Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reading Kipling's Kim

I recently borrowed an audio book on 'Kim'. It's an incredible book by a great writer who is able to capture the sights and sounds of India. Of course, he writes like an imperialist and some sections have some troubling comments on 'orientals'. But all in all it's a great book that captures a time in India that may no longer exists. I am glad to have read this book now after spending time in India myself, reading Indian novels and histories and watching Indian movies and eating Indian food. I think I would not be able to visualize Kipling's work without having this background.

I am borrowing also his other books like 'The Man Who Would be King.' No doubt he is a great writer and seems to herald a time and gestalt in the past like Mark Twain. I hope to borrow the movies on his books from the Esplanade. 'Kim' is a great book because it also speaks about the great game and the espionage network in India and Central Asia. It is a romantic book with images of adventure in far off and mysterious places. I borrowed this book after it was referred to in John Keegan's 'Intelligence in War,' another audio book I borrowed recently.

Kipling is the sort of author that people like Winston Churchill would read. I think it would be the sort of book that American neo-rightist would be reading prior to their intervention in the middle east. It supports that sort of thinking which stipulates a sort of western superiority and the righteousness of their cause. I don't think it was Kipling's intent to express these view but more of expressing the views and feelings of his age. It was also an expression of people of his class. A romantic class where I could see traces of in New Delhi, the railroads, Bombay (where Kipling was born) and the English architecture everywhere from the Gateway of India, train station, Raj Path and so on.

I thought I have lost my interest in India after the memories of my last trip about 2 years ago fades away. I have been feeding these memories by reading and watching movies on India but admit that I am getting tired. But Kipling's 'Kim' has magically brought me back into the bustle of India recalling my trips in New Delhi, Rajastan and Mumbai where I had loved to walk with the crowds, getting lost in the romance of the place. The book has triggered those memories again and I hope to borrow again some classics like the last film of Apu Trilogy by Sanyajit Ray. I think I will also borrow books like 'Far Eastern Tales' by Somerset Maugham. It's like I want to bask in the glow of the old British empire in the East in case I will leave the place soon.

I am also reading David Morell's 'The Successful Novelist'. It's good book and as I mentioned, it's only now in my present maturity that I am able to read books like these which I disdained in the past. I guess I deluded myself into thinking I am another Hemingway. I like his Morell's words in that writers will just write - it's an urge that cannot be suppressed. I guess for my part, my expression of writing is my journals and now my blog. I guess I have the urge but NOT in the appropriate avenue to be a novelist. So it's this challenge to move towards being a novelist where an entirely different set of skills need to be developed.

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