Amit Varma can pun about this till his cows come home, but the fact remains that it was having him, Chandrahas and Jai over for dinner that shamed the Babu into slinking furtively back to the blog. (There they were discussing litblogging and cowblogging and moblogging with erudition and ease, and there was the Babu, who’d been heavily into the latest blog trend–noblogging.)
Then the first thing the Babu read this morning was Prufrock’s Page, which in one of those Sign From The Heaven coincidences, had a link to David Morphet’s account of visiting the grave of the real-life inspiration for Lurgan Sahib in Kipling’s Kim.
“And by the way, the very next grave is that of Lurgan Sahib.”
Memories of Kipling’s Kim came flooding back. How could one forget the description of the dark curio shop in the mall at Simla with its Tibetan devil-dance masks? The shop where Kim is sent to be inducted into the Great Game by the jeweller-cum-magician-cum-spymaster Lurgan Sahib: the man who must be obeyed “to the last wink of his eyelashes”. It was there that Kim learned how to disguise himself as a member of any of the castes and peoples of India – from their clothes and adornments to “how they coughed or spat or sneezed”. It was there, too, that he memorised whole chapters of the Qur’an, and learned how to intone them. Best of all, it was in Lurgan’s shop that Kim was taught the skill of snapshot memory, through briefly observing a variety of jewels set out on a tray and being required to describe them in detail once they were covered up. This was “Kim’s Game”, as Baden-Powell taught generations of Boy Scouts to call it.
“But,” I said, “Lurgan Sahib was a fictional character.”
“Ah, but closely based on the man who lies here,” came the reply.”
There’s more on A M Jacob here; “Lurgan Sahib” claimed to be a Turk who had been sold as a slave to a pasha, and after several twists and turns, set up shop as a gem dealer in India. And a little more Googling reveals the end to Jacob’s story (scroll all the way down the page)–a bizarre tale involving the Nizam and the Jacob diamond. This is John Lord’s description of A M Jacob:
“Jacob was notorious, from Simla to the fasionable spa of Homburg, for his powers of magic. The gullible credited him with the ability to walk on water and even the least credulous granted him powers of mesmerism and telepathy. It was generally believed by British and Indians alike that he practiced white magic, and it was variously reported that he was a Jew, an Armenian, a Russian agent, a British agent. It was obvious to all that he was the most important dealer in jewels and antiquities in India, and known to a few that he had in fact undertaken missions for the Secret Department of the government of India. He travelled by private train. His little store in Simla was a pantechnicon of riches, blazing with gold and smokey with incense, and in it Jacob squatted, pale and subtle, keeping a diary full of secrets.”
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