Best experienced with heaphones.
Naveed,You will not believe what I have stumbled onto here in Kadamane. I have been staying at the old estate bungalow for some days now. Last night, while a ferocious storm raged outside my window, I came across an obscure file. It appeared rather unimportant. I picked it up out of sheer boredom and was immediately struck by the title. It read: The Bear Girl Of Kadamane. One Mr. Angus Hutton had recorded in great detail, an astonishing incident that occurred in 1948. The story is so fascinating, I didn’t bat an eyelid until the reading was done.
Pankaj,A Bear Girl? For 3 years? That sounds almost impossible. No, that sounds completely impossible in my head. I can’t seem to believe it no matter what the reason or rhyme. What has Mr. Hutton said? Does he have photographs? What details are these? This was right after independence? Did any Indian authority record this? What happened to the girl? What happened to the bear? So many questions spring through my mind. What do the people of Kadamane make of this? Are they clouded by the same disbelief? Or has it assumed the role of a legend like it often does in small isolated villages such as these?
Dear Unconvinced,Yes. A ‘Bear Girl’ they called her. I cannot yet tell you how the residents of Kadamane recall this event - whether fact or fiction, since it happened over 65 years ago. I must admit, I will be very interested to find this all out for myself and have made an effort already; just this morning, speaking in broken tamil, I mentioned the ‘Karadi Ponnu’ to a tea worker. I could barely understand what he told me but this much I understood - there was such a story that was told by his grandmother. He does not remember it very well.
Dear Mr. Ripley,I am finding it hard to believe this, so I must say that I am more sceptical than curious. I know all these questions are stuck in fading memories and uncertainities but here are just a couple more. Do they have any hospital records? Have you seen the photograph of the girl? That would be interesting as a starting point, it would also be interesting to hear what the older kadamane residents would say about this incident, though I wouldn’t be too optimistic about that.
Pankaj, What an intriguing morning that was. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Mr Norman Woods but it has made me all the more curious and I want to dig a little deeper. It’s still all quite unreal to me, but let me try to put all that we heard into perspective.
So it was 1971, a good 24 years after the Bear girl was found. A young, vibrant Mr Norman woods, was scouting across a jungle when he came across a strange little child of his own. A boy who was wild and violent. He spoke a strange tongue and fought off Norman and the men who tried to bring him down. While I was surprised that they brought back the wild boy back to the Kadamane estate, I was even more surprised that they took him back to the same place and left him there. ‘A little devil’ was the term used by Papa Maestri, the leader of the tribal elders, from a tribe who Norman called ‘The most docile men and women on the planet’.
Now here’s the interesting part for me, there was only the slightest reference to the original bear girl at the time of the boy’s capture. It seems to have been enough time for traces of an incredible legend to disappear. Norman did not take any photographs, ‘I didn’t think it was unusual enough to take a photograph and I regret not doing it on hindsight,' Said Mr. Woods. And when he finally met Angus Hutton in 1991, the man who captured the bear girl, the two adventurers made three completely unique observations. One, Angus was convinced that Norman had seen a bear child of his own. Two, Norman was convinced that the boy he caught was not a bear child and three, norman was now sure that Angus had caught a bear child. Such was the detail that Angus expressed in their brief encounter.
Now here I am, taking a leap into your belief that this is true and I am curious to see if the shadows we are chasing comes into the scrutiny of all this yellow light.
So I will join you in Kadamane. For what struck me most about Mr Norman woods was his ability to pull out interesting little details from that encounter. ‘It was pouring that day’ he said. I can’t remember what the weather was like yesterday leave alone forty years ago. But then again, I can’t tell if I am being lured into poetry, for Sakleshpur is after all one of the rainiest places on earth.
There are too many words here my friend and too few footsteps to match. So, I will see you on the other side. Naveed.
While you seek to quell your doubts about the Bear Girl and I look only
to further my understanding of this enchanting mystery; one I have already,
firmly placed my belief in, I must say our rendezvous could not have been
more well suited. For we meet at the crossroads of doubt and unwavering belief.
Let us start walking now, back in time, until we arrive here in Kadamane on a warm afternoon in April. Here begins the story of the Bear Girl of Kadamane.
Mr. Hutton was deployed in the Madura District when he received a message from the acting manager of the Kadamane estate, Chris Leslie, with whom he had shared many adventures in the jungles. Mr. Hutton was invited to visit the estate to investigate and pursue the matter of a fearsome man eating Tiger that had been picking off lonesome, unsuspecting Sholaga tribes-folk, who were living in and around Kadamane.
On the first day, he met with a grieving tribesman who informed of the loss of his wife and infant to this sinister cat. Very little of his wife remained while there was no trace at all of the poor child.
Chris Leslie and Mr. Hutton began at once the pursuit of the man-eater. Accompanying them were 2 Sholagas, 2
Puliyar trackers (members of another tribe) and Chinnapan - The gun bearer/tracker.
In Mr. Hutton's own words -
375 Mannlicher-Schnoaeur Rifle &
Webley.45 Revolver (Backup)
Double Barrel 12 guage Paradox ShotgunChinnapan
375 Mannlicher Carabine
(Property of Kadamane) & .38 colt revolver
In a fraction of a second, I switched on the torch in my left hand, all we could see was a wall of stripes just a few feet away, with a large open mouthed head, eyes dazzled by the torch's beam, at my end and a long angrily waving tail at the other. Chris had no room to adjust and stuck the barrel into its chest and fired point blank from his waist in the same moment as I fired the .45 revolver into its mouth.
The Tiger leapt straight into the air, turned a couple of somersaults and lay still 20 feet away, presumably dead.
