Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jim Corbett-A chapter each night

My daughter came home yesterday evening somewhat earlier than her play time, terribly anxious and flustered at the fact that a small snake had crossed the road where they were playing. Her city upbringing and the basic distrust of anything other than human and even humans, rendered useless my advise that snakes are generally harmless creatures and will usually go away if you care to step aside and clap your hands, or make some noise. As someone who grew up close to the jungles and interacted much with the tribals, you learn to identify plants and fruits that will help you survive if you're stuck in a jungle, you learn which snakes will bite and which will not, which plants will help you when there is drought, to smell fear and walk on a tread...but most of all you learn not to mock at the jungle and understand its immensity and profundity. My daughter has of course been through an elementary dose of Rudyard Kipling but then stories are sometimes not enough, the real stuff happens only when you can feel the jungle. I felt this even more as I sat down last night to watch with her this short film by BBC on the life of Jim Corbett with focus on the man eating tiger of Rudraprayag.
It struck me then how little is written about the jungles, how less we talk about them, love them and look out for them, tell the stories behind them, stories not only for children but those for adults too. My travels throughout India have taken me to different jungles, as different from National parks, from the dense Nambar to the dark Western ghats. Many are the tales I have seen enfold in front of my eyes, whether it is passing a snake or watching a leopard from the terrace of my house. That animals never attack unless provoked is mostly true.

My love of the jungles and the stories that it hides began from an uncle who used to visit us often. He worked in a tea garden and would often tell me stories of the little leopards that crossed his path or the owls that screeched at him. Like an obedient student I lapped up all of this wide eyed, only to find my own stories much later as I traveled from one forest to another. These days, I tell stories to my daughter and while she like stories about cities, people and friends, it is the story of the jungle that attracts her the most.

I hope I would be able to impart through my stories, that to walk in a jungle is never to feel small, only beautiful, as different sometimes from the narrow confines of the city. Since a long time now, I have been reading a chapter from Jim Corbett every night and it has been the balm that the exhaustion of city living gifts us, a tradition I hope to leave behind in the safe hands of my daughter, who will then find her own jungles and listen to the stories that they tell her.