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Jim Corbett (Jungle Lore)
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Jim Corbett (Jungle Lore)
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About the Book

 

Generations of readers have been captivated by Jim Corbett’s shikar exploits, but perhaps few are familiar with Corbett’s enduring love affair with the people, jungle, and animals of his hunting terrain and his pioneering efforts at nature conservation. The closest the hunter-conservationist ever came to writing an autobiography, Jungle Lore offers glimpses into much of Corbett’s childhood-his first forays with catapult and gun, and his first adventures in the wild. Today, the message of the book-sensitivity towards nature and man’s role in conservation-remains as important as ever, and the morality even more seminal.

 

Introduction

 

IN THE SPRING OF 1985, I was sitting in a courtyard in Kaladhungi, Jim Corbett’s village tucked against the first of the Himalayan foothills to rise from plains: around me was strewn the paraphernalia of the movie world. I was there for the filming of a drama documentary I had researched and written on the life of Jim Corbett, the culmination of years of keen ambition and a love and admiration for a man I never knew but who had, through his writings, fundamentally shaped my personal philosophy and attitude towards the natural world.

 

It was a fearfully hot day, even though early in the summer, and the film crew were hard at work arranging another set, in a local person’s house, for the scene of Kunwar Singh’s illness and Jim’s saving of him from his opium addiction. Those not engaged in this work were squatting in the short shadows of late morning. I was with Frederick Treves, the actor playing jim Corbett-and who looks remarkably like him, more so in costume and make-up-resting under the scant shade of some paw-paw trees, when one of the local staff on the film crew came up to us.

 

‘Sir,’ he announced to me, ‘there is an old fellow come who wants to meet Carpet Sahib.’ He pronounced Corbett as ‘Carpet’ as was the way in the Kumaon district.

 

1 supposed the old fellow wanted to meet the actor-others had done so before him, drawn by the magnetism of the ‘glamourous’ movies-and so asked Freddie Treves if this would be in order. He, with the good grace of the generous man he is, agreed, although I know actors shun such public contact.

 

An incredibly old man appeared. He must have been in his eighties, wizen and bent almost double by age. He walked with a stick newly cut from a tree and weeping sticky sap. As soon as he saw Freddie, he bowed low and sought to press his forehead to the actor’s feet.

 

1 said to the crew member, foolishly assuming the old man to be perhaps a little senile, ‘I think you’d better tell him this is only an actor.’

 

This information was translated and a gabble of Kumaoni dialect made in reply.

 

‘I have told the old fellow,’ the crewman reported, ‘that this is an actor from England, but he refuses to believe this. It is, he says, a legend that Carpet Sahib will return one day and he believes this is the true Sahib come back.’ Then, with obvious reverential astonishment, for the crewman was a city dweller from New Delhi, he added, ‘This old fellow has walked one hundred kilometres to see Carpet Sahib. In just two days ..

 

Anyone who has seen the Kumaon foothills will know that twenty kilometres would be a feat for an average fit man yet this old sage had walked virtually non-stop for forty-eight hours on hearing over the jungle grapevine that Corbett was returned to his home. It was Carpet Sahib’s magnetism, still vibrant over the forty years since his departure from India, which had drawn the old man and not the spurious trappings of movies and modernity. This is the reverence with which the Kumaoni people viewed Corbett, and still do. It is the veneration afforded to a sadhu, a saintly man who has earned his reputation by example: in Corbett’s case, by the example he set in the jungles of northern India.

 

Corbett’s famous stories of man-eating tigers and leopard hunting make such exciting reading one tends to overlook in them, in the heat of the chase retold with such simplicity of style and immediacy of effect, the minutiae of detail appertaining to the hunter’s skill. And, sadly, his man-eater books tend to overshadow his other volumes, My India and Jungle Lore. In these are shown, to an even greater extent, not only the hunter but also the man Corbett was.

 

The former volume deals, as every Corbett reader knows, with the author’s familiarity with and love of India, his home for all but the last eight years of his very long life. Here is revealed his immense knowledge of India in all her variety: although he never travelled to the south of the subcontinent, he knew the north and centre well. Yet it is in this book, Jun8le Lore, that one sees the real soul of Corbett, the core of his love affair with the land of his birth-the jungles of the north and the people (in his mind, both human and animal folk) who inhabit it.

 

Jungle Lore is probably the least known of Corbett’s books. It does not contain sustained anecdotes of hunting dangerous cats or in-depth stories of jungle or forest encounters. Instead, it deals quite simply-occasionally almost naively-with the close relationship between Corbett and the natural world and the immense value such an intimacy bears for all men. It is also the nearest he came to an autobiography.

