Kim’s New Game

Kipling’s hero is all grown up and in a new India

Written by Devyani Onial | Published:March 8, 2009 12:56 pm

Kipling’s hero is all grown up and in a new India
For those who followed Kim on his great India adventure,it is a chance to get on the road with him once again. And for those who haven’t gone on that road before,here’s a chance to get acquainted with him.
Rudyard Kipling’s boy-hero returns all grown up in Timeri N. Murari’s The Imperial Agent,in an India taking its first tentative steps towards swaraj and nationalism. The novel,first published in 1987,captures the events unfolding in India at the turn of the last century that signalled the beginning of the end of the British empire.

In Murari’s novel,Kim is still a British spy in the employment of the powerful Colonel but the rules of the Great Game just got more complex and the bazaar rumour darker. Lahore is missing in this new landscape but Simla and the dusty plains of India remain the backdrop against which the new adventure plays out. As in Kim so in The Imperial Agent,the road adventure is an opportunity to show India and its people,a country where daily realities merge effortlessly with mysticism. But this time the great Indian show is seen through Indian eyes.

In this sequel,Kim is not the only one who has grown up. The themes explored in Kipling’s Kim mature in Murari’s deft hands. The free spirited Kimball O’Hara’s love for India and its people gain poignancy here as the divided loyalties twist deeper and the question of identity gets more urgent. The Irish boy who grew up native has to make a final choice between India and its imperial masters. “His friend had died,and so had many others,all because an alien power wished to continue ruling his country. India was changing. Her long sleep was ending. How much longer could the Colonel and men like him continue to control India’s destiny? Kim knew that one day their time would come,that they would cross the kala pani and never return. He had changed,as had so many Indians who no longer wanted to be ruled by the British.”
Apart from identity and nationalism,Murari touches on other themes as well. Kipling’s Kim didn’t have women in a starring role but in The Imperial Agent,women often take the story forward and also show the common invisible lines that limit all women,Indian or European.

The Imperial Agent ends with a reference back to Kipling’s Kim and with the promise of a resurrection. “Kim knew his own story had yet to end. He had chosen his side and would now have to play the Great Game against the Colonel,the man he had loved as a father. Kim also knew he would have to continue his wanderings across India in search of those arrows which marked the turning points of his life; just as his dear Lama had searched for a mythical river,so he would search for arrows which did not exist,except in his vision.”
Murari keeps his promise. Kim’s adventures continue in The Last Victory in which he meets Gandhi,among other national heroes.

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