A Real Live City
The Reflections of a Savage
The Council of the Gods
On the Banks of the Hughli
With the Calcutta Police
The City of Dreadful Night
Deeper and Deeper Still
ON THE BANKS OF THE HUGHLI
Notes edited by David Page.
In preparing these notes, the present Editor
has drawn where appropriate on the ORG.
References explained in earlier chapters of
this series on Calcutta (now Kolkata) are not repeated.
An interesting example of Kipling's skill in reworking a subject at different times and for different markets can be seen by comparing "On the Banks of the Hughli", Chapter IV of The City of Dreadful Night published in 1888 as one of the Indian Railway Library green covered paperbacks, with his story "An Unqualified Pilot", one of the brilliant little tales in Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides...
Both these typically descriptive and perceptive pieces are Kipling at his very best and both evoke the power and danger of the mighty river and the skill of the pilots who brought shipping up to Calcutta. But "An Unqualified Pilot", being for young people, is written in a simpler and tighter style than "On The Banks Of The Hughli". Kipling was never profligate with words but he pared his writing down even more carefully as he got older.
...Above all, he should bring with him thousands of cheroots—enough to serve him till he reaches ’Frisco. Singapur is the last place on the line where you can buy Burmas. Beyond that point wicked men sell Manila cigars with fancy names for ten, and Havanas for thirty-five, cents. No one inspects your boxes till you reach ’Frisco. Bring, therefore, at least one thousand cheroots.[Page 227, line 4] braces supports for holding up a pair of trousers. The American term for them is ‘suspenders’.
... A serang is a person of importance, far above a stoker, though the stoker draws better pay. He sets the chorus of ‘Hya! Hulla! Hee-ah! Heh!’ when the captain’s gig is pulled up to the davits; he heaves the lead too; and sometimes, when all the ship is lazy, he puts on his whitest muslin and a big red sash, and plays with the passengers’ children on the quarter-deck. Then the passengers give him money, and he saves it all up for an orgie at Bombay or Calcutta, or Pulu Penang. ["The Limitations of Pambé Serang", Life's Handicap p. 343 line 22][Page 232, line 5] Cingalese men from Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka.
... He was a Lascar, a Kharva from Bulsar, familiar with every port between Rockhampton and London, who had risen to the rank of serang on the British India boats, but wearying of routine musters and clean clothes, had thrown up the service and gone inland, where men of his calibre were sure of employment. For his knowledge of tackle and the handling of heavy weights, Peroo was worth almost any price he might have chosen to put upon his services ... ["The Bridge-Builders", The Day's Work p. 6 line 11]
In 1909, a British writer H.E.A. Cotton first observed the Kintals —the Creole population descending from African slaves and Portuguese soldiers — fading away. The Kintals were here from the time emperor Shah Jahan’s storm-troopers razed the church at Bandel in 1640...
The British assigned separate quarters within the palisades to more than 2,000 ebony-skinned Kintals, finding them “a serious incumbrance to the garrison”, during the siege of Calcutta in 1756. [see the web-site of The Telegraph].