What explains their behaviour?
By T. Rajagopalan
Some time in July 1914, on a highway linking Almora and Raniket with Kathgodam in Uttar Pradesh, a gang of men working on a hill above sighted what appeared to be a strange animal moving from one patch of cover to another. Gingerly they approached the patch and tried to capture the creature, a naked 14-year-old girl. As she scampered in utter panic the men gave chase, gently overpowered her, loosely bound her without causing her any injury, placed her in a basket, brought her to Nainital and admitted her in a hospital.
The horror-struck doctors and nurses gently examined her and found her to be a jungly human as she behaved like an animal uttering grunts.
Press reporters and lensmen made a beeline there to espy this abnormal human as soon as they came to know of this phenomenon. The staff of the hospital coaxed her to leave the underside of a cot where she scurried to hide herself after she was unbound. As she uttered in grunts she was given the name “Goongi”. She appeared to be terrified at the spectacle of the men and women who gathered there to catch a glimpse of her. As some mischievous among the throng there tried to tease her she made wild growls.
She was brought out from under the cot cautiously and slowly by a nurse Miss Mishra. She successfully cajoled this jungle-girl to be examined. In a bulletin the nurse reported: “Strong and healthy. Displayed no signs of undernourishment. Body was very dirty and covered over with thick growth of hair. Hair on her head was short and matted. Nails of hand long and claw-like. She tore up things given to her with her teeth. Her shoulders and upper part of her body had many scratches, some fresh and some mere scars. She declined to consume all cooked food and ate raw meat, fruits and vegetables. Felt delighted by making cooing sounds and showed her fury by growling. She gathered her meat with her mouth.”
At the then well-equipped Crosthite Hospital where she was shifted, Goongi responded to kind and warm treatment and ceased to bite those who attended on her. On 25 July 1914 she was placed in a lunatic asylum in Bareilly where she expired of heat-stroke. And thus ended the bizarre life of Goongi, the ‘wolf girl’ as she used to be addressed, after a brief brush with civilisation leaving only speculation about who she was and whence she came.
It is not known whether the feral kid who came to be addressed as Pascal lived long enough with his parents. In 1972 this little child was seen lying strapped to a charpoy on the fringe of a hamlet Narayanpur near Sultanpur in UP. Narasingh Bahadur who ran a tea-stall found the child and picked it up. No sooner did he pick it up than it bit him on the wrist. This feral child had curved nails, teeth and foul-smelling body. Its eyes were like fireflies and very attentive.
This ‘wolf’ boy was named Shamdeo. It was an uphill task for Narsingh’s wife to make it eat cooked food since it consumed only raw meat. Instead of walking on its two feet it walked on all fours. On one occasion it pounced on a village chicken, disemboweled it with its teeth and ate it, entrails and all. It lapped up water from a shallow bowl and growled at the kids who stared at it inquisitively. With regular massages with mustard oil, its bent legs were straightened. One wintry night when it heard the distant howl of a wild boar, he quietly left and vanished and couldn’t be traced, Narsingh Bahadur’s Herculean efforts, to find him notwithstanding.
The jungle book
It was with intense efforts of the villagers who liked it despite its jungle manners that he was traced under a heap of straw. The sisters of the Little Flower of Bethlehem took it away with Narsingh’s permission as also his wife’s who became fond of this feral creature. It was put in Mother Theresa’s Home, Prem Daan, Lucknow. and was christened Pascal. Here he contracted a strange sort of TB that afflicts mostly only ruminants and died.
Bringing the Jungle Book to life, a British woman had claimed that she spent five years being raised by monkeys in a Cambodian jungle. Much like the fictional character Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book who was raised by wolves in an Indian forest, Marina Chapman said the colony of capuchin monkeys tended her after she was kidnapped, then abandoned. The mother-of-two survived by catching birds and rabbits with her bare hands until hunters found her, the Sun reported. Marina was kidnapped and taken to a nearby city where she was sold to a brothel. Medical experts confirmed that she had suffered malnutrition in her youth which as per the capuchin monkeys expert, was due to living off a diet of just fruits and nuts. Chapman (63) hailing from Bradford said the monkeys taught her to survive and feed herself and to prove her story she even underwent a Jeremy Kyle-style lie detector test, the Mirror reported.
In a thrilling folklore movie Balanagamma, a spectacular film produced by Gemini Studios, seven motherless princesses who were abandoned by their father, a king at the behest of his second wife, an evil-minded woman, are brought up by some monkeys in a cave. The youngest of the seven sisters Balanagamma was enacted, by Kanchanamala, the legendary beauty of the 1940s.
A woman who vanished in the Cambodian jungles as a child had apparently been living in the wilds for 19 years. Believed to be Rochom Pingeing, now 27, she cannot speak any intelligible language. “She is half-human and half-animal,” said a police officer. “She is weird. She sleeps during the day and stays up at night.” Sai Lou, a policeman who is a member of the Phong ethnic minority, said he recognised his daughter from a scar on her back and facial features – eight-year-old P’ngieng disappeared in 1988 when she was herding buffaloes. Her parents had lost all hopes of finding her. Now after recognising her, they cried in sheer joy.
In an old edition of The Reader’s Digest, there appeared an article titled Excuse Me, But It’s Not True authored by Berger Evans and condensed on The New York Times Magazine.
The article starts as “Human children have been reared by animals”. This has been believed from antiquity, and modern fables crop up all the time. In 1940 it was a baboon-boy, Lukas, who had quite a vogue until his police record showed that he was in a South African jail at the time he claimed to have been found in a jungle behaving like a baboon. The article further said: “Then there was Amala and Nirmala, wolf girls of Midnapore (India) possessed of enormous fangs, emitted light from their eyes, howled and behaved like wolves. In conclusion, the author stated that all these were not true at all since no wild creature can raise a human child.
Now, coming to Goongi, narrated in the first para of this piece, the episode in entirety was investigated in depth by the renowned shikari Jim Corbett (1875-1955) after whom The Jim Corbett National Park was named and who shot dead numerous man-eating tigers that caused huge destruction of humans and heads of cattle. He concluded: “Goongi’s advent, very naturally, aroused great interest not only in Nainital and the surrounding hills but also throughout India and many theories were advanced to account for her.