February 14, 2022

#08-187: Kim

Kim and the Lama

Note: Kim is a cracking good adventure story, as well as an accurate description of the situation in India around the turn of the 20th century and the "Great Game" between Great Britain and Russia for dominance of Afghanistan and neighboring territories.

Get Ready: Are you familiar with the political situation in Afghanistan today? It has been a hotspot since (at least) the 19th century.

Kim is a 1901 novel by Rudyard Kipling, English author of The Jungle Book. It happens against the backdrop of the Great Game, the political conflict between Russia and Britain in Central Asia which continues in some form to this day.

An Indian-born Irish boy named Kim (properly Kimball O'Hara, Jr., like his father) was orphaned at a young age and grew up on the streets of Lahore (now in Pakistan), earning his living by begging and running small errands. His fair skin was so browned from the sun that he was often mistaken for a native boy.

One day an unnamed lama came through searching for a holy river that would wash away his sins. Sensing an adventure, Kim decided to travel with the lama as his pupil.

Before leaving Lahore, Kim was approached by a horse trader--for whom he sometimes ran errands--named Mahbub Ali. Ali was actually an agent of the British Secret Service, and asked Kim to deliver a message to a British officer.

Kim and the lama met all types of people as they traveled along India's Grand Trunk Road. When they encountered a British regiment--his late father's, as it turned out--a chaplain found an amulet around Kim's neck containing papers that gave his true identity. It was decided that Kim would go to boarding school, and the lama moved on (to Kim's sorrow).

The British decided that Kim, once educated, would be useful to their cause. On his way to school, Kim saw the lama, and they agreed to meet often. The lama later sent enough money to pay for Kim's schooling. The boy hated being locked up in buildings, but on school breaks Mahbub Ali sent him out on the road again.

He had many adventures, and learned tricks like the art of make-up and disguise. One of his "trainings" is today called "Kim's Game": a player studies a group of objects and, while he looks away, one is added or taken away. The player must look again and spot what has changed. In a more difficult version, thelayer must write down a list of all the items she or he has seen.

The Secret Service decided that Kim should dress as a street boy and travel with the lama, but for their purposes. When he did so, Kim learned that the Russians had sent spies into India to apprehend a Russian and a Frenchman. Kim helped recover important documents from the two, and delivered the papers to the proper authorities

The lama found his river. The Great Game continued.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_(novel)

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. amulet
  2. apprehend
  3. backdrop
  4. browned
  5. errands
  6. lama
  7. late
  8. orphaned
  9. regiment
  10. trunk

  1. passed away
  2. left without parents
  3. a Tibetan holy man
  4. tasks outside the home or office
  5. main
  6. a unit of soldiers
  7. tanned by the sun
  8. a pendant used like a charm
  9. the setting; the situation
  10. capture

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 14, 2022

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