Lockwood Kipling

In London, so off to the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington to see the Lockwood Kipling exhibition.  I was particularly keen to see this as it celebrates a man who could easily be forgotten, or overshadowed in his case.  His son’s fame as a poet and author has endured while his work as a champion of India’s artistic heritage has been largely forgotten.  ‘Kim’ by Rudyard Kipling is a favourite book from my youth.  I reread it as an adult, and had conflicting thoughts about the place of the British Empire’s role in history, but the edition I read had illustrations by Lockwood Kipling.

The story is a fascinating one.  He attended the Great Exhibition in 1851 and was inspired by what he saw in the Indian galleries. He was a teenager but this was the start of a love affair with the arts and crafts of India. This alone makes me warm towards him; people who are inspired at an early age and go on to dedicate their careers in pursuit of their interests are always fascinating to me.

Lockwood Kipling is also connected with the Victoria and Albert Museum itself, although in its previous carnation as the South Kensington Museum.  It is fitting, then, that it is here that his work and influence is celebrated.  There are artefacts and images of India with an emphasis on the decorative arts that influenced him so much.  There are pictures of the Great Exhibition as well as an evocation of the cities of Mumbai and Lahore, both of which were important in Kipling’s life.  As the fame of his son spread, so Lockwood Kipling became involved in book illustration.  In the exhibition are samples of his work.  At the end was a ‘room’ with artefacts from Osborne House where he worked with Bai Ram Singh on the Durbar Room.  My favourite item was a painting called ‘A Peep at the Train’ by Rudolf Swoboda.





The Eye of the Horse

blogeyeofhorseThe second novel in Jamila Gavin’s ‘The Wheel of Surya’ trilogy is fascinating since most of the action takes place in post war London where Sikh children Marvinder and Jaspal have found their father but discovered that he is not the worthy man they thought he was.

The novel shows different cultures and different lives as they weave in and out of the events leading up to the partition of India and Pakistan.  It also shows the effect of the war on people and places. The London where Jaspal runs with his gang is war damaged and reduced to rubble. The kindly doctor befriended by Marvinder, attracted to the playing of his violin, has lost his family in the holocaust.  Both brother and sister miss their father, in prison for his wrong doing, but unsure of the fate of their mother back in India.

Throughout the story, we see the effect of a different culture on the children.  For Jaspal, his inner rage surfaces as a need to fight but Marvinder finds solace in music, especially the violin. Both are shaped by Britain at the same time as being identified as foreign because of their religion and appearance.  It is a book about being torn between two worlds.

Characters from the first book in the trilogy return and scenes set in India make us hope, like Marvinder and Jaspal, that the mother is still alive.

‘The Eye of the Horse’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?


blogjinnahThis film is something of an oddity but it remains in my hinterland because it covers a period of history with which I am fascinated and takes another angle when exploring it. The partition of India in 1947 has been covered in many other films but in this one Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan takes centre stage.

Interestingly, the film is structured around the idea of a dying Jinnah arriving in some heavenly anteroom where he is asked to account for his life.  The use of an ‘angel’ figure guiding a person back to the key scenes of their past has featured in many films.  Why computers are needed in this heavenly room is a mystery since Jinnah died in 1948, unless we are to suppose that either he spent a long time awaiting his judgement or that computers were in use there before they were invented on earth.  Whichever, the story of Jinnah’s life is the important thing.

By talking to his heavenly guide we are given insights into Jinnah’s reflections on his actions.  He voices regret over the course history took, especially over the loss of life caused by the partition on India into India and Pakistan.  At the end of the film we have a scene where Jinnah resumes his earlier career as a barrister and cross examines Mountbatten who he blames for the chaos of partition.


The best aspects of the film are the scenes where the more straightforward retelling of his story is possible, for he did have a fascinating life.  His role as a central figure in Congress and opposition to the British rule is shown, as is his willingness to cross boundaries by marrying a Parsi.  However, as independence becomes a possibility his determination to protect the Muslim minority grows into a demand for a separate Muslim state.

Gandhi and Nehru play major parts in this film as do Lord and Lady Mountbatten.  The friendship between Edwina Mountbatten and Nehru is given more space than perhaps it needs in the context of this story.  Christopher Lee played Jinnah in what was an interesting casting choice.  He is on record as saying it was one of the most important roles of his career.  I also believe the film was popular in Pakistan.

This film is worth seeing alongside other films that cover the same period.