 

Much of Corbett’s childhood, as regards his experiences in the jungle, is here-his early forays with catapult and bow-and-arrow; his first gun and first adventures: but these are not presented as thrilling episodes (although they are) but as lessons attended in the jungle’s classroom. For Corbett, term-time at the jungle school never ended and he never graduated, for it is impossible ever to do so: there is always more to learn, more to discover and more to observe because the jungle and the world of nature is in permanent flux.

 

 

The crux of Jungle Lore, however, is not restricted to learning and seeing. It is more do with feeling, with sensibility and sensitivity-and it is here that Corbett stakes his claim to fame and posterity-and with presenting nature’s case to a world fast ignoring the wonders of the animal (and plant) kingdoms. For, in Jungle Lore, written thirty-seven years ago, Jim Corbett is lamenting the divorce of modern man from his environment. He learns the lessons and, like all good teachers, he seeks to share his knowledge and the implications of it with others.

 

This book has not dated with the passing years. Its import is as vibrant today as ever it was, the morality even more seminal. Sadly, the morals Corbett espouses are still blatantly ignored. Much of Corbett’s jungle has gone: the Siwalik Hills which he roamed are mostly denuded of trees, ravaged by erosion and mostly devoid of tigers and game. He would not recognize his Kumaon homeland now.

 

Yet pockets do remain. The reader can still wander a little way down the wooded firetrack to Powalgarh, still sit on the Boar River bridge, still see the wall Corbett and the villagers built around their fields to keep the wild pigs out of the crops--though the absence of these creatures has long since rendered that defence redundant.

 

Jungle Lore has a poignant and very pertinent message. It begs us to stop the disaster of raping the earth mother, entreats us to re-assert and re-affirm our contacts with the natural world, to get to know, understand and use to a mutual advantage the ways-the lore-of the wild.

 

Contents

 

Introduction

ix

Chapter One

1

Chapter Two

3

Chapter Three

20

Chapter Four

31

Chapter Five

34

Chapter Six

47

Chapter Seven

55

Chapter Eight

62

Chapter Nine

80

Chapter Ten

100

Chapter Eleven

136

Chapter Twelve

161

 

Sample Pages









Jim Corbett (Jungle Lore)

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About the Book

 

Generations of readers have been captivated by Jim Corbett’s shikar exploits, but perhaps few are familiar with Corbett’s enduring love affair with the people, jungle, and animals of his hunting terrain and his pioneering efforts at nature conservation. The closest the hunter-conservationist ever came to writing an autobiography, Jungle Lore offers glimpses into much of Corbett’s childhood-his first forays with catapult and gun, and his first adventures in the wild. Today, the message of the book-sensitivity towards nature and man’s role in conservation-remains as important as ever, and the morality even more seminal.

 

Introduction

 

IN THE SPRING OF 1985, I was sitting in a courtyard in Kaladhungi, Jim Corbett’s village tucked against the first of the Himalayan foothills to rise from plains: around me was strewn the paraphernalia of the movie world. I was there for the filming of a drama documentary I had researched and written on the life of Jim Corbett, the culmination of years of keen ambition and a love and admiration for a man I never knew but who had, through his writings, fundamentally shaped my personal philosophy and attitude towards the natural world.

 

It was a fearfully hot day, even though early in the summer, and the film crew were hard at work arranging another set, in a local person’s house, for the scene of Kunwar Singh’s illness and Jim’s saving of him from his opium addiction. Those not engaged in this work were squatting in the short shadows of late morning. I was with Frederick Treves, the actor playing jim Corbett-and who looks remarkably like him, more so in costume and make-up-resting under the scant shade of some paw-paw trees, when one of the local staff on the film crew came up to us.

 

‘Sir,’ he announced to me, ‘there is an old fellow come who wants to meet Carpet Sahib.’ He pronounced Corbett as ‘Carpet’ as was the way in the Kumaon district.

 

1 supposed the old fellow wanted to meet the actor-others had done so before him, drawn by the magnetism of the ‘glamourous’ movies-and so asked Freddie Treves if this would be in order. He, with the good grace of the generous man he is, agreed, although I know actors shun such public contact.

 

An incredibly old man appeared. He must have been in his eighties, wizen and bent almost double by age. He walked with a stick newly cut from a tree and weeping sticky sap. As soon as he saw Freddie, he bowed low and sought to press his forehead to the actor’s feet.

