“We associate wildness in animals as a bad thing, because they are not tamed,” began Neha Sinha, conservation biologist and author of Wild and Wilful, to a question on the title of her book. She, and wildlife biologist and conservationist Sanjay Gubbi, were in conversation with author and historian Mahesh Rangarajan at the session ‘In the Wild: Conversations about Conservation’ on day two of The Hindu Lit for Life 2021.
“We use the word wilful in a similar connotation… I wanted to give this term a positive connotation,” she said. “…We have man-eating leopards, rogue monkeys, angry tuskers... It is an image that is seen as animals being murderers. I wanted to say that they are wilful, they are outside the bounds of human society. But that may not necessarily be a bad thing.”
Dr. Gubbi spoke about the leopard being a “much more elastic species” when asked if the human-tiger interface was different when compared to the human-leopard interface. “I would call it the poster boy of India’s conservation success stories,” said Gubbi, whose latest book Leopard Dairies – The Rosette in India is based on studying the animal up close for years.
A little into his session ‘Reclaiming Gandhi’, Subodh Kerkar played an audio clipping. It went: ‘Lab dab, lab dab…’ The sound was of Gandhi’s heartbeat, that Kerkar, a doctor and artist based in Goa, recreated from Gandhi’s ECG report he found at National Gandhi Museum, Delhi. It set the tone for the session, one that was filled with anecdotes from Gandhi’s life, capsules of his teachings, sharing of photos of art works done by Kerkar and other artists on the Mahatma, and views by personalities such as Albert Einstein and Nelson Mandela on how Gandhi inspired them.
“Mahatma Gandhi is a huge contribution to the world,” said Kerkar. “He gave a new method of opposing injustice. His teachings can help deepen democracy, diminish violence, and create a just and humane society.” He spoke about how Gandhi continues to be relevant: “I was getting agitated seeing what was happening in my country; the polarisation based on religion, curtailing of freedom of expression, putting innocent people in prison…I was getting worked up,” he said. “Gandhian studies helped me calm down.”