My wife has taken to watching the Turner Classic Movies channel and so it was one day I turned on the television and found myself watching the 1949 movie, Kim, based on the novel of the same name by Rudyard Kipling. Charmed by the movie, I checked the book out of the library and was immediately ensnared. Both the narrative and the language enthralled me so that I carried the little book with me everywhere.
Reading so much about the India of the latter days of the 19th century, I became curious as to the accuracy of the depictions. And so I read in several places that Kipling had captured India masterfully. Some critics also took on those who would accuse Kipling of stereotyping, racism, imperialism, etc. Those are immoral aspects of our history which I have investigated for decades now and I am well aware of Kipling being cited often for his phrase, “The White Man’s Burden”. It frequently heads chapters delineating the imperialistic and racist attitudes of the 19th century. But I also knew, as the critics pointed out, that Kipling’s poem and his other poetry and writing attacked just those attitudes. Neither was he loathe to castigate “Asiatics” and “Orientals” (I note the autocorrect underscores Asiatics as incorrect) for customs which resulted in injustice.
Then there is the matter of language. I chose 3 words from several pages: bogged cow, plash, and davwt. I googled the 2 English words and found that they were perfectly good vocabulary words though not so clear in modern discourse: bogged meaning trapped in a bog and plash a variant of splash. Davwt I knew to be Urdu/Hindi for a party, a get-together but Kipling had used it to label the procedure the madame went through in setting protective charms on Kim. I am happy to be possessed of Platt, the ultimate dictionary of Hindi/Urdu to English and found under davwt, about seven meanings down, the word “exorcism”. Yea! Kipling proved accurate again.
And finally, a little puzzled by my enthusiasm for the book, which I had to find in the Young Adult section, I noted that it had been chosed for many honors, including one of the hundred best novels in English of the twentieth century. You might enjoy it yourself.