[ilds] "for an account of that sort of life, Kipling."

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Sun Jun 27 06:00:57 PDT 2010

Richard Pine wrote:

>         Regarding Durrell's childhood familiarity with Hindi, cf Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy pp. 65-6 re Kipling: 'He was not merely born in India, he was brought up in India by Indian servants in an Indian environment. He thought, felt and dreamed in Hindustani'.     

In order to make a bold point, we might even say that, later in life, 
Durrell recalled /two/ languages from his childhood: Hindustani and Kipling.

I think it is obvious that Durrell retained a lifelong fluency in 
Kipling. Cf. the following remark by Durrell in 1971.

>         Goulianos: So you think it would be better if the British were
>         still in India?
>         Durrell: I don't care fundamentally. The British have
>         obviously lost their drive, and these things go in rhythms.
>         I'm not pining for the Raj at all. I'm just saying that my
>         childhood was influenced there. And for an account of that
>         sort of life, Kipling.
>         "The Fasting of the Heart," Lawrence Durrell" Conversations
>         (123-124)

I will re-post below Kipling's major autobiographical and fictional 
statements on his Anglo-Indian childhood and "the vernacular idiom that 
one thought and dreamed in."

Meanwhile, everyone should read more Kipling.


            Kipling, /Something of Myself/, "Chapter 1 -- A Very Young

>             My first impression is of daybreak, light and colour and
>             golden and purple fruits at the level of my shoulder. This
>             would be the memory of early morning walks to the Bombay
>             fruit
>             market with my /ayah/ and later with my sister in her
>             perambulator, and of our returns with our purchases piled
>             high
>             on the bows of it. Our /ayah/ was a Portuguese Roman Catholic
>             who would pray—I beside her—at a wayside Cross. Meeta, my
>             Hindu bearer, would sometimes go into little Hindu temples
>             where, being below the age of caste, I held his hand and
>             looked at the dimly-seen, friendly Gods[. . . .]
>             In the afternoon heats before we took our sleep, she or Meeta
>             would tell us stories and Indian nursery songs all
>             unforgotten, and we were sent into the dining-room after we
>             had been dressed, with the caution ‘Speak English now to Papa
>             and Mamma.’ So one spoke ‘English,’ haltingly translated out
>             of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in.

            Kipling, "Baa Baa, Black Sheep"

>             The Swedish boatswain consoled him, and he modified his
>             opinions as the voyage went on. There was so much to see and
>             to handle and ask questions about that Punch nearly forgot
>             the
>             /ayah/ and Meeta and the /hamal/, and with difficulty
>             remembered a few words of the Hindustani once his
>             second-speech.

            Kipling, "The Potted Princess"

>             NOW this is the true tale that was told to Punch and Judy,
>             his
>             sister, by their nurse, in the city of Bombay, ten thousand
>             miles from here. They were playing in the veranda, waiting
>             for
>             their mother to come back from her evening drive. The big
>             pink
>             crane, who generally lived by himself at the bottom of the
>             garden because he hated horses and carriages, was with them
>             too, and the nurse, who was called the ayah, was making him
>             dance by throwing pieces of mud at him. Pink cranes dance
>             very
>             prettily until they grow angry. Then they peck.
>             This pink crane lost his temper, opened his wings, and
>             clattered his beak, and the ayah had to sing a song which
>             never fails to quiet all the cranes in Bombay. It is a very
>             old song, and it says:
>             Buggle baita nuddee kinara,
>             Toom-toom niushia kaye,
>             Nuddee kinara kanta lugga
>             Tullaka-tullaka ju jaye.
>             That means: A crane sat by the river-bank, eating fish
>             /toom-toom/, and a thorn in the riverbank pricked him, and
>             his
>             life went away /tullakatullaka/—drop by drop. The /ayah/ and
>             Punch and Judy always talked Hindustani because they
>             understood it better than English.


Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu

More information about the ILDS mailing list