Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows - Rudyard Kipling

The first of Rudyard Kipling for me, though I have 'Kim' sitting on my shelf for a long time. It's so Indian and from that British era of dances, shikaars, hookahs etc and hence instantly identifiable so I enjoyed reading his selection of short stories - all very Indian British.

'Thrown Away' deals with a sensitive boy who is brought up at home in England without much exposure to the outside world. When he grows up he is sent to India and suddenly exposed to a cruel world. He finds some insensitive remarks - one by a lady and another by his officer - too harsh and he kills himself. Kipling and the Colonel find him and spin a yarn of him dying of cholera. Kipling makes a case for how too much protection is not a great idea.

'In False Dawn' Saumarez proposes to the wrong sister of the two sisters, his sight blinded by the sand storm and it takes a lot of work to set things right. One is happy and the other is not.

'In the House of Sudhoo' we have a charlatan who makes money out of gullible people under the guise of black magic to drive spirits away but then everyone in the room who knows he is cheating a good man out of his money is silent about it because they all have a reason to stay silent.

'In the Bisara of Pooree' we come across the small ruby studded box which will cause whoever to fall in love with you - provided you steal it from its owner and better till - shed some blood. Interestingly Kipling mentions in passing that the only other one of its kind is in Toopran near Hyderabad.

'The Gate of a Hundred Sorrows' is a house where opium is sold and it is a  tale told by someone else to Kipling. I got a great visual of the place, its Chinese owner, but nothing more beyond it. If there was a twist I missed it.

'In the Story of Muhammad Din' he introduces us to Muhammad, son of his servant. Muhammad is a young child of eight who has these architectural tendencies to build small palaces. Enthusiastic, full of life, Muhammad Din, dies of a fever suddenly.

Stories that stay with you. Of an India we can only imagine.

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