Roopa Gulati is back on the block with her latest book
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Everybody loves a fun book. And fun in a weird way. Like a compendium of the grossest fetishes normal people have. Or the coupling (or tripling) positions that we never knew our more primitive ancestors to have tried. Or the daily objects that you come in intimate contact with that have more microbes than your toilet seat.
None of these books presumably exist, but Janaki Lenin’s Every Creature Has a Story does. No, it’s not just gross things, though it does concern glassfrogs peeing on their eggs and spiders and octopuses engaging in wild—even mortal—sex. It’s a relief to slowly realise that human standards of weird don't mean much in the larger, delightfully complex animal world. That anthropomorphic systems and binaries of civilisation collapse in favour of altogether new hierarchies in the minuter lifeforms.
Lenin, who is a veteran of the genre, writes with both amusement and adoration about dragonflies that fake being dead to opt out of sex and African wild dogs that bark to reach a consensus on whether to hunt or nap. The book, culled from a batch of 90 essays from her online column, is a 101 of sorts, to the vastness and the wondrous inscrutability of the animal world.
Some of the explorations that Lenin undertakes touch upon questions that have reached an unprecedented pertinence in our present lives.Perhaps the conjecture that bees are born vaccinated could kindle hope for the coming times? That chimpanzees mourn for their dead could reassure our existential crisis-stricken selves? Perhaps we could learn empathy from prairie voles—who, also known to be monogamous life-long, might soon outstrip humans in the spectrum of consciousness.
If you’re the kind of person that grew up on a steady diet of Animal Planet, the memories will come rushing back. You’ll be dreaming about soaring in the sky—much like frigate birds bound for distant land and taking mid-flight naps. It will be worth risking triggering your cetaphobia—you might even have nightmares about killer whales, sinking ships or firehawks arsoning the forests of Australia.
Fun comes at a cost.
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