Third book reviewed as part of the 130 Challenge
This is a book that I have wanted to read since 2006. When I was in Nagpur in 2008, I purchased it from a road side second-hand book stall and the book stayed on my ‘to-read’ list for more than 5 years! I finally got down to reading it thanks to the 130 Challenge.
It took me 2 days to complete it and while I wasn’t blown away by it, I feel that it was quite an interesting read. More so because it offered to me, a beautiful perspective of Colonial India.
The book starts with four lines from Kipling’s poem Buddha at Kamakura (every chapter starts with a few lines of poetry that beautifully sum up what happens in the chapter), followed by a description of Kim, and how a white boy came about becoming an urchin in this poor old country. This is also where he describes the prophecy regarding Kim, which turns into a very interesting plot later on.
In the first few pages, he meets Teshoo Lama, a Tibetan priest who becomes a constant companion and though he starts off as a bumbling priest, he grows into very much the abbot that he claims to be. On their journey together, they meet a lot of colorful characters, each one lending a different perspective to the story and introducing another angle to it.
First comes Mahbub the horse trader, who in his communal Mossalman (Muslim) way, is still a benign presence and eventually turns out to be a Sufi (freethinker, as Kipling translates it). He is instrumental in starting Kim off on his great adventure and acts as his guide.
Next we meet a few minor characters that eventually bring us to the rich old woman from Kulu (I think it is the modern day Kullu-Manali, but I may be wrong). She is a acid-tongued woman with a lot of wit, but she loves both Kim and the Lama and offers refuge to them throughout the story.
Then in the process of becoming a spy for the government (a Sahib) Kim meets Lurgan Sahib who bamboozles him with his sleight of hand and his art of deceptive disguise.
But the most surprising and masterful character of all is the obese Bengali man called Hurree Babu, who seems to be the best agent out on the field. He takes a special interest in Kim and it is with Hurree Babu that Kim has his greatest adventure of all.
The story is beautifully crafted with a lot of wonderful descriptions of British India. Complete with religions, culture and sundry idiosyncrasies of the people. Check out the excerpts to see for yourself!
This is how Oxford people describe the book – ‘The book presents a vivid picture of India, its teeming populations, religions, and superstitions, and the life of the bazaars and the road.’
I heartily agree :)
Rating – 7/10 (Not legendary, but worth reading once at least)