We live a busy world; the hustle and bustle often disconnects us from the meaningful things in life that fill our hearts with happiness. Different people perceive happiness differently. However, being a dog lover, I have grown up watching the society change, from one that loathed hovering stray dogs to a more compassionate society, where stray dogs find solace and shelter in the homes and hearts of families in Delhi.
I am sure that we all have witnessed situations where we have seen people being unkind towards stray animals, yet we never speak up. Why? Maybe because it does not affect us. Or maybe because it’s none of our business. As a child, I saw people pelting stones at hungry stray animals, shoving them aside and even worse, speeding their cars to scare any stray animal that was an obstruction to their path or destination. The instances are many, but the memories only leave me regretful- why did I never speak up?
They say that with time, things change and so do people. The recent metro constructions in Delhi have brought to the forefront, workers belonging to different age groups and diverse communities. It is comforting to watch them befriend the stray dogs of the locality, provide them with shelter with their meager resources and consider them as companions. Elaborating on another instance, whilst caught in the traffic jam, my gaze fell towards a little boy pleading with passengers in their cars to buy some newspapers. After witnessing some disappointment as well as sale, he placed his newspapers on the pavement, and then emerged a packet of biscuits from his packet. A puppy sitting next to him looked at the packet longingly, and the little boy shared, perhaps his only meal, with the dog. It was not of relevance whether they were acquainted from before, what mattered was the gesture.
I have been surrounded by dogs; pets and stray; all my life. My first encounter was with a beautiful stray puppy that would seek shelter in the driveway of my house. However, most of the puppies lost their lives because they lived on main roads and busy intersections. This happens in every locality. When I turned 11, a stray dog, who we named Anna, began to stay with us. At first he would wander in and around, but with time, he grew to be one of my most loyal friends. He would accompany to my school bus stop and the local market. He passed away a few months back, but memories of him will always stay alive. Thereafter, I promised myself to look after stray animals till the time I can. All they want is to be loved.
There have been a number of appalling incidents of cruelty against animals. The most recent one is the case of the killing of a stray dog by a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Several protests were held against this inhuman act. What is in fact most disappointing is the fact that the police do not generally lodge an FIR in the case of cruelty towards animals. In a country where cows are considered very sacred, they are made to face extreme atrocities, being manhandled en route their transportation to slaughter houses; especially in West Bengal and Bihar. Once livestock ceases to benefit their masters, they are sent to be slaughtered. However, some animal rights activists argue that cow slaughter is essential in a poverty-stricken country like India, where continual miseries may befall them if they continue to live in deprivation under their masters. Further, the Supreme Court in Tamil Nadu has even permitted engagement in the sport of ‘Jallikattu’ or bull fighting. These are just a few of the several instances of cruelty towards animals.
Together, we must fight against cruelty towards animals. There are a number of social groups that work towards this. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and some local NGO’s have considered the plea against cruelty to animals seriously. While these work towards this purpose as an organization, we, as the citizens of the country, can do our duty by being compassionate towards stray animals, adopting them, providing them with shelter etc. One small act can make a difference. I personally like the policy of Dogs and Pups Magazine based in Delhi, which says “Each one, Keep one”
And why just stray dogs? There are so many stray animals that want and need our love and affection, such as injured birds or even mistreated donkeys. On my behalf, I try my best to be the friendly neighbour to all the stray dogs that are sent to me, (I believe), by God. I know many such people like me, but until we all realize the importance of being kind with one another, we will never learn to sympathize and empathize with those who are less fortunate than us. With a little effort, we can live in peaceful coexistence with animals as man has known to through the ages.
Finally, a heart rending statement by Mahatma Gandhi to sum up the significance of man’s relationship with animals–“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whatbettertime/33415938/]