Chapter IV

Notes on the text

(by Sharad Keskar)

page 1

[Page 83, verse heading] This is from Kipling’s poem “The Wishing Caps” which was published in 1912 in Songs from Books and later collections.

quean is a loose, ill behaved woman; kittle, a Scottish term meaning need to handle with care; and busking, getting ready.

[Page 85, main text, line 9] takkus a vernacular corruption of the English word tax.

[Page 85, line 24] belaitee-pani Literally, ‘foreign water’. In Anglo-India soda water was a popular mixer for whisky, hence the connection.

[Page 86, line 20] Sansis “a tribe of gypsies who kept and also ate dogs.” [Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG]

[Page 86, line 32] an Akali a militant, orthodox Sikh, distinguished by his bright blue turban.

[Page 87, line 5] Khalsa the Sikh sodality or brotherhood. The word means pure, and the Khalsa catechumen is a fully pledged disciple of truthful living. Among Sikhs the word is synonymous with “Sikh” and “Sikhism”.

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[Page 88, line 14] Kentish-fire “a prolonged and ordered salvo or volley of applause, or demonstration of impatience or dissent” ; said to have originated in meetings held in Kent 1828–9 in opposition to the Catholic Relief Bill . [Shorter Oxford Dictionary]

It is also customary to give Masonic Fire after the toasts at the banquet which follows a Lodge meeting; traditionally this was given with firing glasses which were banged on the table. [G.K.]

[Page 88, line 25] goose-rumped “weak in the hind-quarters” [Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG]

[Page 88, line 29] puttees khaki coloured felt bandages worn above the ankle and wrapped round up to the knees, to protect the legs, serving the function of knee-length boots, but a cheaper substitute for leather; particularly associated with the Indian Army.

[Page 89, line 4] the seventh heaven metaphorically to be supremely happy. Of the seven heavens of Muslim belief, the last is the paradise to the highest degree.

[Page 89, line 23] pith all cane plants have a soft, white kernel, and in the case of the sugar-cane, this pith, as it is called, contains the juice or sugar sap.

[Page 90, line 1] parao a camp-site.

[Page 90, line 21] Seven Sisters chattering and generally noisy brown birds like starlings, keeping mostly on the ground.

[Page 91, line 15] dung-cakes made of dried cow-dung. Fresh cow-pats are collected in baskets, shaped by hand into flat cakes which are patted against walls for drying. The dried pats are burned as fuel for cooking.

[Page 93, line 33] Ooryas people from the province of Orissa.

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[Page 96, line 14] a bow drawn at a venture Kipling’s familiarity with the Bible is obvious in his writings, and this is an example. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable records the phrase and defines its meaning as: “to make a random remark which may hit the truth.”

[Page 96, line 24] zemindars landlords or landowners. More correctly zamindars, since it is derived from the Persian/Urdu zamin, meaning land, ground, or earth.

[Page 96, line 25] Oudh [Avadh] historically troublesome and misruled state, north-east of the Ganges, now in Uttar Pradesh [United Provinces]. Its annexation by the British in 1856 led to the deposition of its corrupt rulers and resulted in a resentment that took its ugliest form during the Indian Mutiny, in Lucknow, its capital, and Kanpur [Cawnpore].

[Page 96, line 29] slave-traffic “Colonel Durand in his book, The Making of a Frontier wrote that he was told in 1888 that forty men were sold into slavery in that year from the small state of Chitral for an average price of one hundred rupees, or between £6 and £7 each. The justification was that there was no prison in the state and it was a good way of getting rid of criminals. . . In 1887 he also purchased for eighty rupees or about £5 the release of a Ladakhi slave whom he took back to Kashmir.

“This of course occurred in an area much further from civilisation and some years earlier, but it explains why the bazars believed the insinuations which Kim passed on. In Chitral it was looked on ‘as a natural source of making money. . .’ ” [Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG].

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[Page 98, line 32] shraddha bereavement ceremony.

[Page 101, line 11] chumping more correctly champing.

[Page 101, line 14] sitar a popular Indian, stringed musical instrument, which uses a dried gourd for its sounding box.

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[Page 102, line 17] the tale of the Arrow The legend of the archery contest for the fair hand of Yasodhara. The only suitor to bend the bow was Siddhartha Gautama, later Lord Buddha. More than that, the arrow sped beyond the sight of the watching spectators. But where it landed it marked the source of the River of the Arrow.

[Page 104, line 4] chewing on a twig In India, country folk clean their teeth every morning by chewing the end of a twig of the neem tree, using its fibrous result as a toothbrush. The neem looks like an ash tree and is revered in India for its many uses. Its “wood is used for making idols, its seeds yield an oil used as a cure for leprosy and tuberculosis, its bark is bitter and provides a tonic and fever cure and its leaves are hung up on the house front to keep away smallpox, as well as being given to a victim of snake bite to indicate if he will recover.” [Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG]

[Page 105, line 4] Queen of Delhi “. . .it was at that time that Zeemit Maihl, [Mahal] the last gueen, was continually trying to convince the old King, Bahadur Shah, that she was going to present him with another heir.” [Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG]

[Page 105, line 7] the gray monkey “. . .the queen had her own court and her own advisers, including the tall grey-beard, Pir Hassan Askari, the priest and plotter.” [Brigadier Alec Mason, in the ORG]

[Page 105, line 24] shabash! excellent! well done!

[Page 105, line 30] eat gali suffer or humbly accept abuse [gali means ‘abusive language’] — akin, as Mason points out, to the English idiom: ‘to swallow an insult’.

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[Page 106, line 31] zenanas quarters in a building exclusively for the women of the house. Also used for the women themselves. In India, this word, is preferable to ‘harem’ as it suggests a greater sense of freedom and autonomy than ‘harem’ does.

[Page 109, line 2] plates of clean leaves Simple folk in India eat off broad dry leaves, stitched together — not in the case of banana leaves used in South India as they are sufficiently large. In North India the leaves are usually from the pipal tree.