My Kumaon Uncollected Writings – Jim Corbett
I was delighted when I heard that Oxford University Press to celebrate its hundred years is coming out with a book comprising Jim Corbett’s uncollected writings. I was anxious to lay my hands on it and immediately ordered it. This book is like a treasure trove. Through the writings of his contemporaries, letters to the OUP (Oxford University Press) by readers, his correspondence with his editors one gets to know not only about Jim Corbett but also the way he was viewed by his contemporaries. I had always wanted to know more about his family as he had briefly talked about his childhood days and extended family in Jungle Lore. In My Kumaon, we get to know that Corbett’s father and mother had suffered extensively during 1857 mutiny against the british and details about his parents and siblings. His bonding with his sister is shown by the letters that he used to write, some of which are featured in this book. This book features rare images of Jim Corbett as well. I consider this book to be a collectors item. Rather than reviewing it, I choose to share relevant extracts of the book, as this book like all his other books is a must read. At 225 rupees this book is a steal.
How I came to write…
“I have frequently been asked how many notebooks I have filled with my experiences, and I do not think I have always been believed when I have answered that I do not possess a notebook, and that I have never made a note in my life. If one uses one’s senses as [they] were intended to be used, there is no need to make notes for everything that one sees and hears. [it is all] photographed in one’s memory and is there for all time. [The] writing up, therefore, of stories I selected was not difficult…”
Land Collection tour
“A concerted demand was then made for me publishing my stories in regular book form. But before I was able to make a start, Hitler started out on his land collection tour. Anticipating this tour by one week, I cut ten years off my age, took an application for a war job to Command Head Quarters. After I had been on service [for] two years, I contracted tick typhus. I entered hospital weighing twelve [and a] half stone. When I was discharged three months later, I weighed seven stone. I was told I would have to be content…..”
Jim Corbett’s Filming & Observational Skills
This book – My Kumaon – has some unpublished content which tells us about his filming activities as well reminds us about his sharp observation skills.
“…. We had proceeded half a mile up the west bed looking for the tiger’s pug marks on the footpaths and game tracks that corss it when, as we were walking over a bed of stones, I asked my sister who was walking on my right, to stop. We had our backs to the sun which was near setting, and I had seen a shadow which I recognized as being cast by a nightjar which had apparently risen from the stones just in front of her. My sister had been looking to the left at the time, and hand not seen the shadow and, on her asking me what had attracted my attention, I told her not to move forward for, if she did so, she would probably put her foot on the eggs of the nightjar which had just risen. When nightjars sit out in the open at this season of the year, they only do so because they were sitting on eggs. After looking carefully, we saw a single egg; there was no attempt at a nest: just the one single egg laid among the stones on a small patch of sand a few inches square.
…it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a cinema picture of the bird we had found and of her egg. So, this morning, I loaded my camera with a Kodachrome film and, accompanied by one of my men, set out to take the picture. I had not taken any special note of where the bird was in that big expanse of stony ground, but this did not matter for I knew I should recognize the spot when I came near it. Thirty yards from where I expected the bird to be, I stopped, took the camera out of its case, wound it up, set the lens at F8, and set the range at 15 feet. I then took the man to the little bit of high ground that I had measured with my eye as being 15 feet from the bird; from here the bird was visible. It was impossible to make the man believe that the brown-coloured object with a faint yellow line on it was a bird; so, lying down to steady the camera, I exposed a few feet and keeping the camera running, signaled to the man to go forward, and took the bird as it rose off its egg. I then took a close up of the egg and returning to the high ground sent the man away, intending to take the bird as she returned to the egg. But she was suspicious, and after flying round my head several times, she flew away. Afraid that the hot sun would addle the egg if exposed for any length of time, I got to my feet and, rejoining the man, returned home.”
Most of the time people forget their way in the jungle, as they fail to mentally take note of significant trees, boulder or other parts of landscape while travelling.
While writing about an incident when the Maneater of Chowgarh would have taken his life, Jim Corbett says “When an important and particular job is in hand, full and complete concentration on that job should never be relaxed, even for one moment, for that moment’s relaxation may cost you your life, or the lives of those who are depending on you. Time and enough there will be for relaxation when the job in hand has been completed.”
This book is also particularly interesting as it contains some of the letters written by Jim Corbett to his sister while trying to shoot the Maneating leopard of Rudraprayag.
“A country’s fauna is a sacred trust, and I appeal to you not to betray this trust. Shooting over water, shooting over salt-licks, natural and artificial, shooting birds in the close season and when roosting at night, encouraging permit-holders to shoot hinds, fencing off of large areas of forest and the extermination by the Forest department of all game within these areas, making of unnecessary motor tracks through the forest and shooting from motor cars, absence of sanctuaries and the burning of forests by the Forest Department and by villagers at a time when the forests are full of young life are all combining to one end – the extermination of our fauna. If we do not bestir ourselves now, it will be to our discredit that the fauna of our province was exterminated in our generation and under our very eyes, while we looked on and never raised a finger to prevent it.
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