be’.

[Page 342, line 20] chamar – Mahometan a leather worker (chamar) by caste is unclean. The coachman has converted from Hinduism, and as a Muslim has no caste.

[Page 342, line 25] cateran (Scots)—a Highland reiver or freebooting raider.

[Page 343, line 1] ‘Punjab head’ forgetfulness or mental confusion experienced by European settlers in India and elsewhere, said to be caused by exposure to a tropical climate. [Oxford English Dictionary]

Kipling also refers to ‘Punjab head’ in “The Conversion of Aurelian McGoggin” (Plain Tales from the Hills, p.112, line 21) thus:

Then the Doctor came back to us and told us that aphasia was like all the arrears of ‘Punjab Head’ falling in a lump; and that only once before—in the case of a sepoy—had he met with so complete a case.

[Page 343, line 4] ‘casters’ an army term for cavalry horses which are ‘cast’ as being too old or too vicious for further duty. [ORG]

[Page 343, line 8] dun a dull brown colour. [ORG]

[Page 343, line 22] gram-godown a store-house for chickpeas and pulse seeds – horse fodder. [ORG]

[Page 343, line 31] the Supreme Government a joking title for “Smith”.

[Page 344, line 17] sais horse groom.

[Page 344, line 20] letters of marque were commissions issued by a belligerent state to a private person permitting him to employ his vessel as a ship of war; this is explained in more detail in the Introduction in this Guide to “Letters of Marque” at the beginning of Volume I of From Sea to Sea.

[Page 345, line 16] lent money at interest this form of usury is forbidden to Muslims.

[Page 346, line 3] Ephesus see the New Testament, Acts 9,28. [ORG]

©David Page 2008 All rights reserved