The Good Children

Roopa Farooki’s novel is an amazing story of sibling love told across many generations and continents.  The mother is central to the novel but she is not the social centre of her family since she is the centre of her own world and sees her children only as far as they interest her or are useful.  The sons are sent away to medical schools in USA and England and the daughters have lives planned to enhance the way the world views their mother.  Around this woman, her two boys and two girls provide the heart that warms the novel.

When first sent away, neither Sulaman nor Jakie know how they will cope apart and both know that this is part of their mother’s plan.  Yet they build lives in their new countries and we follow their fortunes over several decades.  Jakie meets Frank and they become lovers, not easy to be gay or brown in a London of the time.  Sully in the States has less of his brother’s charm and is less sure of himself.  He finds love with a fellow researcher but her Indian- German background means she will never be accepted by his mother.

BlogGood Children

The girls have different fates with Mae the only one to stay in Pakistan.  Her life starts in the conventional marriage but she breaks free. Lana gravitates to her brother in England where her place as the caring sibling finds a purpose.

I loved this book, the sections about Frank and Jakie most of all.  Their relationship against the odds was the most affecting part for me.

The mother is always present but the book shows how the children have grown without, or despite, her.  In the final scenes they are back together again in Lahore gathered for an important family occasion.

‘The Good Children’ by Roopa Farooki is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

This Room

This is a poem about one’s sense of self.  I like it!

This Room

This room is breaking out
of itself, cracking through
its own walls
in search of space, light,
empty air.

The bed is lifting out of
its nightmares.
From dark corners, chairs
are rising up to crash through clouds.

This is the time and place
to be alive:
when the daily furniture of our lives
stirs, when the improbable arrives.
Pots and pans bang together
in celebration, clang
past the crowd of garlic, onions, spices,
fly by the ceiling fan.
No one is looking for the door.

In all this excitement
I’m wondering where
I’ve left my feet, and why

my hands are outside, clapping.

Imtiaz Dharker

‘This Room’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?


Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan

Here is a poem that speaks of the conflict that arises when a person’s sense of identity is split between the place of her heritage and the place where she lives.

Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan

They sent me a salwar kameez
and another
glistening like an orange split open,
embossed slippers, gold and black
points curling.
Candy-striped glass bangles
snapped, drew blood.
Like at school, fashions changed
in Pakistan –
the salwar bottoms were broad and stiff,
then narrow.
My aunts chose an apple-green sari,
for my teens.

I tried each satin-silken
top –
was alien in the sitting-room.
I could never be as lovely
as those clothes –
I longed
for denim and corduroy.
My costume clung to me
and I was aflame,
I couldn’t rise up out of its fire,
unlike Aunt Jamila.

I wanted my parents’
camel-skin lamp –
switching it on in my bedroom,
to consider the cruelty
and the transformation
from camel to shade,
marvel at the colours
like stained glass.

My mother cherished her
jewellery –
Indian gold, dangling, filigree,
But it was stolen from our car.
The presents were radiant in my wardrobe.
My aunts requested cardigans
from Marks and Spencers.

My salwar kameez
didn’t impress the schoolfriend
who sat on my bed, asked to see
my weekend clothes.
But often I admired the mirror-work,
tried to glimpse myself
in the miniature
glass circles, recall the story
how the three of us
sailed to England.
Prickly heat had me screaming on the way.
I ended up in a cot
In my English grandmother’s dining-room,
found myself alone,
playing with a tin-boat.

I pictured my
from fifties’ photographs.
When I was older
there was conflict, a fractured land
throbbing through newsprint.
Sometimes I saw Lahore –
my aunts in shaded rooms,
screened from male visitors,
sorting presents,
wrapping them in tissue.

Or there were beggars,
and I was there –
of no fixed nationality,
staring through fretwork
at the Shalimar Gardens.

Moniza Alva


Blessing by Imtiaz Dharker

‘Blessing’ by Imtiaz Dharker is a poem of the haves and the have nots.  The people in this poem do not have regular access to water. It comes, when it does, in drips.  But the municipal pipe bursts and there is a just a short time when, instead of by- passing the have nots on the way to the haves, the water bursts out on the less fortunate… and that is, indeed, a blessing.


The skin cracks like a pod.
There never is enough water.

Imagine the drip of it,
the small splash, echo
in a tin mug,
the voice of a kindly god.

Sometimes, the sudden rush
of fortune. The municipal pipe bursts,
silver crashes to the ground
and the flow has found
a roar of tongues. From the huts,
a congregation: every man woman
child for streets around
butts in, with pots,
brass, copper, aluminium,
plastic buckets,
frantic hands,

and naked children
screaming in the liquid sun,
their highlights polished to perfection,
flashing light,
as the blessing sings
over their small bones.

Imtiaz Dharker