Rudyard Kipling and the Jungle Bookshelf


Rudyard Kipling and the Jungle Bookshelf

Illustration: Sushant Ahire


he elephant was huge – Colonel Hathi huge. His hulking grey mass was hidden by ferns and branches, but my ten-year-old brain filled in the gaps using my imagination. It wasn’t that difficult, because it was mainly fuelled by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which I had carried with me on my family vacation to Jim Corbett National Park. It was the first time I had seen an actual elephant in the wild, and it was the most memorable trip of my childhood.

Getting out of the city was a rare thing for me. I grew up more used to the sound of traffic than birdsong, the orchestra of mosquitoes and flies buzzing rather than that of jungle crickets. Which is why, it was extra important for me to dream about the wilder places of the world. While some boys in my class were staying up late to watch “Midnight Hot” on FTV, I was devouring late-night programming on Animal Planet. I had a whole section on my bookshelf devoted to this obsession, from animal encyclopaedias to Tarzan novels. But amid all those books, there was one hard-bound tome with a plain leather cover that had clearly seen more use than the rest – Kipling’s The Jungle Book.