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Rudyard Kipling: To the City of Bombay

To the City of Bombay by Rudyard Kipling is a poem of Bombay written by none the else but a Bombay man just as a tribute to the city of his birth and rearing as George Orwell was born in Bihar’s Champaran but we could rarely feel it the child into the hands of the dark-complexioned aaya.

On reading the poem, we think, how was Bombay then? How had the islands been connected or disconnected with? How is the history of Bombay? Who had been the kings and inhabitants of it? Was it the fishermen tribes? Was it the merchants, seamen, sailors, boatmen, fishers? How advanced had he been that he took to chronicling Bombay? Had somebody a thesis on it would have been great? Where are the museums of Bombay? What was it in the past? What was its ancient name?

History of Delhi, all have written, but who has the history of Bombay, Mumbai, the maritime history of India?

Who mapped the city? Who are the architects and the builders of Bombay? Who are the engineers and technicians? How were the peninsulas when they were separate? How were they when connected with or joined through landfill? How were the harbouring people? Where are the shipyards? Where are the docks?

How had it been the population of Bombay during the latter half of the nineteenth century? How was the place when the poem was composed? How the peoples landed on and intermixed with? Who has what purpose, how to say it?
The poet is happy to be born in Bombay as for the scenery and landscape of the mountain ranges and the sea views of it and it being connected to by a series of islets which now have been transformed into one landmass. The cities so bustling with brisk business and hectic activity present the panoramic view of Bombay. How was it even then, the City of cities, how the sea beaches and sides of it, how the coastlines, how the shipyards and dockyards of it. It was but an interracial experience even then to feel the pulse of Bombay as we feel it in the coming and going off of the airhostesses and airbuses from foreign. People going to England by ship too would have felt it then.

The cities are full of pride, challenging each to each with the location, stride and activity of their own. All are connected with merchandise and commercial activity. The cargoes coming and going are as usual. The men connected with such an activity engage and produce the people of that sort as some legacy left or to be nurtured in and this has been happening since long. Irrespective whoever they are from, they keep up with doing, even if they have to land on stranger lands with strange people and customs.

This is Bombay other than the places we talk about or seem to have visited. Here there is nothing to be afraid of warring tribes. What to say about Rudyard Kipling? We ourselves have hesitated in visiting and interacting and intermixing with other communities and classes. Even our community and class too had been so much full of ignorant, illiterate, backward, underdeveloped and foolish rustic people. What to talk of the times?

To the City of Bombay by Rudyard Kipling is a tribute to Bombay where he was born, where he grew up for some time and passed his days before departing for. The environment and atmosphere of cosmopolitan and commercial Bombay he appreciates in this poem of reckoning and reference.

The Cities are full of pride,
Challenging each to each --
This from her mountain-side,
That from her burthened beach.
They count their ships full tale --
Their corn and oil and wine,
Derrick and loom and bale,
And rampart's gun-flecked line;
City by City they hail:
"Hast aught to match with mine?"
And the men that breed from them
They traffic up and down,
But cling to their cities' hem
As a child to their mother's gown.
When they talk with the stranger bands,
Dazed and newly alone;
When they walk in the stranger lands,
By roaring streets unknown;
Blessing her where she stands
For strength above their own.
(On high to hold her fame
That stands all fame beyond,
By oath to back the same,
Most faithful-foolish-fond;
Making her mere-breathed name
Their bond upon their bond.)
So thank I God my birth
Fell not in isles aside --
Waste headlands of the earth,
Or warring tribes untried --
But that she lent me worth
And gave me right to pride.
Surely in toil or fray
Under an alien sky,
Comfort it is to say:
"Of no mean city am I!"
(Neither by service nor fee
Come I to mine estate --
Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.)
Now for this debt I owe,
And for her far-borne cheer
Must I make haste and go
With tribute to her pier.
And she shall touch and remit
After the use of kings
(Orderly, ancient, fit)
My deep-sea plunderings,
And purchase in all lands.
And this we do for a sign
Her power is over mine,
And mine I hold at her hands!

Even now our study of Bombay is not complete as it needs to be searched and researched as we cared not to write down our own history as we were divided sociologically and we could never be logical. To know Bombay is to know its trade, merchandise and navigable routes and the coming and going of ships and the landing of foreign merchants and shipmen, navigators and sailors since the start. Where did the merchants come from? How were their ships? What things did they bring or take away? What was their purpose? How did the locals adjust?

How are the houses and their planning? How are the communities? If we make an architectural study with regard to plan, house-making, skill needed for, acquisition of materials and the time bar within which the structure completed in, we shall come to know of it all.

Whatever you say, India has been the same India of mud houses, bullock carts and rock-cut temples. If you see the maps of Bombay dating back to the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s, you will come to feel it, the same agrarian and rural India, old India with old people trekking and treading. 

Kipling though a lover of India would have a difficult time in adjusting to the ismic society strife with class, caste and community system of divided India as Derozio would have felt and faced it before him so sadly. Instead of even that the humdrum of Bombay, the coming and going of ships and the views glanced at or taken from canvas of the sea and the sea lines would have definitely pleased him, the islands so full of brisk business and hectic activity.


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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