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Book Review: Kim by Rudyard Kipling

The imperialism of the late ninetieth century serves as a backdrop to Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel, Kim. It is a story of an orphan Irish boy, who has lost his parents when he was three. However, the documents related to his origin and family background are locked in a piece of cloth, which he wears around his neck all the time, in a sense it is a Masonic certificate that will liberate him from the clutches of wretched poverty status.

Kim was born in Lahore, in the British-ruled India. Being an orphan, he is either indulged into futile vagrancy or seen practicing minuscule errands on others to feed himself in the sweeping poverty-ridden Indian landscape. To side with him, there is an old Indian lady who is heavily addicted to opium, and on the other side is Mahbub Ali, a horse trader, who runs a network of spies for the British secret services.

One day Kim meets and befriends a Tibetan lama, who is in quest of the River of Arrow. To find that river they start their journey towards the great Himalayas but before the journey Mahbub Ali recruits Kim so as to send a message to the British headquarters in Ambala. This is also the time when Kim learns about the Great Game, a distant possibility of war between British and Russia over the central Asia territory. On their way Kim is being identified by a regimental priest, who happens to be from the same regiment as of Kim’s father.

The regiment people forcibly separates Kim from lama and sends him to a good English school in Lucknow and his fees is being paid by lama, by this time he has become a well wisher of Kim. However, in the school Kim learns to write, read and speak English but never loses contact with lama. After three years, Kim is out of school to serve the British secret services. When they start their journey again in the arduous routes of the Himalayas, a British spy Hurree Mookherjee, a senior of Kim, joins them to find out the Russians war plan. Kim manages to thieve much material from the Russians camp but they begin feeling being trapped or watched. So, next with the help of local porters and women Kim manages to escape lama from the hands of Russians and they both come down in the plains. On their return journey, lama finds that magical river and Kim, out of dilemma, leaves the espionage and joins lama as his chela (disciple).

Kim is beyond analysis as it is such an excellent work by the legendary English writer Rudyard Kipling, who is also famous for Jungle Book. Like Jungle Book, Kim, too, records all events on the Indian soil (earlier known as Hindukush). The Modern Library has put Kim at slot 78 on a list of best 100 novels of the twentieth century. 


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