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Book Review: My Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin

Title: My Husband and Other Animals
Author: Janaki Lenin
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Westland(2012)
Genre: Biography (Short-Life-Stories)
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
Rom felt that all the trappings of the human world interfered with his ability to find king cobras. So he discarded his watch and shoes, and stripped down to a loin cloth. Not the best attire for his first brush with the devil nettle!

Whats it like being married to Rom Whitaker herpetologist, wildlife conservationist, and founder of the Madras Snake Park and Madras Crocodile Bank? Janaki Lenin, his wife, tells us, Theres never a dull moment.

In this compilation of stories, Janaki also an animal enthusiast gives us a peek into the zany and unpredictable world that Rom and she have built together, deep in southern India. They battle tree frogs that insist on colonising their house, travel to the wilds of the world pursuing venomous snakes and monster crocodiles, devote precious hours to befriending Gila monsters, playing with porcupines, and taming opinionated shrews.

Entertaining, playful, and downright amusing, the essays shed light on the kingdoms of beasts and plants. They provide flashes of insight into animal disposition relate human stories about the world and our place in it, and demystify natures secret code. Most of all, they highlight Rom and Janakis wide-eyed wonder at sharing this diverse planet with all creatures, large and small.

My Review:

Cover: Earthy and pleasing to the eye!

Paper and font: The kind you want to smell again and again with an easy on the eye font.

Readability, language: Simple no-nonsense language that you want to keep reading.

Why did I choose this book: I wanted to learn what it would take to move out.

Janaki Lenin’s ‘My Husband and Other Animals’ did not meet expectations…

Che and I hope to move out of Bangalore soon for a lot of reasons, some of them will make our lives better and some of them will be excellent for our dogs. But moving out isn’t just that simple, there are so many things that worry me – how will I deal with leopards, I’m not scared of creepy crawlies but neither do I want to play host to tons of them, can I really grow enough to sustain my family, and many other such thoughts are on the list. With all this running in my head I grabbed at ‘My Husband and Other Animals’ when I came across it hoping for answers. After all Janaki had also made the move from a city to a farm.

As I started reading I was disappointed, where were the solutions I was looking for. Not being someone who gives up easily I stuck with the book as Janaki recounted her and Rom’s adventures with snakes, frogs, crocs and leopards.

A quarter of my way though the book my disappointment was replaced by a soft smile as I travelled dusty paths with Janaki. She isn’t the standard storyteller who has a punchline at the end of each story; she is more like our grandmothers who tells a story for the telling. The story is everywhere not just at the end of the tale.

As I continued listening to Janaki’s stories of Rom’s childhood, how he setup the croc bank, the initial challenges they faced, their adventures in the wild across India and the settling down hiccups at the farm, I couldn’t help but notice a shift in how I saw life outside the city. Gone was the worry-wart who jumped out of her skin at every boo, instead I found myself making peace with all that was disturbing me. Life on a farm would be challenging and some things would be out of my control but that was all a part to living on or off the land.

Janaki lost one of her dogs to a leopard and almost lost a second too. It must have hurt to lose a dog but she learnt some invaluable lessons. And it wasn’t just leopards, there were the snakes to account for too. Being over protective isn’t the answer I learned, I had to think smart and plan ahead.

As the book came to an end I was wishing pages would add themselves, I wanted to hear more about Janaki and Rom’s life. But I guess for now I have to settle for keeping her book within arms reach and re-reading it. That is until I can meet this couple whose lives are a fairytale albeit not the fairy kind, and I’m looking forward to it. (As a kid I think I must have met Rom since Dad took us often to the Croc Bank but I guess I was too little to remember him.) Time to make a trip to Madras and the Croc Bank again.

Let me reinstate and revise what I started this review with –  Janaki Lenin’s ‘My Husband and Other Animals’ did not meet expectations… It exceeded them!

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

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