Two Under the Indian Sun, by Rumer Godden and Jon Godden, Macmillan, 1966, 199pp.
I keep reading Rumer Godden, partly because I like memoirs about India, and partly because I think I enjoyed one of her children's books long ago. Or maybe not. Anyway, I read Kingfishers Catch Fire, which is an autobiographical novel set in Kashmir. She had split with her husband ("a stockbroker who thought that Omar Khayyam was a kind of curry" [link]). The local cook poisoned Rumer and her two daughters. It was sort of an act of love, whose potion required diamonds -- ground glass was the cheaper substitute. I also started Rungli-Rungliot, about living in the Himalayas, but never managed to finish.
Two Under the Indian Sun, by Rumer and her sister Jon, is about these two children getting a reprieve from strict aunts in grey drizzly London and, because of WW1, getting sent back to their parents in Narayanganj, Bengal, where her father ran some shipping for The Company. The most evocative bits are when they travel to the hills, or go camping with their shooting-and-fishing father, or cruise by the Sundarbans (I always meant to get The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans for Ross). Their life as children is circumscribed -- they never ate Indian food, for example, just boiled and tinned British stuff. A lot of the time the girls are spying on their parents' parties, or observing the life of the servants (one kills his wife when he comes back from a pilgrimage to find her living with another). And they write about growing up: how Rumer "looked at [her nose] in the looking glass...It was the first time that Rumer glimpsed the fact that looks could prevent anyone being, or doing, what she had dreamed." And the books ends with a fine sisterly fistfight over a man. Then they get sent back to boarding schools.
Nice house they had! When coming back to Britain, Rumer's sister Rose asked "When I see the king, what shall I call him? Your Majesty, or just plain George?" Travel makes you feel like royalty, sometimes.
I am very interested in viewing Renoir's movie The River which is based on this book.
Ravi wrote: Very nice to read under a pale and wintry delhi sun. We are off to orissa calcutta and darjeeling next week. If you are into man eater lore all of jim corbett is wonderfull esp Man-Eaters of Kumaon.
I replied: I love Corbett's books, and own every one of them. Not sure if I have got Ross to read them yet. Good idea. I envy you your trip to India! Eat some idli for me.