ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reimagining the Relationship with the Non-human World

Wild and Wilful by Neha Sinha, Noida: HarperCollins Publishers, 2021; pp 232, `599.

Policies and practices aimed at conservation in India increasingly grapple with a new reality—that of nature operating outside human borders (Rangarajan et al 2014). On the one hand, habitats promised to non-humans in India (and the majority world) keep shrinking, their borders being
redrawn to accommodate interests of unequal growth. On the other, a technobureaucratic hubris seeks to contain non-humans within administrative boundaries. What problematises this approach further is that non-humans produce their fluid geographies—migratory corridors, evolutionary ley lines, and criss-crossing dominions—that continually question and challenge human-imposed borders. The question is, how do human and non-human relations get reconfigured when nature ‘‘spills over’’? Is human–animal conflict an inevitable outcome of such dissolution or is it possible to manage conflict in a crowded country experiencing high levels of wealth inequality? Can an intimate understanding of the non-human world replace conflict with conviviality? What kind of beliefs and practices do humans need to transgress to shape such a relationship?

In Wild and Wilful, with a collection of 11 articles, dedicated to 15 iconic Indian species, Neha Sinha sets out to engage with some of these questions. Each chapter not only brings home the unfamiliar from the distant wild but also seeks to familiarise the reader with the wild that exists in their everyday lives. This explains why, apart from India’s iconic ‘‘wild’’ species, such as the Indian tiger, Asian elephant, Indian leopard, and the Ganges river dolphin, Sinha also includes species that penetrate urban everyday existence, namely rhesus macaque, rosy starling, and tiger butterfly. By placing the great Indian bustard, an endemic and endangered bird of which barely a hundred remain in the world, alongside the migrant amur falcon, whose numbers, thankfully, have begun to thrive in response to conservation action, Sinha balances lament and anguish with hope and triumph.

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Updated On : 4th Jun, 2022
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