States of Exception: Everyday Life and Postcolonial Identity

States of Exception: Everyday Life and Postcolonial Identity

States of Exception: Everyday Life and Postcolonial Identity

States of Exception: Everyday Life and Postcolonial Identity

Excerpt

So I’ll meet ’im later on
At the place where ’e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen;
’E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

I first heard Rudyard Kipling’s “Gunga Din,” one of his Barrack-Room Ballads, as a child. Although the prose and poetry of the West, especially in the tradition of English literature, is very much a staple of the contemporary schooling system in India, this poem was one that I had encountered outside the formal educational processes that locate and produce middle-class, Anglicized Indian subjects like myself. “Gunga Din” had been recited to me by a civil service colleague of my grandfather’s, and for many years it remained beyond recall, partitioned off in some recess of the imagination labeled “childhood.” It is only in recent years that I can remember, with extraordinary clarity, the experience of sobbing at the injustice visited upon Gunga Din—at his having to serve colonial masters, only to die and go to hell and even there to be consigned forever to “givin’ drink to poor damned souls.” I recall as well the dismay of my grandfather’s friend, who was astonished that he had rendered a . . .

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