‘Kipling’s Indian Adventure’

young kipling

This is just a brief note to recommend the television programme Kipling’s Indian Adventure, which was broadcast yesterday. You can still catch it on iPlayer (if you live in Britain):  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b071xz0p/kiplings-indian-adventure.

The presenter was Patrick Hennessey, whose book The Junior Officers’ Reading Club (about his military service in Iraq and Afghanistan) I mentioned on this blog some time ago. 

He told the story of  Kipling in two places: Lahore and Simla. As a callow (and as we were reminded, myopic and runtish) teenager, Kipling arrived in Lahore and  immediately became the assistant editor (which meant general dogsbody) of the Civil and Military Gazette.  He served his apprenticeship reporting on gymkhanas and banal official visits, but he was the right person (inquisitive, pushy, rebellious) in the right place (Lahore, a small community where curiosity and boredom would send him to search out aspects of life that he would have had less access to in – for instance – more populous Bombay). Patrick Hennessey’s film stressed Kipling the rule-breaker, experimenting with opium,  exploring the city’s brothels; as a reporter he was both part of the British community and an outsider. Unpopular at the Club, he socialised with ordinary soldiers and walked at night in the Indian city where most Europeans feared to tread. This is not a new story, but the film told it well.  I especially liked the sequence where the presented walked through the night city, and joined the crowds watching ecstatic Sufi dancers.

In Simla Kipling examined the upholders of the Raj with the same outsider’s eye that he had cast over Indian life in Lahore. His frankness made him unpopular in Simla, but a literary sensation at home in Britain.

Patrick Hennessey took the line that Kipling’s Indian stories (and Kim) were his greatest works. They were his most original and startling, certainly, and this film has sent me back to Plain Tales from the Hills. But it’s his later stories that speak most to me, the ones in which he tried to make sense of the Great War and understand its terrible effect on some of those who fought. Maybe the BBC should commission someone to make a film about that part of his life, too.


  1. Posted February 21, 2016 at 8:13 pm | Permalink


  2. Posted February 21, 2016 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    I’ll check that out.
    I love Kipling, especially fond memories of the Just So Stories.

  3. joe allegretti
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Hi from a long-time reader but first time commenter. For me, Kipling’s best are the stories you allude to such as Mary Postgate, The Gardener, and A Madonna of the Trenches. Retribution, mercy, and even (perhaps) healing.

  4. janevsw
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    I watched that with my husband on a long and otherwise uninteresting evening in a London hotel and was very impressed by it.

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