I love this festive season, the crisp winter air, warm mulled wine, hot chocolate, the spirit of bonhomie and cheer, the anticipation of a new year, and most of all the joy of giving associated with Christmas, and indeed, all our festivals. This year, though, my mood is dark and my heart heavy with sorrow.
A day or two before Christmas when temperatures had dipped to a shivering 1-2 degree centigrade, some empowered people in our colony threw out the beds, placed by some kind souls to keep our society dogs warm through bitter winter nights.
Our two society dogs (and a few others outside) have been vaccinated and sterilised, are gentle, if occasionally boisterous. One of whom, Missy is an elderly lady, who has been longer in the society than I have, and I am clocking 10 years now.
The dogs are, however, unwelcome.
This is nothing new, over the years bowls kept to provide water in scorching summers to dogs, birds, butterflies, etc. have been discarded or broken, rugs and beds thrown, and once new born pups ended up in the garbage bin as well but that’s another (horror) story. This animosity extends towards other living beings. The space outside where we kept veggie peels, left over rotis, etc for cows and pathetic unwanted male calves (dumped by their owners as they do not give milk) has ben barricaded. A guard stands there, armed with a laathi and instructions to drive the cows away. Earlier, I revolted against the practice of bee hives being doused with pesticides. The latest, I am told, is that crows that dare perch on trees or terraces are waved away by guards carrying extra long batons.
Yeah, hysterical. But the laughter, has dissolved into tears.
I won’t name the society. For one, it’s nice to live here in peace. For another, our society is not an exception but the norm, with some worthy exceptions. There is an alarming rise in incidents of the persecution of people who care for animals. In Gurugram, a house-help was brutally assaulted by a man for walking the dog close to his house, in Dwarka an 80-year-old man was left bleeding in the head for feeding community dogs, and his cat was allegedly poisoned, five members of a family were beaten by a mob for looking after the street animals in Delhi. My mother was abused for caring for an ailing dog, and our family was turned away from renting a home in Mumbai because our family included a canine member. We refused to cow down, and moved in with our dog. However, we continued to face the hostility of the society, including when we took our old pet by lift rather than walk him up 13 flight of stairs.
I think that the world is divided into two kinds of people — those who love dogs, and those who don’t. While I wish the world would know the sheer joy of a dog’s companionship and love, all I actually ask for is compassion towards all living beings.
I am aware that dogs bite. And there is an urgent need for government to take up a sterlisation and inoculation programme in a committed manner, and urgently. This column is not intended to come up as a strategy of how that can be best achieved, though I reckon society’s taking responsibility of inoculating neighbourhood dogs would be a start (but not enough). It is certainly safer than letting the dogs be, and periodically reproduce, or packing them off, and dumping them elsewhere, which doesn’t resolve the issue, as other dogs take over. I realise that families with dogs need to be responsible, and clean and pick up after them.
That said, we need to live, and let live. Showing such animosity and vindictiveness for compassion is a sad commentary on our society, and humanity. What gives me hope is this remarkable army of people who continue to care, and spread the warmth for those more unfortunate than us, and in this new year, I wish for their tribe to increase.