By Monami Bhattacharya
“It is true that kindness or apathy is not bound to any man-made social strata or class. It isn’t age-bound either. It is a state of being irrespective of poverty or the riches, youth or old age. And, the more you meet people, strange or familiar, the more this is reaffirmed.”
During the week, my husband and I lead very busy work lives – with two startups and the daily drudgery. My twin therapies that I indulge in on a daily basis are watering the potted plants and taking a lazy stroll with my dogs – Ma Belle and Leo – the only time that I don’t allow myself any worldly worries. Doesn’t it sound familiar?
Over the weekends, we spend a lot of quality time with each other, friends, extended family, and of course the dogs! And one of our favorite things to do is to lookout for pet-friendly dining options. (You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how pet-friendly Bangalore eateries are increasingly becoming) During one of those hunts, we came across a hole-in-the-wall place in Indiranagar that sells rolls. The egg rolls are splendid, no doubt, but what actually drew us there more was the “Amma” right next door.
“Amma” is 80 plus and lives alone as her children are married and settled abroad, visiting only once or twice a year. She has been living a solitary life here for decades.
Solitary is the wrong choice of word because it isn’t as true.
There are some 15 odd dogs on her street keeping her company. She takes care of their food daily and medical attention when required, apart from providing companionship, comfort and love on a regular basis., Her own pet dog is a 2-year-old Indian kid that she found whimpering in the gutter outside her compound wall one day. It isn’t easy on most days, but in turn, by her own admission, she has a supply of boundless love and security.
Hers is not an easy task. Being a vegetarian, the dogs are mostly on a curd rice, bread and milk diet, but sometimes she also gives the dogs eggs. Why? She says she understands that they “need” it. When the dogs need medical attention, she has to depend on the sole veterinary ambulance service in the city as she is too old to take them to the vet by herself. Since Amma has space constraints in her yard, she has no option but to leave them on the road. However, she puts old rags or newspapers outside to comfort them during the cold weather. She laments that she is unable to shelter them from the rain though. (Amma sponsors everything on her own. Another feat in my eyes)
Initially, there were a few complaints by the neighbours about the “mongrels” but the jibes soon stopped once they realized that the same ‘mongrels’ made their lane secure. Amma says that the odd complaint still trickles in and the dogs get injured by loud bikers who are chased either for food or for ruining the peace in the neighbourhood. Many worries, yet she still persists..
What makes her even more special is that when she read in the newspapers, a decade ago, that the municipality had decided to cull the strays as the only way of controlling their population, she didn’t waste even a moment in writing to Ms.Maneka Gandhi and asking for her intervention. Hers was one of the many letters that finally put a stop to this shortsighted move.
“Amma” is an inspiration. She inspires us to do what we can, as much as we can, and to take on the world if we must to do right by this species that is unmatched in loyalty, love and joy that they bring us in exchange for a tiny morsel of food.
The way she beams when she tells you one story after another is testimony of that.