Mr. Hutton and Chris Leslie were paraded as heroes in the village. The tribals rejoiced and the Mysore Government bestowed upon them a grand reward of 10 Rupees.
Stay with me Naveed, as we fast forward three years later, to 1951. With so many Tigers thriving in Saklaspur, there was bound to be another episode of a Tiger turned man-eater. And we must join Mr. Hutton on yet another hunt. Except, this one was special.
This time accompanied by Chinnapan the gun bearer/tracker and a handful of tribals, Mr. Hutton set off into the jungle, picking up on traces and tracks of the elusive cat. Suddenly, his eyes fell upon a peculiar creature that had just emerged from a bamboo growth.
Mr Hutton observed - 'We all froze - I thought at first 'it' was a black panther - But no. 'It' had no tail; maybe a Monkey or a Bear cub? - No. 'It' wasn't hairy enough. I had been covering 'It' with my rifle and in a whisper asked the Puliyar tracker what the hell 'It' was.'
'Shaitani, Sir!' Shuddered the Pulliar as he shot up a tree, joining the rest of the trackers. 'The devil! Kill it, Sir! Kill it at once!' They pleaded.
Just then, what was unmistakably a full grown sloth bear came into view and let out an alarm call. Mr. Hutton was up the tree by now. He saw the large bear disappear into a thicket followed by the creature he had just seen. It followed in the Bear's path but not before casting an urgent glance over its shoulder, toward Mr.Hutton. Curious as he was, young Angus Hutton was at once, taken by the mystery.
It wasn't very hard to find the cave where the sloth bear and the 'Shaitani' had been living. On a patch of sandy earth by the cave, the Pulliar tracker pointed out fresh tracks of the sloth bear and another set of smaller imprints that didn't nearly resemble Bear tracks.
May 1949. A South Indian Sloth Bear at its hilltop lookout note the long claws, used for digging out Termites its favourite food. They are also a fearsome weapon used effectively when cornered, that with one swipe, have scalped many a hunter. (Printed off an 8mm Movie frame).
May 1951. The "Bear Girl" in her "nest" in the Saklaspur hospital mental ward. I copied this picture, using an 8mm movie camera, from the "Times of India" newspaper report at the time and this has now been printed off one frame of the crumbling movie film. This was the only one published with the permission of the Mysore Government.
April 1950. Pulliar tribals and their "jungle village" grass humpies, they were a primitive nomadic tribe that used to roam all over the jungles of South India collecting honey, beeswax and medicinal plants.They even used a kind of Boomerang for hunting birds and Monkeys and were skilled bowmen and spear throwers..
April 1950. Fearless Kurumba hunters with their Coir rope nets and spears. They would corner a Tiger in a patch of forest by carefully surrounding it with nets held up on forked sticks and slowly reducing the circle. These are the same men who netted the cave entrances where we captured the "Bear Girl, a year later.
April 1947. ANGUS HUTTON (Left) & CHRIS LESLIE with the male Tiger they shot which the trackers confirmed was the one that had killed and eaten the mother of the "Bear Girl" a week earlier.
June 1951. The rocky hill and the cave where the "Bear Girl" was captured. The main entrance is at the lower right and the rear entrance was at the centre left. I sat on the centre grassy knoll between them.
May 1951. Tamil and Canarese labourers on the plantation trying to get a peek at the "Bear Girl", at the Kadamane Estate Hospital.
October 1993. (Left to Right:) ANGUS HUTTON, CHINNAPAN, G.S. "Timmy" THIMMIAH (Ag.Manager of Kadamane Tea Plantation, Mysore), VANAL and CHRIS LESLIE (Manager in 1950). The hills where the "Bear Girl" was found are beyond the Tea Factory in the background at right.
October 1993. (Left to Right:) The Nursing Superintendent at Kadamane Hospital, Sister JACOB, (then trainee nurse, had tended the "Bear Girl" in 1951), ANGUS HUTTON, Sister RADHABAI and MUNUSWAMI.
April 1950. Pulliar Tribal women and girls. By Western standards they were the most primitive tribe in South India, but their knowledge of Wildlife and Medicinal Plants was astounding and as a young child, I learnt much more from them than any University could teach me.
Angus Hutton - Thank you for allowing us to retell your story. For documenting your incredible adventures.
Radhika Cariappa - Thank you for making this story possible. For being most helpful in putting us in touch with all those related to this story and for hosting us at the Kadamane Estate.
K.M. Cariappa (General Manager of the Kadamane Estate) - For taking time out from your busy schedule to arrange for meetings with people in the estate. For showing us around and giving us all the material required for the story.
Mr. M.M. Venkatachalam, Director, Kadamane Estate - Thank you for providing us with support and permissions to retell the story that occured in the Kadamane estate in 1947.
Norman Woods - Thank you for being kind enough to host us in Conoor and sharing with us your experiences in the wild. For providing us with articles and contacts of relevant people.
Ullas Mennon, UPASI - Thank you for granting us permission to retell and share the story published in the 'Planter's Chronicle'.
Stephen Flemming - Thank you for lending your voice that made this story rich in content. For always being encouraging and contributing in more ways than one.
Jayalakshmi - Thank you for once again lending your voice. For beautifuly introducing the reader to an untold story.
The staff at Kadamane Estate - Many wonderful people at the estate helped us in the developing of this story. They hosted us, assisted us on tours, showed us around the estate and participated in interviews. For this, we thank them deeply.
Many thanks to Rishabh Malhotra, AnnaMaria Nagy, Deepak Nair, Boopesh shankar and Sujaikanth Moorthy for lending their wonderful voices to this experience.
Music credits :‘All India Radio’