Many denizens of NCR take care of strays with no intention to domesticate them allowing the animals to lead a free, natural life
It’s biting cold in Delhi these days and stray animals are out in the open facing the elements without any protection. The affluent are fairly cosy in the confines of warm homes, but not all. There are some, young and old, of all age groups, who are fairly affected by the plight of animals on the streets. It’s an important part of life for them to take care of animals which, in turn, brings them joy.
These are not people who ‘own’ pets or spend more on their upkeep in a week than their cook’s monthly salary. No moral judgement involved, it’s a matter of observation with a host of animal spas and saloons mushrooming in the city. There are some exceptions amongst the affluent who don’t need fancy animals to shower their benevolence, but they take care of street animals without trying to own them or give them the comfort of a home.
The idea is to support animals to lead a normal life. They perhaps understand that animals are most happy when they are allowed to be themselves, roaming around unfettered or unleashed; there is no attempt to humanise them by teaching them tricks to making them compatible with human ways of life.
Kiran Bhushi, a professor at Indira Gandhi Open University, has lived in an apartment in Khel Goan for nearly two decades. She has been feeding cats for a long time and in the last decade or she has taken care of many generations of cats, without trying to domesticate them. She doesn’t impose herself on the feline.
Kiran gives them food when they come calling, yowling and scratching on the terrace door, or just purr-whining sitting on the windowsill. Having observed cats from close quarters for years, she seems to know them well, understands them, and lets them be. That also means that cats cannot take advantage of her kindness. They find it extremely difficult to steal food from her kitchen, though they have not stopped trying.
Don’t blame them for that, for Kiran is a wonderful connoisseur of food. She takes extra care when they are pregnant or have been injured in a territorial duel with a tomcat.
Rani–a matriarch–though small in size, dominated the cat scene here for many years. She was Kiran’s favourite, so was Ladoo–a young adult, fluffy and adorable, who disappeared one day never to return.
Lately, when a cat made herself at home on a covered terrace, Kiran gave her marching orders. “Bahut ho gaya, go fend for yourself,” she told the cat as she walked away rather reluctantly. Kiran feels that urban settings itself are a bit of a challenge, and by encouraging them to fend for themselves she wants “not to disturb the natural balance. I don’t want to domesticate them, let nature take care of them.”
Tanu and Manu are two sisters five years apart, daughters of a bureaucrat couple who live in a government apartment in the diplomatic area. They both love animals but don’t want to have purebred, manicured ones living in captivity with them. The overriding sentiment is that of compassion.
Lately, they have been taking care of a stray dog along with their neighbours. She is their best friend, they declare, therefore they call her Buddy. Manu, who’s going to turn ten this year, argues with her elder sister that Buddy followed her home, therefore, is more affectionate towards her. Tanu summarily dismissed any such claims.
Manu would insist visitors witness her feeding Buddy, who waits outside the kitchen door. While feeding Buddy breadcrumbs, Tanu would describe her with much excitement, words coming out in quick succession. “She’s very nice and loving…” starts the longish introduction. Buddy, who has been vaccinated, gleefully accepts breadcrumbs, grateful and graceful in her humility.
There’s a great amount of mutual respect, with both parties appreciating each other as they are. Buddy is a young dog with a scruffy brown coat. They enjoy her company, her arrival is eagerly awaited, but wouldn’t dare make Buddy unhappy by imposing their way of life on her–or in other words domesticating her.
An ecological engineer by profession and an iconoclast for a good reason, Tarun Nanda, 38, hosts a stray dog, Prince, in his one-room apartment for the night stay and whenever he feels like resting. There’s no restriction on Prince’s entry or exit. Tarun makes no special arrangement to feed him, only shares a part of what he eats.
Tarun, however, in the last few months of camaraderie, knows his likes and dislikes, particularly when it comes to food. Prince is fast growing into a handsome lad, fairly selective about the food he eats and the company he keeps. He can be fairly unpredictable–has snapped at people without provocation. Tarun has also taken the brunt of his temper. Prince likes to guard his space. And Tarun is appreciative and respectful of his needs.
These are just a few examples of compassionate friendship with animals. There are others who make a special effort to feed stray dogs, some of them even fighting with resident welfare associations (RWAs) who don’t take kindly to strays and consider them a potential threat to pedestrians. RWAs are divided on this question, and police have to be summoned when disputes go out of hand. We should take heed of what the greatest mind of the last century, Albert Einstein, had to say, “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures, the whole of nature and its beauty.”