Giant Hearts: Travels In The World Of Elephants
Anirudh Nair reviews Giant Hearts: Travels in the World of Elephants edited by Jean-Phillipe Puyravud and Priya Davidar.
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Cover Price: Rs. 995
Editors: Jean-Phillipe Puyravud and Priya Davidar
“How can you possibly not be in awe of these sentient beings that have roamed the vast expanses of our planet since times immemorial?” is the question that editors Jean-Phillipe Puyravaud and Priya Davidar put forth in Giant Hearts: Travels in the World of Elephants.
An anthology of personal and scientific essays, the book brings together scientists, authors, veterinary doctors, photographers and artists (including four elephants!), who are in love with elephants and are worried about their survival. The editors use chapter titles from 2001: A Space Odyssey, a novel written by Arthur C. Clarke, to classify the diverse essays that introduce, personalise and ponder over the lives of wild and captive elephants.
The writers share their experiences with elephants to reiterate how similar they are to us, how valuable they are to ecosystems and how closely interlinked our futures are on this planet. “They are more real, compared to the larger-than-life experiences of seeing a tiger or leopard,” writes Prerna Singh Bindra, while describing her experience of observing elephants in the wild. The experiences shared in Giant Hearts puts the reader through a wide gamut of emotions – warmth, joy, surprise, shock and sadness – but perhaps not as deeply as the subjects of this book feel and perceive themselves. Some essays stand out, some do not, and some seem slightly out of place, or may feel similar due to the shared concern of the writers about our lack of understanding of their problems, which is certainly not misplaced.
Flipping through the pages of this book, the reader is reminded time and again of the ‘humanness’ of elephants and of how little we truly know about them. And you wish for more pages, more anecdotes that liken them to us, and more stories that spell hope for their kind, for somehow you can never have enough of those. And it is probably why this passage from Davidar’s essay finds its way to the back cover: “Bommi and Banta knew us… Bommi felt safe near (our) house and came close whenever she felt threatened by a tusker. It must be a lonely life for a single parent in the jungle. She has managed to raise Banta… now about six or seven years old. She has allies, some of the other tuskers in the neighbourhood… A female elephant or even a herd of females cannot do without allies, and in most cases herds have young tuskers with them, and sometimes an older male that protects the females and calves. She went beyond the species barrier and made us her allies too.”
Easy to read and interlaced with beautiful photos and drawings of these gentle giants, Giant Hearts must find space on your book shelf.
First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 12, December 2015.