May 13th, 2008

In 1889, Rudyard Kipling wrote to his friends in Allahabad that Londoners knew nothing of Life as it was lived, always in peril, in India. Amazingly, Londoners were shocked when an old man died in bed, his family round him. In India, they would see their friends “of thirty-five die at two days’ notice not once but twenty times” and “the young girl die within a fortnight of the wedding.” Only in India could one see what “death really means.”

Colonialists like Kipling distanced themselves from the Indian people with fear of contamination. A hundred years later, packing pills for Delhi and pondering the danger said to coil in a sip of Indian water, one glimpses the possibility.