A Graphic Hunt

Hunter-turned-conservationist and author Jim Corbett’s 137th birth anniversary tomorrow ushers in a graphic novel on his life that was launched at a nostalgic event at his Nainital house

Written by Tora Agarwala | Published: July 24, 2012 3:58:43 am

Hunter-turned-conservationist and author Jim Corbett’s 137th birth anniversary tomorrow ushers in a graphic novel on his life that was launched at a nostalgic event at his Nainital house

One early winter morning in 1947,siblings Jim and Maggie Corbett left their beloved home in Nainital. Jim kept their departure quiet because he did not want to upset the locals. He was someone they held in high regard,owed their lives to. A man who had braved the wild jungles of Kumaon and hunted down 33 man-eating tigers,risking his own life to save theirs.

Sixty five years after the Corbetts bid adieu,Jim’s 137th birth anniversary on July 25 will be celebrated with the release of a 48-page graphic novel based on his life. Titled Jim Corbett — Friend of the Wild (Amar Chitra Katha,Rs 50),the book was launched on Saturday at Gurney House in Nainital — Jim and Maggie’s residence for many years.

Gurney House is now a private house owned by Nilanjana Dalmia,who belongs to a well- known business family in Delhi and runs a school in Gurgaon.

Built in 1870,the colonial Gurney House stands on Ayarpatta hill,with an estate spread over nearly 1.7 acres of land. The Corbetts sold it to Dalmia’s grandparents Sharda Prasad and his wife,Kalavati Varma in 1947 for a sum of Rs 55,000. In 2006,Dalmia chose to preserve the prime estate instead of converting it into a modern cottage or selling it off to the government,like most other owners in the area. To add to her commitment,she has been celebrating Corbett’s birthday at Gurney House as a literary event for the last few years. It began in 2008 when actor Tom Alter visited Gurney House and read from Corbett’s books. A slew of interested authors like Namita Gokhale,Rana Dasgupta and Namita Devidayal followed suit. “This year,I went a step further and teamed up with Amar Chitra Katha. I heard they were planning to come up with a comic book based on Corbett and thought if a graphic novel on Corbett’s life has to be launched,what better place than in his own house?” she said.

Jim’s graphic biography traces his life during his hunting years,from the time he held his first gun at six to his demise in Kenya in 1955. “It brings out the dichotomies in Corbett’s personality — he was a hunter who loved animals,” said script writer Tripti Nainwal,who researched him intensively for a year. The book brings out some unheard aspects of Corbett’s life — how he started going into the jungles with a cushion instead of a gun in his later years when he realised that it was wrong to kill animals. “A forgotten aspect of Jim’s personality is that he was a celebrated writer whose works our children must read,” said Reena Puri,editor of Amar Chitra Katha,at the launch event where renowned author and journalist Mrinal Pande was the guest of honour. A number of school children from Nainital thronged the event.

Gurney House is indeed full of memories. For instance,the moment you cross over the threshold,you walk across the skin of a leopard shot by Jim many years ago. Numerous reminders of Jim and Maggie linger in every nook and cranny of this English cottage — in the deer antlers adorning the drawing room walls or the crockery lining the shelves,even in Maggie’s hand embroidered upholstery on chairs. “I have tried to restore this home of a legend but without spoiling its charm,” says Dalmia.

It is an amar katha alright,with many pictorial memories.

(The reporter was a guest of the Gurney House)

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