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Folk Friday – A Passage to India

I’m late with Folk Friday today. This was testing day for my ESL students and I just finished the print errata for Heart, so I haven’t had time until now to prepare this week’s post.

This is the time of year when I often reread Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. I find it a great book for winter because it’s a feast for the senses, full of spicy food, brilliant colors, hot, dusty, crowded bazaars and exotic characters. Kipling managed to use all the senses to perfection, without overkill, as in this passage, where Kim, who is traveling across colonial India with a Tibetan lama, stops for the night at a roadside campsite.

By this time the sun was driving broad golden spokes through the lower branches of the mango-trees; the parakeets and doves were coming home in their hundreds; the chattering, grey-backed Seven Sisters, talking over the day’s adventures, walked back and forth in twos and threes almost under the feet of the travellers; and shuffling and scuffling in the branches showed that the bats were ready to go out on the night-picket. Swiftly the light gathered itself together, painted for an instant the faces and the cart-wheels and the bullocks’ horns as red as blood. Then the night fell, changing the touch of the air, drawing a low, even haze, like a gossamer veil of blue, across the face of the country, and bringing out, keen and distinct, the smell of wood-smoke and cattle and the good scent of wheaten cakes cooked on ashes. Te evening patrol hurried out of the police-station with important coughings and reiterated orders; and a live charcoal ball in the cup of a wayside carter’s hookah glowed red while Kim’s eye mechanically watched the last flicker of the sun on the brass tweezers.

I can smell the cattle and smoke and cakes, see the birds against the darkening sky, feel the day’s heat fading. Without wasted words, I’m there. This book is one of the reasons I’d like to set Nolan Cochrane’s story in India. But, for now, I’m here in Halifax with Liam, who has just found himself in a heap of trouble.

Reading through Heart to do the errata made me think about songs Martin Rainnie would enjoy. He’s more of a fiddler than a singer, but he does sing a couple of times in the story, and one of the songs he chooses is ‘The Water is Wide.’ It’s also a favourite of mine, especially the melody.

I think Martin would like this version. It’s simple and heartfelt. Enjoy!


  1. Julia Smith
    January 8, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Nice segment you shared from 'Kim', Jennie – I haven't read it but I enjoyed the evocative description of the sunset. I find the older writers really focus on aspects of changing light because it made such a major difference in what they could do.

    And I also love that song – it's been a favorite of mine since forever. In fact, it was sung at my wedding, but to different words (1 Corinthians 13.)

  2. Theanne...
    January 9, 2011 at 2:03 am

    If I read Kim it was over 50 years ago…I believe I'll read it again. I like the description of night falling! "the bullocks' horns as red as blood" "like a gossamer veil of blue"

  3. Anne MacFarlane
    January 10, 2011 at 12:22 am

    It's been too many years since I read Kim, only vaguely remember it. Loved the haunting music.

  4. Jennie Marsland
    January 10, 2011 at 1:24 am

    Julia,Theanne, Anne, thanks for dropping by! Kim is a keeper for me because of the description, and because of the beautifully-drawn relationship between Kim and the lama. It's a book that has something for all ages.