Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936) lived an extraordinary life. The English novelist, poet, and short story writer particularly beloved for his Just So Stories, was born in Bombay India on December 30, 1865. Though he spent most of his life outside of India, like his parents he thought of himself as "Anglo Indian." He referred to his early days in India as the days of strong light and darkness.
Keeping with custom, Rudyard and his younger sister were returned to England to receive an education when Rudyard was five years old. They were boarded with Captain Pryse Agar Halloway and Mrs. Sarah Halloway, who acted as custodians for British Nationals serving in India. While his sister seemed to be a favorite -- she later married the Halloway's son -- Rudyard was treated harshly at the boarding house. He credited the experience in his autobiography for sparking his literary career,
"If you cross-examine a child of seven or eight on his day’s doings (specially when he wants to go to sleep) he will contradict himself very satisfactorily. If each contradiction be set down as a lie and retailed at breakfast, life is not easy. I have known a certain amount of bullying, but this was calculated torture — religious as well as scientific. Yet it made me give attention to the lies I soon found it necessary to tell: and this, I presume, is the foundation of literary effort".
When he was old, and his treatment under the Halloway's was known to his family, his aunt asked why he had not made his suffering known at the time. He recorded: "Children tell little more than animals, for what comes to them they accept as eternally established. Also, badly-treated children have a clear notion of what they are likely to get if they betray the secrets of a prison-house before they are clear of it".
In 1878, Kipling was admitted to United Services College at Westward Ho!, a college that prepared young men for the military. Lacking the financial resources to continue his education it was decided that Rudyard should return to India. He returned in October, 1882 and began writing at the Civil and Military Gazette. By all accounts, including his own, writing for the paper was a labor of love and the young Kipling was often covered in ink from his writings. In 1887 he was transferred to England. But it was during his time in India that he began to write in earnest and in 1888 he published six collections of short stories.
In 1889 he left the paper after a dispute, sold the rights to his short story collections, and used the money to travel the world. That trip took him through America and he met Mark Twain before returning to London. He married Carrie Balestier in 1892. They travelled to America and Japan. Then back to America where they settled from 1892 - 1896. The couple enjoyed many happy years and Kipling wrote The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous and some poetry including Gunga Din.
They returned to England and during the early 1900s the world was treated to a great writer at the peak of career. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907. He continued to write until the 1930s, dying in 1936 from a perforated ulcer at age 70.
Considering that Rudyard left India when he was five years old, I wondered how and why the place had made such a deep impression upon him that it remained the primary part of his identity throughout his whole life. The phrase "strong light and darkness" had hovered in my mind for several weeks when I chanced upon a two page photograph by Jody MacDonald in the August 2012 issue of National Geographic Magazine.
For me, the "Anglo Indian" answer comes home when I combine that photograph with this excerpt from his autobiography, "In the afternoon heats before we took our sleep, she (the Portuguese ayah, or nanny) or Meeta (the Hindu bearer, or male attendant) would tell us stories and Indian nursery songs all unforgotten, and we were sent into the dining-room after we had been dressed, with the caution 'Speak English now to Papa and Mamma.' So one spoke 'English', haltingly translated out of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in." A young boy, in a land of "strong light and darkness" with dedicted story-tellers . . . the mystery of his identity and the origins of The Jungle Book seem to become more clear.