Saturday, March 22, 2014

RUDYARD KIPLING (2/2)

One basic we would like to broach as we embark upon the journey into a unique mind: every writer cannot write for children, and as one from the tribe, Kipling deserves some respect, grudging as it may be. Sai Paranjpye, a major Children’s Writer elaborated this point in an interview aired by Doordarshan a few centuries back- nobody has to strain himself or herself to prove that she writes well for kids- the insincere works will be summarily thrown out by the child, without referring to the Literary Critic, she says. Compassion, a sense of wonderment, and a knack of rising to the level of the child without talking down, are some of the requisites of a good contributor to this genre…

As we saw, Kipling’s views were ‘politically and racially incorrect’, and that is putting it mildly. Was he not the inventor of the obnoxious term ‘White Man’s Burden’? The burden business goes further.

We do not know what God attends, the Unloved Race in every place,
Where they amass their dividends, from Riga to Jerusalem.

This is taken from “Burden of Jerusalem” by Kipling where we find him, darkly jealous, whining to the Almighty, about the fabulous Fortune of the Jews, The American anti-anti-Semitic and Conservative institution counter-currents.com goes further in ferreting out skeletons from Kipling’s cupboard:

“In a letter written from Jerusalem to his only surviving child Elsie, Kipling reportedly observed that many races are vile but the Jew in bulk on his native heath is the vilest of all..”

The anti-Semitic verse Burden of Jerusalem remained unpublished during Kipling’s life-time, and found way into a limited elite white circle through the hands of Dr. Webb-Johnson, death-bed physician of Kipling. The two greatest world leaders of the day, who were fighting the Nazis and were ostensibly on the side of the Jews, reacted enthusiastically to this anti-Semitic tissue , and President Roosevelt is quoted thus by Counter-currents: “I could understand why Mrs. Kipling thought it would be best not to publish it. Nevertheless, it remains a gem”. Churchill’s reaction was no less rave.
In writing the said passage to his daughter, not only has Kipling been shockingly anti-Semitic, but worse, he has poisoned the mind of an impressionable daughter, who a sensible father should leave to form her own opinion. But what about the sneaking admirers, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Kipling’s literary backer T.S.Eliot? Whatever we accuse Kipling of: hypocrisy is one vice that cannot be held against him! Twice was he approached for Knighthood by the British establishment, but he shied away from accepting the greatest honour that his chosen Kingdom had to offer, just to protect his ‘independence of thought’…
Best leave this bundle of contradiction, unquestionably a bold gentleman and a literary genius untouched, without passing a normative judgment. These thoughts are now but spent bullets, posing no threat whatsoever to mankind….

Whew! What delicious contradictions..! At 42, Kipling remains the youngest recipient of the Literature Nobel. The first Englishman to be blessed with the Prize. He is buried next to Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, in the Poet’s Corner at the Westminster Abbey. The universal acclaim for ‘IF’ was where we started…

By the by, here is a quotation from Charles Dickens after the British had put down the 'Sepoy Mutiny' aka 'First War of Indian Independence' (obviously anguished over the Lucknow killings):

“I wish I were Commander-in-Chief in India ... I should proclaim to them that I considered my holding that appointment by the leave of God, to mean that I should do my utmost to exterminate the race.”
In a long forgotten post we had listed people we admired for their turn of phrase’ skills- Dr. Ashok Mitra, H. W. Fowler, Tukaram, Nehru. Kipling too has to his credit innumerable expressions that are ‘staple’ in the English language:  “White Man’s Burden”, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Mowgli and memorable quotations like “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made Mothers”.

While applauding IF, the disclosure must be made that the poem was written in a personal context. The hero in the poem is Kipling’s friend, the swashbuckling renegade Colonialist Leander Starr Jameson, In 1895, Jameson assembled a private army outside the Transvaal in preparation for the violent overthrow of the Boer government. The idea was to foment unrest among foreign workers (Uitlanders) in the territory, now in Mozambique, and use the outbreak of open revolt as an excuse to invade and annexe the territory on behalf of the Empire. Jameson launched the famous ‘Jameson Raid’ in December 1895, and managed to push within twenty miles of Johannesburg before superior Boer forces compelled him and his men to surrender.(ahem…Wikipedia)  The wrong done to Jameson consisted in the treacherous retreat beaten by the British Government, after initially encouraging the launch of the raid. John Chamberlain, British Colonial Secretary ditched Jameson awkwardly, inspiring the creation of the sublime work, as Jameson bore the pain in silence. The Bhagvada Gita was also reputably created by God in the context of a personal matter!

