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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Review – 'My Husband and Other Animals' by Janaki Lenin

Author: Janaki Lenin 
Genre:  Non-fiction
Imprint Westland
Format Paperback
Extent 296pp
Pub date Sept-12
Rs 250
ISBN 9789381626726

Reviewed by Gopinath Mavinkurve  (Twitter Id: @gopinathmm)

A nature lover would certainly love to read this non-fiction book by Janaki Lenin, a compilation of the columns published by The Hindu, now brought out in the form of a book titled “My Husband and Other Animals” published by Westland.  Janaki Lenin presents to the readers several episodes of her life lived entirely out of her choice – to be with animals in their habitat, the jungle!   For a 5-year old who wished to have a pig as her pet, marrying a herpetologist of international repute and wild life conservationist, would be the ultimate gift of her life. One that she cherished for a lifetime, as Rom Whitaker, the founder of Madras Snake Park and Madras Crocodile Bank offers Janaki  an adventurous life in the deepest forests of India and several other countries, as the couple go “snake-hunting” (they catch ‘em – not kill ‘em).  As Janaki explains, there is no way one can watch snakes to study them – they need to be caught just as to be able to tell their species!

Opting for a home in rural Tamil Nadu to live with four dogs, a pair of emus, a flock of geese and a pig, would surely come with several pesky tree frogs, ants, weevils, porcupines, shrews thrown in good measure! But Janaki isn’t complaining! In fact, she tell us how nature can be best understood in their midst, rather than in the concrete jungles of the cities that most of us consider ‘safe’.  So instead of eavesdropping on jealous neighbours of an apartment complex, you will be treated to the insights of the private lives of snakes and crocodiles.  

Rom Whitaker, who single-handedly set up the Madras Snake Park and Madras Crocodile Bank, has several stories to share about the challenges in setting them up, but that is not all – several stories of his encounters with the King Cobra and how he survived several snake bites, while seeking out new species of snakes and how the early days  of snake hunting with the Irula tribals for the Haffkine Institute for developing the snake venom anti-dote and the perils of living in a jungle as they find their dog falling prey to a leopard and several such experiences – both the pleasures and perils of living in the jungle!

Did you know that Crocodiles can be trained like dogs?  One of them learnt upto 12 commands!  Can you tell a Russel Viper from an Asian Pit Viper?  Or that monkeys are the most dreaded animals if you had been making a living on farming?   You will find hundreds of such gems of truths revealed in this book narrated in a matter-of-fact manner – no ‘save-our-animals’ pitch or ‘down-with-civilisation’ rants in these stories – just pure predators and preys and how they switch roles for the larger good of nature’s ways to keep our planet going as it always did!

Do read this amazing collection of columns from which one can learn a lot about life in a jungle – the closest you can get to Mother Nature.  I loved reading this book immensely!  

Thanks, Westland for gifting this book to me – that too, just for asking some questions in a Westland Chat event on Twitter!

Follow me on Twitter @gopinathmm  Do look out for Westland Chats with Twitter Hashtag  #Westlandchat (and for amazing gifts offers! :)
Rating 5/5                                               


Sandhya said...

I think I must buy this book. I have read some articles. It comes on Saturday supplimentary pages of 'Hindu'.

Thank you, Gopinath!

beincognito said...

Great Review.. Should consider buying this..

Anonymous said...

Good post. Like it much.
also try for Quick Humour