Study Guide

Kim Chapter 2

By Rudyard Kipling

Chapter 2

  • (Here's a quick vocabulary lesson in Kipling's Anglo-Indian writing. A babu means a low-level Indian clerk in the British Indian government administration, but it is also a racist term for an Indian who doesn't speak "proper"—a.k.a. Anglo—English. In this chapter, the book uses babu to mean a clerk, but the racist implications of the term are still there. For more on Kipling's Anglo-Indian background, check out our "In a Nutshell" section.)

Public Transportation Brings People Together

  • At the train station, a babu tries to cheat Kim when he goes to buy tickets for himself and the lama.
  • Kim is too smart for the guy though, and insists on tickets that go all the way to Umballa.
  • He also buys a ticket to Amritzar (now spelled Amritsar), which is another big city in the Punjab.
  • The lama has never traveled by train before, and he is frightened of all the noise.
  • Kim and the lama board a crowded train car filled with a diverse group of people: a Sikh craftsman, a wealthy Hindu Jat farmer and his wife, an Amritsar courtesan (a.k.a. a prostitute), a Hindu banker, and a Dogra soldier.
  • They all start chatting more or less nicely (though the farmer's wife clearly does not approve of the Amritzar girl).

Kim Is A Sneaky Little So-And-So

  • The train stops at Amritzar so that the ticket collector can take everybody's tickets.
  • Remember how we said that Kim bought two tickets, one to Umballa (which is far) and one to Amritzar (which is closer to Lahore)?
  • Now we find out why.
  • He gives the Umballa ticket to the lama and keeps the ticket for Amritzar for himself.
  • At Amritzar, the ticket collector tries to boot Kim off the train for not having the full fare to Umballa.
  • (We imagine the ticket collector was hoping for something like the classic "No ticket" scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.)
  • Kim kicks up a huge fuss about being an orphan who can't leave the poor lama alone with no one to take care of him.
  • The lama tries to pay Kim's fare, but Kim shushes him: he's working a con here.
  • The Amritzar girl feels so sorry for Kim that she gives him money for the train ticket and for some extra food.
  • Kim and the lama continue on the train to Umballa.
  • The lama gets into a conversation about gods with his fellow passengers, and none of them recognize his Buddhist beliefs; in fact, they all think he's crazy.
  • The lama seems to be confused by the train, and he worries that they are traveling too fast over the rivers that could be his River of the Arrow.
  • The farmer's wife is pretty skeptical of all of the lama's talk, but she still offers them a place to stay for the night in Umballa.

Kim Is Clearly A Young James Bond In The Making…

  • Kim slips away to deliver Mahbub Ali's message to the Englishman.
  • He is pretty sure this is all secret business, so he hides in a nearby hedge and throws Mahbub Ali's message at the Englishman's feet; the Englishman drops a coin on the ground to pay Kim for his troubles.
  • Kim quietly follows the Englishman and watches him reading Mahbub Ali's message.
  • The Englishman shares the message with a tall, older man with black hair, who agrees that Mahbub Ali's message is the last straw—they have to send troops north to settle things.
  • Kim goes to the kitchens to find out who is eating at the house that night.
  • Creighton Sahib and the Commander-in-Chief—the guest of honor—are both dining there.
  • (Sahib means sir or master, and in Kipling's Anglo-Indian context, it is usually a word specifically used by Indian Urdu or Hindi speakers towards British or European men.)
  • So Kim gets excited: He thought Mahbub Ali was probably tangled up with some woman, but it turns out that Mahbub Ali's message is big, serious news to do with real fighting.

About This Red Bull… You Don't Mean The Drink, Do You?

  • Back at the farmer's house in Umballa, the farmer's wife has invited her family's Hindu priest over.
  • This priest is impressed with the lama's holy manner, even if they don't share beliefs.
  • They all talk over Kim's prophecy that he will find his fortune when he meets a Red Bull in a green field, and two men will arrive first to make way for his arrival.
  • The Hindu priest checks out Kim's horoscope and makes a prediction: in three days, the prophecy's two men will come to clear the way for the Bull.
  • But hanging over the Bull, there is a star sign of war.
  • So war is in Kim's near future.
  • The lama goes into a nearby field to look at a small river to see if it is his River.

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