Study Guide

Kim Chapter 4

By Rudyard Kipling

Chapter 4

The Grand Trunk Road Continues

  • The old soldier introduces Kim, "the Friend of the Stars" (4.4), to his son.
  • His son confirms Kim's news of war.
  • He is a member of a regiment, and he has come to his father to ask for money for a new horse and other helpful army stuff.
  • The son throws Kim some money before the two men leave.
  • A policeman at the side of the road tries to bully Kim into giving up his money for a made-up government toll, but Kim mocks him and he gives up.
  • They walk along the Grand Trunk Road, and Kim takes in all of the Road's great diversity of people.
  • The afternoon starts getting late, and Kim begins scheming about how they'll spend the night.

The Aged Eye Of Beauty

  • He spots a covered carriage, which is being used by a (probably elderly) woman to travel south to pay a visit.
  • (This woman is riding in a covered carriage so that she cannot be seen by strangers. This practice—called purdah—of keeping women mostly hidden became widespread as an upper-class custom among both Hindus and Muslims before and during the British colonization of India.)
  • Kim decides to provoke the guards who are traveling with the lady so that he can catch her attention.
  • He starts trading jokes with these guards, and he notices that she is laughing from within her carriage.
  • When the lama suddenly looks up, his holy appearance strikes the Northerners who are traveling with the lady; Tibet also is to the north of this Grand Trunk Road, and they recognize that he is a Buddhist lama.
  • The guards offer to feed the lama and Kim.
  • Hearing all of this commotion, the lady calls Kim over to her carriage.
  • Kim explains that the lama is from Tibet, and that Kim is his disciple.
  • Kim butters the lady up by calling her "the Eye of Beauty" (4.77) and "Great Queen" (4.79).
  • She knows that Kim is sucking up to her, but she still finds his patter charming.
  • She tells Kim to invite the lama to come and speak with her.
  • The lady (who is of the Kulu people) openly mocks the beliefs of the South; she has been praying with the Abbot of the Lung-cho Lamassery (4.91).
  • (It just so happens that this is the same Abbot who sent our lama to get in touch with the curator of the Lahore Museum, thus bringing him in contact with Kim.)

Even Though India Is Huge, It's A Small World After All

  • So, Kim goes over to the lama and asks him to go speak to the Kulu woman.
  • The two of them talk in a language of the northern hills that Kim can't understand, though he does hear some Chinese mixed in.
  • They apparently share stories about the Abbot of the Lung-cho Lamassery, and when the lama goes back to Kim, he praises the Kulu woman for her religious knowledge and thoughtfulness.
  • Apparently, she wants Kim and the lama to go with her as far south as they can.
  • (She also really, really wants a second grandson, which she hopes the lama will pray for.)
  • Kim is totally excited about all of this: he can stop begging for a while, because the old Kulu woman will take care of him and the lama on the road.
  • Also, Kim finds the Kulu woman's tough manners and curses hilarious.
  • As they travel, an Englishman passes this woman's covered cart.
  • He exchanges a few jokes with her, and she looks at him approvingly.
  • She likes Europeans who have grown up in India and who really know the country.
  • (For more on what this says about Kipling's own views on Anglo-Indian culture, check out our discussion of race in the "Themes" section.)