 

1 said to the crew member, foolishly assuming the old man to be perhaps a little senile, ‘I think you’d better tell him this is only an actor.’

 

This information was translated and a gabble of Kumaoni dialect made in reply.

 

‘I have told the old fellow,’ the crewman reported, ‘that this is an actor from England, but he refuses to believe this. It is, he says, a legend that Carpet Sahib will return one day and he believes this is the true Sahib come back.’ Then, with obvious reverential astonishment, for the crewman was a city dweller from New Delhi, he added, ‘This old fellow has walked one hundred kilometres to see Carpet Sahib. In just two days ..

 

Anyone who has seen the Kumaon foothills will know that twenty kilometres would be a feat for an average fit man yet this old sage had walked virtually non-stop for forty-eight hours on hearing over the jungle grapevine that Corbett was returned to his home. It was Carpet Sahib’s magnetism, still vibrant over the forty years since his departure from India, which had drawn the old man and not the spurious trappings of movies and modernity. This is the reverence with which the Kumaoni people viewed Corbett, and still do. It is the veneration afforded to a sadhu, a saintly man who has earned his reputation by example: in Corbett’s case, by the example he set in the jungles of northern India.

 

Corbett’s famous stories of man-eating tigers and leopard hunting make such exciting reading one tends to overlook in them, in the heat of the chase retold with such simplicity of style and immediacy of effect, the minutiae of detail appertaining to the hunter’s skill. And, sadly, his man-eater books tend to overshadow his other volumes, My India and Jungle Lore. In these are shown, to an even greater extent, not only the hunter but also the man Corbett was.

 

The former volume deals, as every Corbett reader knows, with the author’s familiarity with and love of India, his home for all but the last eight years of his very long life. Here is revealed his immense knowledge of India in all her variety: although he never travelled to the south of the subcontinent, he knew the north and centre well. Yet it is in this book, Jun8le Lore, that one sees the real soul of Corbett, the core of his love affair with the land of his birth-the jungles of the north and the people (in his mind, both human and animal folk) who inhabit it.

 

Jungle Lore is probably the least known of Corbett’s books. It does not contain sustained anecdotes of hunting dangerous cats or in-depth stories of jungle or forest encounters. Instead, it deals quite simply-occasionally almost naively-with the close relationship between Corbett and the natural world and the immense value such an intimacy bears for all men. It is also the nearest he came to an autobiography.

 

Much of Corbett’s childhood, as regards his experiences in the jungle, is here-his early forays with catapult and bow-and-arrow; his first gun and first adventures: but these are not presented as thrilling episodes (although they are) but as lessons attended in the jungle’s classroom. For Corbett, term-time at the jungle school never ended and he never graduated, for it is impossible ever to do so: there is always more to learn, more to discover and more to observe because the jungle and the world of nature is in permanent flux.

 

 

The crux of Jungle Lore, however, is not restricted to learning and seeing. It is more do with feeling, with sensibility and sensitivity-and it is here that Corbett stakes his claim to fame and posterity-and with presenting nature’s case to a world fast ignoring the wonders of the animal (and plant) kingdoms. For, in Jungle Lore, written thirty-seven years ago, Jim Corbett is lamenting the divorce of modern man from his environment. He learns the lessons and, like all good teachers, he seeks to share his knowledge and the implications of it with others.

 

This book has not dated with the passing years. Its import is as vibrant today as ever it was, the morality even more seminal. Sadly, the morals Corbett espouses are still blatantly ignored. Much of Corbett’s jungle has gone: the Siwalik Hills which he roamed are mostly denuded of trees, ravaged by erosion and mostly devoid of tigers and game. He would not recognize his Kumaon homeland now.

 

Yet pockets do remain. The reader can still wander a little way down the wooded firetrack to Powalgarh, still sit on the Boar River bridge, still see the wall Corbett and the villagers built around their fields to keep the wild pigs out of the crops--though the absence of these creatures has long since rendered that defence redundant.

 

Jungle Lore has a poignant and very pertinent message. It begs us to stop the disaster of raping the earth mother, entreats us to re-assert and re-affirm our contacts with the natural world, to get to know, understand and use to a mutual advantage the ways-the lore-of the wild.

 

Contents

 

Introduction

ix

Chapter One

1

Chapter Two

3

Chapter Three

20

Chapter Four

31

Chapter Five

34

Chapter Six

47

Chapter Seven

55

Chapter Eight

62

Chapter Nine

80

Chapter Ten

100

Chapter Eleven

136

Chapter Twelve

161

 

Sample Pages









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