A Book A Week Challenge – Week 46

There is a famous quote in an Indian movie that says “We Indians, once decided to give love to anyone, it would be for lifetime”. Very few non-Indian origin experienced that level of love and respect as did Jim Corbett. India’s biggest national park is named after him. A species of the animal that even he quotes to be the greatest asset to the country’s culture- Tiger – was named after him.

All Jim Corbett did was not preserve the animal but rather hunted them down, not for sport but for the danger that these tigers spread across various parts of the country. This book focuses on his hunt in the Kumaon region for a period approximately forty years after which he announced his retirement.

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Book #: 46

Title: Man-Eaters of Kumaon” by Jim Corbett

Pages: 476

There was one national awareness campaign run a few years ago by WWF in association with NTCA, with Indian cricket skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the brand ambassador. The campaign ran extensively across the media streams with the quote “Only 1,411 tigers were left in India”. It received a tremendous response across the country, with slogans spread across the media channels.

Why?

Why was there a need for us to protect a wild animal that hunts human lives?

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Jim Corbett with the iconic “Bachelor of Powalgarh” after the kill

 

If you ever seek the answer to that question, Mr. Jim Corbett provides the answer right at the beginning of the book, in the “NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR” section where he writes:

Human beings are not the natural prey of tigers, and it is only when tigers have been incapacitated through wounds or old age that, in order to live, they are compelled to take a diet of human flesh.”

The next 475 pages in this book take a roller-coaster ride of exciting, fearful, edge of the seat stories of how he killed Seven very dangerous man-eaters that lived in the Kumaon region from approx. 1900 till 1940.

Seven Man-Eaters were killed and there are a few of them which accounted for more than 400 human lives. Each story passes you through the impact that it had on the local community and very detailed narration on the process of deciding the place of the hunt, followed by prolonged patient waiting hours until the point where you come face-to-face with the most dangerous animal that is now used to human flesh.

At the end of each kill, Mr. Corbett makes sure that he enquires the reasoning behind why such a naturally non-human-flesh-eating species ventured into being a Man-Eater. Every tiger had its’ own story just like the many hundreds that it killed.

“Of the many incomprehensible things one meets with in life, the hardest to assign any reason for is the way in which misfortune dogs an individual, or a family.”

As the pages’ flip through, you get to learn various habits and behavioral patterns of a tiger and how is different to that of a Leopard or Bear, so to speak. The pug marks reveal a lot of information about the tiger – it’s gender, it’s age and the pace at which it walked to name a few. There is a dedicated section that explains the difference between why a tiger “drags” its’ kill vs. “lifts” it. It is like a wonderland that charms with its’ own mysticism, except for the fact this is dangerous.

 Here are the man-eaters that were referenced in the book:

The Champawat Man-Eater: 436 deaths reported: Killed-1907

The Chowgarh Tigers: (Old Tigress and a cub): 64 deaths: Killed-1929 and 1930

Bachelor of Powalgarh: Killed -1930

The Mohan Man-Eater: Killed- 1931

The Kanda Man-Eater: Killed- 1933

The Pipal Pani Tiger

The Thak Man-Eater: Killed- 1938

To kill animals that accounted for so many human lives, would need a lot of precision and even more understand the forest and the means that needs to be employed for their execution. All it takes is a snap of twig you land your foot on or an occasional cough (for which he explains the steps to take to avoid it) or even the click of the safety lock of the rifle, one paw landing and you are done with.

“I cannot expect you who read this at your fireside to appreciate my feelings at the time. The sound of the growling and the expectation of an attack terrified me at the same time as it gave me hope.”

After many days of waiting with anticipation with danger lurking just a bush away from the position you believed is the perfect spot for the kill, you get one shot at it and a second one if you are very lucky.

“When I saw the hind-quarters, I could have shouted with delight, for they showed that the tiger was not crouching and ready to spring, but was lying down.” is not the most common reaction that you get when you hunt the animal that is waiting for its food.

It would be a mistake if there is lot of brutalities involved in the act of killing – either the tiger killing humans or the other way around – it is the nature that embodies the system and it requires a balancing act at some point, which we the most intelligent of the species happily ignored for our own convenience. Hunting a dangerous animal and the means employed might not be morally justifiable but the comfort of saving one life would fulfill that guilt.

“If the greatest happiness one can experience is the sudden cessation of great pain, then the second greatest happiness is undoubtedly the sudden cessation of great fear”

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Jim Corbett refers to the Shooting with Camera skills of Fred Champion

 

The book by Jim Corbett is not just about hunting a wild animal who now feeds on human flesh for survival, it is more about the way we approach our fears, our goals, and the circumstances, which need tremendous levels of attention, focus, skill and more importantly the greater good that your job demands.

“When you go out looking for a lion, be quite sure that you want to see him” writes Mr. Corbett. But, here you go out seeking seven man-eaters with the dimension of 10’3”-10’7” curves and have killed approximately 1,000 human lives between them. 10 brilliantly narrated takes you through the most exciting journey of hunting these seven man-eaters. A thrilling hunt and yet extremely knowledge filled.  Wild-Life Reading 101.

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