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Bandar Log

‘We pretended to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves for life, we mimic men of the New World’

- Ralph Singh narrator of V. S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men

Road-Song of the Bandar-Log

by Rudyard Kipling

Here we go in a flung festoon,
Half-way up to the jealous moon!
Don't you envy our pranceful bands?
Don't you wish you had extra hands?
Wouldn't you like if your tails were--so--
Curved in the shape of a Cupid's bow?
Now you're angry, but--never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two--
Something noble and wise and good,
Done by merely wishing we could.
We've forgotten, but--never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

All the talk we ever have heard
Uttered by bat or beast or bird--
Hide or fin or scale or feather--
Jabber it quickly and all together!
Excellent! Wonderful! Once again!

Now we are talking just like men!
Let's pretend we are ... never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!
This is the way of the Monkey-kind.

Then join our leaping lines that scumfish through the pines,
That rocket by where, light and high, the wild grape swings.
By the rubbish in our wake, and the noble noise we make,
Be sure, be sure, we're going to do some splendid things!
.In introduction to his book To Live or Not To Live, Nirad C Chaudhuri tells us Kipling’s inspiration for Bandar log:

But no great Bengali in the nineteenth century hesitated to pay the price in obloquy to discharge his duty of criticism. This is most striking in the creator of the new Hindu conservatism, Bankim Chandra Chatterji. In many ways he was the most devastating critic of his people, and , all the more so, because he could not suffer fools gladly.
Everybody knows whom Kipling had in mind when he made the monkeys in The Jungle Book say, “What the Bandar Log think today, the jungle thinks tomorrow,” or when he added that the bandar were always talking of what great things they were going to do, but forgot all about then when the next fancy diverted their attention. But the strange thing is that many years before the publication of Kipling’s story, the same idea had occurred to Bankim Chandra Chatterji. He described the Bengali people as a set of monkeys eaten up with rancour against the English, who were shown as tigers.
Suggested read-

Essay: In the Waiting-Room of History By Amit Chaudhuri , published in London Review of Books.

Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book online


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