Rudyard Kipling was the subject of a panel discussion at Lit Fest
Remembering Rudyard Kipling, who wrote poems like “White Man’s Burden” and also books like The Jungle Book, on Republic Day made for a “delicious irony,” said journalist Swapan Dasgupta during a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Saturday.
While Kipling loved India, he was a defender of imperialism and was often very “rude” in his articulations on the country and its people, it was observed during the session titled “Kipling” featuring author-biographers David Gilmour, Andrew Lycett and Charles Allen.
Mr. Allen, who like Kipling was born in pre-independence India, is the author of Kipling Sahib, a biography.
Kipling came to fall in love with India following his unique interactions with the country outside his sheltered existence under British rule, said Mr. Allen.
Mr. Gilmour, who has also authored a biography of the British author, titled The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling, said his defence of imperialism was something that came about after he had left India. The discussants agreed that he should be seen in all his complexity — for his “awful political ideas” as well as his literary genius.
Mr. Dasgupta, moderating the session, said Kipling remained a contentious figure till date and that while some lauded him as a “laureate of the empire,” others reduced him to “a caricature of a pakka sahib.”
Kipling’s love of India found expression in his poem “To the city of Bombay,” where he thanked God for being born in Bombay, which, according to him, was “no mean city.”
“So thank I God my birth, Fell not in isles aside — waste headlands of the earth, Or warring tribes untried — but that she lent me worth, and gave me right to pride… surely in toil or fray, under an alien sky, comfort it is to say: of no mean city am I!”
“…Mother of Cities to me, for I was born in her gate, between the palms and the sea, where the world-end steamers wait,” he wrote.