But one can only marvel at the universal appeal of Kipling’s work, which possibly results from the feverish and outlandish imagination that marks his works, the manly vigour in his writing, and some atavistic chords he strikes in our minds. As regards the element which we find ‘misguided’, that is the racist inclination, it in fact buttresses the writer’s appeal in the eyes of the western audiences, rather than retracting from it. It’s sort of garnishing on an excellent meal
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A major reason for his universal appeal is of course his major genre- Children’s Literature. The child’s way of thinking knows no territorial limits. The emotional appeal a tiger or a forest or a jungle kid arouses in an Indian child will not differ much from the awe or sense of bubbling anticipation they raise in the mind of an Argentine kid…

Some thoughts  penned by Michael Cohen, Child Laureate, for The Guardian:

I think of children's books as not so much for children, but as the filling that goes between the child world and the adult world.                  and

The world of children's books is a very friendly, decent place to be. It's full of people who are desperate to enlighten, interest and excite children in ideas, imaginary worlds and contemporary issues.

Writing well for the child is to an extent an unfathomable, for you and I may lack the wherewithal for reliving our childhood. It calls for a natural empathy which cannot be cultivated, but can come in combination with various traits like the resumption of racial superiority…ha, ha…Carl von Bailiff...
Imagine the sheer evocative-ness of Kipling’s words enshrined in Jungle Book::

‘Shere Khan, the Big One, has shifted his hunting grounds. He will hunt among these hills for the next moon, so he has told me.’              and

It was seven o’clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Father Wolf woke up from his day’s rest, scratched himself, yawned, and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid of the sleepy feeling in their tips. Mother Wolf lay with her big gray nose dropped across her four tumbling, squealing cubs, and the moon shone into the mouth of the cave where they all lived. ‘Augrh!’ said Father Wolf. ‘It is time to hunt again.’ He was going to spring down hill when a little shadow with a bushy tail crossed the threshold and whined: ‘Good luck go with you, O Chief of the Wolves. And good luck and strong white teeth go with noble children that they may never forget the hungry in this world.’

Imagine a Wolf being associated with a noble feeling of empathy for the hungry of the world!

Coming back to the universality of Kiplingiana, just look at what President Vladimir Putin said about Western funded opposition to his regime:

“What can I say in this case? I can say: “Come to me, bandarlog,” Putin said, citing python Kaa from Kipling's "Jungle Book" who lured monkeys before suffocating them.

When asked the wherefore for the allusion, Putin reveals that Jungle Book is one of the most read books in Russia!

Geoffery Wansell, the well known British movie critic writes about IF in the Daily Mail:

My own father gave a copy to me when I was ten and I carried it around in my wallet for the next 15 years. He felt it was the perfect advice for a son born at the end of the last world war, who could not know what triumphs and disasters lay ahead.

And now for the mandatory pictorial:
DEAN'S RESIDENCE SIR JJ SCHOOL OF APPLIED ARTS OPP. VT STATION (NOT CENTRAL SALES TAX), MUMBAI: BIRTHPLACE: HE ALWAYS FELT LIKE                      MI MUMBAIKAR
GABLES: ANCESTRAL HOME IN SUSSEX
SO FOND WAS HE OF LAHORE FORT, HIS AMERICAN HOME IN VERMONT WAS CHRISTENED NAULAKHA AFTER THE PAVILION
ORIGINAL NAULAKHA PAVILION AT LAHORE

NAZI SWASTIKA (CLOCKWISE) ON ORIGINAL JUNGLE BOOK COVER
CONCESSION TO HUMANITY: ON THE BACK COVER, THE HINDU SWASTIKA (ANTI-CLOCKWISE)
SOFT TONED COLLIER PORTRAIT 1891
RIGHT MAN, RIGHT PLACE
AERIAL VIEW OF LAHORE FORT

1 comment:

essay writing said...

Though I vaguely remember studying Kipling, I have not yet read his works out of mere curiosity and passion. But I shall read him because these verses are good.