Hunter-turned-conservationist and author Jim Corbett’s 137th birth anniversary tomorrow ushers in a graphic novel on his life 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.
65 years after the Corbetts bid adieu,Jim’s 137 th birth anniversary on 25 th of July will be celebrated with a 48 page graphic novel based on his life. Titled Jim Corbett Friend of the Wild pby Amar Chitra Katha,the book was launched last 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 its 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 to a modern cottage or selling it off to the government,like most other owners in the area. To add to her commitment to it,for the last few years she has been celebrating Corbett’s birthday at Gurney House as a literary event. 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 had to be launched,what better place than his own house?” she says.
Jim’s graphic biography traces his life during his hunting years from the time he held his first gun when he was six years old to his demise in Kenya ( when?) . “It brings out the dichotomies in Corbett’s personality- he was a hunter who loved animals,” says script writer Tripti Nainwal,who researched him intensively for a year. The book bring 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 Guest of Honour. A number of school children from Nainital thronged the event.
Gurney House is indeed a memorial of a place. For instance,the moment you cross over the threshold,you step upon the skin of a leopard Jim shot 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. It is an amar katha alright with many pictorial memories,” says Dalmia.