I know we primarily talked about Rudyard Kipling at the beginning of the quarter, but I came across this quote of his the other day.


“Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the

Hindu brown. For the Christian riles and the Hindu smiles

and weareth the Christian down ;

And the end of the fight is a tombstone while with the name of

the late deceased and the epitaph drear ,

‘A fool lies here who tried to hustle the east’ “.


I was surprised that he characterized those who tried to hustle the east as fools. His belief that it’s harmful towards “Christian’s health” to get involved in Indian’s affairs seems to oppose his argument in The White Man’s Burden, which says that despite the harm incurred from trying to help it’s worth the effort. He seems to be defending the Indian’s ability to resist the colonizing power in this quote. Any other interpretations?


One thought on “Kipling

  1. Hmm…this remains a mystery to me as well. First off I’d like to address the simple fact that using the terms “Christian” and “Hindu” to associate with a certain culture is quite untenable. More so for Christianity than Hinduism, these are faiths that can transcend cultures and are not specifically based in any one culture. Actually maybe that description only applies to Christianity come to think of it…
    Even on a demographic/historical level, we can see that Christianity and Hinduism are not the products of solely western or eastern thinking; for example, I’m sure many of you have seen members of the Hare Krishna movement or similar things, the majority of them being “western,” (aka White). Since the increased contact of ideas between India and Europe/America started in the 1700’s, Hindu philosophies and ideas have slowly begun to permeate western culture, and while perhaps many people would not identify as being a Hindu, ideologically there might be many “westerners” who fall in line with Hindu teachings over Christian, Judaic, or Islamic teachings. Of course one problem as identifying as a Hindu that perhaps does tie it more to Indian culture than others is the caste system, as obviously if you are not borne into the caste system, you don’t have a caste, a jati, to go give you your place and dharma (duty).
    Like many of the characters of “The God of Small Things,” my family is Syrian Christian from Kerala, and our community traces its religious lineage back to 52 AD…therefore to say that Christianity and India are mutually exclusive seems quite ridiculous. To quote an article I found about Roy, another Syrian Christian said, “My ancestors were practising Christians when your ancestors were painted savages, dancing on the cliffs of Dover” when referring to the historicity of Christianity in India over Britain. Historically is is true that Christianity spread to many parts of the “eastern world” such as India, Egypt, Ethiopia, Arabia, and Persia before making its way in Europe. This does not however give Indian Christians any higher moral standing or make them any worse than European Christians, and it certainly does not give them any higher status than a Dalit who became a Christian more recently because of western missionaries, a severe issue of brokenness of my community that is seen in “The God of Small Things.” The story of Christ is that he came not only to west, but for all people, and not to impose western culture on others, but to redeem the brokenness of all cultures.
    However, I do understand that this mistaken identity relationship between “Christian” and “West” and “Hindu and “East” may be a common theme in literature from around this time, so operating on that notion it does seem incredibly strange that Kipling would be arguing against the West being involved in the East after seeing his views so clearly stated in “The White Man’s Burden.”
    I can only think of three explanations:
    1) Perhaps his viewed changed somewhere between here and the poem?
    2) Even in “The White Man’s Burden,” Kipling noted that the toll of “civilizing heathens” only leads to blame and trouble for the poor white man, so perhaps what he says here is in the same vein as that notion, as technically there is never a call in this quote to not go colonize, it’s just that the west will have all sorts of problems from doing so.
    3) The most likely explanation in my mind I think is that Kipling may actually be referring to religion here, and that Christian missionaries from Britain, from European countries, are useless in the white man’s struggle to civilize the eastern savages.
    I have really no idea though, this poem remains an enigma to me…and I think I’m okay with that.

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