He was a truth-teller, admitting to feelings others would hide. In Burma he had found the taunts and insults of the radicalised Buddhist priests hard to bear. Part of him thought of the British Raj as a tyranny, but another part thought “the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts”.
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He would have sneered at the notion that he was a saint – he once described the Christian heaven as “choir practice in a jeweller’s shop”. All the same, for me he was a secular saint. His road-to‑Damascus moment came when he resigned from the Indian Imperial police in 1927. He was aware, he said, of an “immense weight of guilt” he had to expiate, so he joined the beggars and outcasts, as described in Down and Out in Paris and London and “How the Poor Die“.
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