Kipling: You musn't swim till you're six weeks old

Kipling who was the first Indian-born (he was born in Mumbai) and the first writer in English to win the Nobel Prize in Literature presents somewhat of a difficulty in warming up to him. As seen from the eyes of someone 100 years later, his politics were all wrong and his advocacy of British imperialism makes one squirm. It's not hard to see why Orwell (one of my heroes and another Indian-born writer) was early to criticize Kipling for this. Yet, it would take the most churlish among us to not praise Kipling for creating two of the most beloved fictional Indian characters - Mowgli and Kim. And then there is of course Gunga Din. So, while Kipling might have been quite out of step with the winds of change that would set the 20th century in motion - to which someone like Orwell was more attuned to - there is no mistaking his genuine fondness for India and its people.

The Jungle Book is a world masterpiece and Kipling would have deserved all the fame just for that book. All poetry need not be weighty - it can be light and funny, and yet conceal a world of meaning.

Untitled [You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old]
by Rudyard Kipling

You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old,
Or your head will be sunk by your heels;
And summer gales and Killer Whales
Are bad for baby seals.
Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
As bad as bad can be.
But splash and grow strong,
And you can't be wrong,
Child of the Open Sea!

3 comments:

Aditya said...

Ronald Ross was the first Indian born to win the Nobel

Hirak said...

Yes! Who can forget good 'ole Ronnie Ross. Thanks Aditya! The sentence is now worded more carefully.

Lucytoo said...

My mother used to sing this to us as a lullaby. Lucy Norman