Thursday, April 07, 2005


USC Uploaded by Rohit.
I spent 2 years at University of Southern California, Los Angeles, doing my graduate studies. Looking back I think I must have spent 90 percent of the time in labs and libraries. I had no life besides studying, no car besides Garg's and Puri's, and no money to go out. But I think I had the best time of my life there!

With Google's help, I have mapped out the little life I had in the little box on the right. There are 11 notes I added on the picture. Click on the picture, and goto Flickr. There hover your mouse on the photo, and see if you can find all 11 of them.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - VI

Corbett is not without humor. One of my favorite stories in the book is this one.

“The younger members of the two large families who spent the winter months in Kaladhungi numbered fourteen, excluding my younger brother who was too small to take part in the nightly bonfire or to bathe in the river, and who therefore did not count. Of these fourteen, seven were girls, ranging in age from nine to eighteen, and seven were boys, ranging in age from eight to eighteen, of whom I was the youngest. This handicap, of being the youngest of the males, saddled me with the task that I disliked intensely, for we were living in the Victorian age and when, for instance, the girls went bathing in the canal that formed one boundary of our estate, which they did every day except Sunday – why girls should not bathe on Sunday I do not know – it was deemed necessary for them to be accompanied by a male whose age would offer no offence to Mother Grundy. The selected victim being myself, it was my duty to carry the towels and nightdresses of the girls – for there were no swim-suits in those days – and to keep guard while the girls were bathing and warn them of the approach of males, for there was a footpath used by men on their way to collect firewood in the jungles, or to work on the canal when it needed repair or cleaning.”

“The entering of running water while wearing a thin cotton nightdress is a difficult feat, if the proprieties are to be maintained, for if the unwary step into three feet of water and sit down – as all girls appear to want to do the moment they get into the water – the nightdress rises up and flows over the head, to the consternation of all beholders. When this happened, as it very frequently did, I was under strict orders to look the other way.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - V

On Fear in jungle, Jim Corbett writes ...

“A wind was blowing, rustling the dry grass and dead leaves, and my imagination filled the jungle round me with hungry bears. During that winter nine bears where shot on that mountain. That I would presently be eaten I had no doubt whatever, and I was quite sure that meal would prove a very painful one for me. If a human being in normal health can die of fear, I would have died that night and many times since.

“Whatever the human race may have been in the days of the cave man, we of the present day are essentially children of the daylight. In daylight we are in our element and the most timid among us can, if the necessity arises, summon the courage needed to face any situation, and we can even laugh and make light of the things that a few hours previously made our skin creep. When daylight fades and night engulfs us the sense of sight we depended on no longer sustains us and we are at the mercy of our imagination. Imagination at the best of times can play strange tricks, and when to imagination is added a firm belief in the supernatural it is not surprising that people surrounded by dense forests, whose field of vision at night is limited to the illumination provided by a pine torch, or a hand lantern when paraffin is available, should dread the hours of darkness.”

“Animals who live day and night with fear can pinpoint sound with exactitude, and fear can teach human beings to do the same. Sounds that are repeated – as, for instance, a langur barking at a leopard, or a cheetal barking at a suspicious movement, or a peafowl calling at a tiger – are not difficult to locate, nor do they indicate immediate danger calling for instant action. It is the sound that is only heard once, like the snapping of a twig, a low growl, or the single warning call of bird or of animal, that is difficult to locate, is of immediate danger, and calls for instant action.”

“Fear stimulates the senses of animals, keeps them ‘on their toes’, and adds zest to the joy of life; fear can do the same for human beings. Fear had taught me to move noiselessly, to climb trees, to pin-point sound; and now, in order to penetrate into the deepest recesses of the jungle and enjoy the best in nature, it was essential to learn how to use my eyes, and how to use my rifle.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - IV

Corbett shot his first leopard at the age of 10. He writes ...

“It is not possible for me to describe my feelings as I stood looking down at my first leopard. My hands had been steady from the moment I first saw him bounding down the steep hillside and until I pulled him aside to prevent the blood from staining his skin. But now, not only my hands but my whole body was trembling: trembling with fear at the thought of what would have happened if, instead of landing on the bank behind me, the leopard had landed on my head. Trembling with joy at the beautiful animal I had shot, and trembling most of all with anticipation of the pleasure I would have in carrying the news of my great success to those at home who I knew would be as pleased and as proud of my achievement as I was. I could have screamed, shouted, danced, and snug, all at one and the same time. But I did none of these things. I only stood and trembled, for my feelings were too intense to be given expression in the jungle, and could only be relieved by being shared with others.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - III

The vastness of Corbett's knowledge of the jungle is illustrated in this narration.

“The method employed by otters in killing python, and also crocodiles, for sport – for I have never known of their using either of these reptile for food – is to approach, one on either side of the intended victim. When the python or crocodile turns its head to defend itself against the attack of, say, the otter on the right, the otter on the left jumps in – otter are very agile – and takes a bite at the victim’s neck as close to its head as possible. Then when the victim turns and tries to defend itself against its assailant on the left the one on the right jumps in and takes a bite. In this way, biting alternately and a little at a time, the neck of the victim is bitten away right down to the bone before it is dispatched, for both python and crocodiles are very tenacious of life.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - II

On his Jungle Lore, Corbett writes ...

“With the three lessons I have detailed, my jungle training – as far as my elders were concerned – was over. I had been shown how to handle and to fire a gun, and I have been taken into jungles in which there were tigers and bears with the object, I believe, of showing me that no danger was to be apprehended from unwounded animals. Lessons well learnt when young are never afterwards forgotten, and I have absorbed my lessons well.”

“I have used the word ‘absorbed’, in preference to ‘learnt’, for jungle lore is not a science that can be learnt from textbooks; it can, however, be absorbed, a little at a time, and the absorption process can go on indefinitely, for the book of nature has no beginning, as it has no end. Open the book where you will, and at any period of your life, and if you have the desire to acquire knowledge you will find it of intense interest, and no matter how long or how intently you study the pages your interest will not flag, for in nature there is no finality.”

“Few can compile a detective store of fiction, but all can compile jungle detective stories provided they have eyes to see more than the road they walk on, and provided also that they do not start with the assumption that they know all, before in fact they know anything.”

Jim Corbett's Jungle Lore - I

Jim Corbett is one of my all-time-favorite authors. I have read all his books, but the one I love the most is ‘Jungle Lore’. I have the first Indian edition of the book. It belonged to my dad who bought it in 1971 for 2.50 Rupees (which is roughly 5 cents)!

Corbett loved the jungle. He is considered the greatest tiger hunter India ever knew, and the reason he was so successful was not only because he knew the Kumaon jungle like the back of his hand, but also because he understood the jungle. He could understand the sounds the animals and jungle made, and himself make those sounds with great accuracy. He could look at the pug marks of animals on a mud path and tell a whole story of what happened there that morning. He had a sixth sense of jungle which he called his "jungle sensitiveness".

This is my 6 part tribute the man, in which I am going to quote a few sections from the book.