Chimpanzees mourn the dying of a cherished one, rodents practise monogamy — all traits which might be just like us, people. As I speak to Janaki Lenin about her newest e-book, Every Creature Has a Story, I be taught extra fascinating parallels. I’m catching up with the creator two years after the discharge of her second e-book, My Husband & Other Animals 2, and he or she tells me the brand new one is a spin-off, although “my husband [Rom Whitaker, wildlife conservationist and founder of the Madras Snake Park] doesn’t feature in it. The style is completely different too, as there is a certain formality to the language as I draw from scientific journals.” The compilation of 50 essays (picked from over a 100 written for The Wire in 2015) delve into the various distinctive behavioural patterns discovered within the wild.
The human-animal connection
The essays began taking form when she completed My Husband & Other Animals 2 and started on the lookout for one thing new to put in writing on. A chunk she did on creatures who go away their natal properties received her exploring the science of animal behaviour. “As a child I was traumatised by the idea of leaving my parental home when I got married. I found it unfair, and it had a huge impact on me,” says Lenin, 50, who launched into a “great big research safari, looking at so many different animal species, primarily those closely related to humans”.
The discoveries have been lots: from elephants being proof against most cancers and crops that secrete juices to beat back predators to illness immunity in bees. “[The human] civilisation is not as unique as we think. The more urbanised we get, the more alienated we feel from our fauna relatives, which leads to all sorts of dysfunctions, such as thinking that humans are superior and animals have a right to life only if they are of some use to us.”
She is fast to make clear, nonetheless, that whereas she engages with scientific research, she is essential and perceives them as an outsider. “It is like a two-way conversation I am having with scientists and there is an indirect pressure from the reader that drives me to ask questions,” says Lenin, who doesn’t have a science background and admits she needed to “push the boundaries of my own limitations”.
Discoveries within the wild
As somebody who “hated science in school”, Lenin believes that if somebody had taken the difficulty to elucidate the topic like a narrative, she would have been in science at the moment, and even analysis. Who wouldn’t wish to discover findings akin to birds that ignite fires? “This is an amazing story that emerged from Australia. Aboriginal communities have reported of birds [they call them firehawks] that pick up embers and carry them to an area to start a fire [so that they can feed on the insects and small animals feeling the blaze].” Other intriguing learnings, from the varied scientific journals she sifted by way of, embrace how giraffes adapt to their lengthy necks — which might present insights into the remedy of cardiovascular points and hypertension in people.
The “underestimated” world of crops has received its due, too. The essay, Plants with Private Armies (the one one on flora within the e-book), seems at how, when in misery, a number of species secrete sugary liquids to draw ants. “Everyone imagines plants to be helpless things, but they fight back in different ways that we don’t see. If a tree is hurt, it signals others in its vicinity with a smell — something almost animal-like. Curry leaves have that distinct flavour [as a defence mechanism] because they don’t want to be eaten,” she says.
Lessons out of your balcony
Based on her observations through the lockdown, Lenin says individuals on social media talked quite a bit about watching nature from their balconies. “The crisis has paused their lives and they are now observing birds visiting, new flowers and even spiders.” She believes this could possibly be a starting of forging a brand new bond with nature. “People say paying attention to nature is like meditating. I don’t meditate but I get my inner peace from nature. I hope people carry forward this connection with nature in the new normal,” she concludes.
Published by HarperCollins India, Every Creature Has a Story releases on July 27 and is priced at ₹599. It is on the market for pre-order on amazon.in.
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