Quotes from ‘Kim’ by Rudyard Kipling

The review for the book

These are a few quotes from the book. The book gives us a very nice glimpse into colonial India and while some call it satirical, I find it to be honest and warm.

Who hold Zam-Zammah, that ‘fire-breathing dragon’, hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronze piece is always first of the conqueror’s loot.

This is how Kipling opens his book about India. With a glorious description of an ancient artifact. Also, the word ‘Zam-Zammah’ has a certain ring to it, no?

‘Let me up!’ shrilled little Chota Lal in his gilt-embroidered cap. His father was worth perhaps half a million sterling, but India is the only democratic land in the world.

Never heard India being described like that. Quite an astute observation.

I will take the alms-bowl and allow the charitable to acquire merit

This is what the Teshoo Lama (an important character) says about begging alms. Never really thought that by accepting alms, the beggar was actually doing a favor to the giver!

‘Those who beg in silence, starve in silence, ‘ said Kim, quoting a native proverb.

Extremely profound!

All India is full of holy men stammering gospels in strange tongues; shaken and consumed in the fires of their own zeal; dreamers, babblers, and visionaries: as it has been from the beginning and will continue to the end.

Another beautiful description of India. Or should I say, the India of the 19th Century?

‘Pity it is that these and such as these could not be freed from the wheel of things’

‘Nay, then would only evil people be left on the earth, and who would give us meat and shelter?’ quoth Kim, stepping merrily under his burden.

The wheel of things is the materialistic mesh of human desires. While the Lama wishes to free all from these bonds, Kim offers a counter-view that shows how deep a thinker he is.

Let the Gods order it. I have never pestered Them with prayers. I do not think They will pester me. Look you, I have noticed in my long life that those who eternally break in upon Those Above with complaints and reports and bellowings and weepings are presently sent for in haste, as our Colonel used to send for slack-jawed down-country men who talked too much. No, I have never wearied the Gods. They will remember this, and give me a quiet place where I can drive my lance in the shade, and wait to welcome my sons.

An old soldier who meets with Kim and the Lama gives them some pearls of wisdom.

He was nearly asleep when the lama suddenly quoted a proverb: ‘The husbands of the talkative have a great reward hereafter.’

Kipling has used local proverbs quite beautifully. This is in reference to an old rich woman from Kulu that Kim and the Lama meet on their first journey. She is a very colorful character.

The diamond-bright dawn woke men and crows and bullocks together. Kim sat up and yawned, shook himself, and thrilled with delight. This was seeing the world in real truth; this was life as he would have it—bustling and shouting, the buckling of belts, and beating of bullocks and creaking of wheels, lighting of fires and cooking of food, and new sights at every turn of the approving eye. The morning mist swept off in a whorl of silver, the parrots shot away to some distant river in shrieking green hosts: all the well-wheels within ear-shot went to work. India was awake, and Kim was in the middle of it, more awake and more excited than anyone, chewing on a twig that he would presently use as a toothbrush.

Another pretty description of India. This man really loved the country!

 It is a shame and a scandal that a poor woman may not go to make prayer to her Gods except she be jostled and insulted by all the refuse of Hindustan—that she must eat gali [abuse] as men eat ghi. But I have yet a wag left to my tongue—a word or two well spoken that serves the occasion. And still am I without my tobacco! Who is the one-eyed and luckless son of shame that has not yet prepared my pipe?

The old rich woman from Kulu makes a valid point. And ‘one-eyed luckless son of shame’, hahaha! Move over Shakespearean insults!

There is no sin as great as ignorance.


There is no city—except Bombay, the queen of all—more beautiful in her garish style than Lucknow, whether you see her from the bridge over the river, or from the top of the Imambara looking down on the gilt umbrellas of the Chutter Munzil, and the trees in which the town is bedded. Kings have adorned her with fantastic buildings, endowed her with charities, crammed her with pensioners, and drenched her with blood. She is the centre of all idleness, intrigue, and luxury, and shares with Delhi the claim to talk the only pure Urdu.

A beautiful description of Lucknow with a hat-tip to Bombay (my city). The book is full of such gems.

Fools speak of a cat when a woman is brought to bed.

Kim says the darnedest of things sometimes! :)

This matter of creeds is like horseflesh. The wise man knows horses are good—that there is a profit to be made from all; and for myself—but that I am a good Sunni and hate the men of Tirah—I could believe the same of all the Faiths. Now manifestly a Kathiawar mare taken from the sands of her birthplace and removed to the west of Bengal founders—nor is even a Balkh stallion (and there are no better horses than those of Balkh, were they not so heavy in the shoulder) of any account in the great Northern deserts beside the snow-camels I have seen. Therefore I say in my heart the Faiths are like the horses. Each has merit in its own country.

Mahbub the horse trader knows a thing or two about religion.

He coughed and spat out the cardamoms. ‘It is purely unoffeecial indent, to which you can say “No, Babu”. If you have no pressing engagement with your old man—perhaps you might divert him; perhaps I can seduce his fancies—I should like you to keep in Departmental touch with me till I find those sporting coves. I have great opeenion of you since I met my friend at Delhi. And also I will embody your name in my offeecial report when matter is finally adjudicated. It will be a great feather in your cap. That is why I come really.’

This is what Hurree Babu says. You can guess he’s Bengali from the way that Kipling captures his pronunciation :)

Where there is no eye there is no caste.

Teshoo Lama strikes again :D

The Government has brought on us many taxes, but it gives us one good thing—the te-rain that joins friends and unites the anxious. A wonderful matter is the te-rain.

The railways are truly the best gift that India has received from the British.

None but a grandmother should ever oversee a child. Mothers are only fit for bearing.

A tongue in cheek observation by the old rich woman from Kulu.

The lama was mildly surprised that anyone should object to the knife-edged breezes which had cut the years off his shoulder.

Such mesmerizing descriptions!

He did not want to cry—had never felt less like crying in his life—but of a sudden easy, stupid tears trickled down his nose, and with an almost audible click he felt the wheels of his being lock up anew on the world without. Things that rode meaningless on the eyeball an instant before slid into proper proportion. Roads were meant to be walked upon, houses to be lived in, cattle to be driven, fields to be tilled, and men and women to be talked to. They were all real and true—solidly planted upon the feet—perfectly comprehensible—clay of his clay, neither more nor less.

How Kim achieves enlightenment.

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