Title – My Kumaon
Author – Jim Corbett
Genre – Non-fiction
This book was selected as part of my Birthday Reading Goals – travelling around India through books – from the state of Uttarakhand.
Jim Corbett was a British hunter, naturalist, conservationist, and author of several books on wildlife in India. (For those wondering how “hunter” and “naturalist” are in the same sentence, Corbett didn’t hunt for sport, but was called upon to put down man-eaters. Rather, his efforts were to reduce animal-human conflicts, poaching, and hunting for sport. That’s why the Corbett National Park was named after him, and still works for wildlife conservation). The Englishman spent a major portion of his life in India, and was known for slaying man-eating tigers and leopards in the Kumaon region of northern India. He is known to have slain nineteen tigers and fourteen leopards in the 1920s and 1930s – The Champawat tiger, the leopard of Rudraprayag, the tigers of Chowgarh, and the Panar leopard are legendary hunts. Corbett also helped establish India’s first national park (subsequently named after the man himself) – the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. Corbett was encouraged to write about his hunting experiences and his way with nature, by Roy Hawkins, the manager of the Indian branch of the Oxford University Press. His acclaimed classics include “Man-eaters of Kumaon” (1944), “The Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag” (1948), “My India” (1952), “Jungle Lore” (1953), “The Temple Tiger and More Man-eaters of Kumaon” (1954). These books are widely read even today. Having devoured his books as a child, and then running the Corbett Marathon as an adult (a trail marathon run on the periphery of the national park), it was almost obvious that I would select one of his books from the state of Uttarakhand for my reading goals.
“My Kumaon” is a 2012 publication – which was released as the Oxford University Press celebrated a hundred years of publishing in India. It is vintage Corbett from the press archives – a brief childhood background, his writings on animals, and also how he got into writing, correspondence with editors, personal letters, his photography, his connect with nature, wildlife in the villages, life as an Englishman in India, life in Kenya. There are also newspaper articles about his book releases, book reviews, the reactions to his hunts, how his books were used in court cases that delved into predator attacks. There is a section featuring rare, archival photographs, and also drawings and sketches throughout the book.
My Kumaon is a treat for all lovers of history as a subject – the vintage collection is simply superb. Those with an interest in nature, wildlife, photography, will also enjoy this. And of course, for admirers of Corbett who have followed his writings and are familiar with the man and his work over the years, this one is highly recommended.
Rating – 4/5
P.S. The complete list of books set in and around India, and/or by authors from the region.