#WildWomenInterviews with Janaki Lenin: Episode 6
We tend to think of humans and animals as two separate entities. In her book, ‘Animal Intimacies’ published in 2018, Radhika Govindarajan blurs these boundaries. Animals are imbued with symbolism, and they are worshipped. But there’s also violence and affection at the heart of the communities’ relationship with these creatures. To add more complexity, Radhika channels aspects such as colonial history, nationalism, and gender politics which don’t usually come to mind when we think of animals.
Animal sacrifice seems cruel to urban sensibilities, but it is an intrinsic part of Pahari identity. While some argue it is not mainstream Hinduism and animal welfare activists brand it as a barbaric ritual, Radhika says the communities debate what it means to appease their deities in this manner. Sacrificing rams or selling old cows become gut-wrenching decisions especially for women, who become bonded to domestic animals while tending them.
The paharis’ relationship with rhesus macaques is riven with all kinds of dichotomies—wild and domestic, urban and rural, hills and plains, native and outsider, local and exotic, of belonging and alienation, rootedness and displacement. But they are much more accepting of monkey behaviour, in a manner that urban people don’t. For instance, one of them says, “Monkeys would not be monkeys if they did not steal; it was a characteristic of their kind.”
Radhika narrates sections from her book to highlight the particular relationships and stories with which people interact with each species. There’s the story of a pig that escaped from a research lab, and her progeny now populate the village blurring the distinction between domestic and wild. Women talk with humour and playfulness of sexual relationships with bears. And much more.
Watch the interview:
Buy her charming book https://amzn.to/2D9DBO3. And rate it on amazon and/or Good Reads. There’s no greater love you can show a writer.
Radhika’s twitter handle is: @r_gov11
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