Hunter turned conservationist, writer: Edward James Corbett
145th Birth Anniversary of “Carpet Sahib”
The restrictions in place to check the spread of Covid-19 have affected various public functions and celebrations. July 25 was one such occasion for celebration especially in the hills and dales of the Kumaon region. Even one hundred and forty five years after the famous hunter turned conservationist Jim was born in the lake city of Nainital, people here never forget to celebrate his birth anniversary with great enthusiasm and joy. “Corbett Country” is an exciting part of Uttarakhand and has always attracted large numbers of tourists the year round.
Edward James Corbett, affectionately called Jim by the family, was born in Nainital to Mary Jane Corbett and Christopher William Corbett who was the post master at Nainital.The family spent summers in Nainital and winters in Kaladhungi near Chhoti Haldwani. Jim shot his first leopard at the age of eight. From the mid-1920s, he put down the gun and took up the camera and the pen. His undying love for India was honoured when the national park he helped set up at the foot of Kumaon hills was renamed after him in 1957.
In the foothills of the Kumaon Himalayas lies a serene little village, once the personal property of Jim Corbett. Called Chhoti Haldwani, this village is Corbett country in the true sense. Stories about Corbett, known as “Carbet Sahib” or “Carpet Sahib” among the villagers, do the rounds in this picturesque village. The Jim Corbett Heritage Trail is managed and interpreted by the villagers of Chhoti Haldwani.
Between 1907 and 1938, Corbett killed ten large man eaters of Kumaon. Jim took up a job with the railways at the age of seventeen and worked as assistant station master and a store keeper. Corbett’s life was linked inextricably with the life of the villagers in Kaladhungi and Nainital.
His famous works are Man-Eaters of Kumaon, a world classic, Jungle Lore, The Man Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, My India and Tree Tops. Man Eaters of Kumaon is the best known. It offers ten exciting narratives of pursuing and shooting tigers. These books on shikar and jungle lore have inspired generations of wildlife enthusiasts.When he left India for Kenya alongwith his sister Maggie, Jim gifted his lands away.
Corbett’s descriptions of his mission against the man-eaters of the Kumaon hills show that the qualities a successful shikari needs are physical strength, infinite patience and a great power of observation. His understanding of maneaters comes across to us in his works many a time. In the “Author’s Note” in Maneaters of Kumaon he writes, “A man-eating tiger is a tiger that has been compelled, through stress of circumstances beyond its control, to adopt a diet alien to it.” He could track an animal based on its footprints alone even in thick jungles. Corbett could ‘read’ animal tracks like a tiger’s pug marks, scratches on trees and could tell the direction and speed of the animal. .
Corbett will always live on in the hearts of the people of Kumaon whom he loved and looked after like a father all his life. Carpet Sahib is immortal here!
Sunday, 26 July 2020 | Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun
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