A Lump Of Flesh
By Dr. Manjiri Prabhu
In India, (and perhaps all over the world) street dogs are at constant risk from humans in one form or another, whether it is starving to death, or being considered a menace or a parasitic nuisance in society. Either way, they are condemned to a life of misery and pain.
I would like to recount an experience, which completely changed me.
One fine morning, during the monsoons, I was walking down the street. The rain had lifted momentarily and the weather was hot. Just then a heartrending squeal rung through the air. Startled, I hastened round the corner. A huge vehicle with a long grilled low cage was parked in the street. There were several dogs peering from within the cage. But what I saw made my blood go cold and my heart beat as loudly as a cracker. A man had swung a noose round a bitch and with all his strength was throwing her inside the van. She was thin and weak with a bloated stomach. She was pregnant! The rope cut into her delicate neck, choking her as she was hurled against the truck. If that was not all, another man was prodding a stick into the bulging belly, so as to direct her to enter the narrow grilled door.
She screamed and whined, every time they missed their mark, and fear and anger wrung my heart. Anger burst on me like a blob of water sizzling on a hot pan. The expressions on the faces of the men were cold, their actions mechanical, as if they had done this several times before and their attitude was indifferent. They looked like two men, dead in every possible way. As dead as the dogs would be in some time. So that the streets would remain clean and some humans would feel safe to tread the paths that they had forcefully declared as theirs. So that some humans could enjoy, with their forked sense of morality, the rights of living. Those rights of freedom and existence that they had snatched from the street dogs. These humans were nothing but thieves, I thought. But worse than the dog-pickers, were the people who had gathered to see the fun, idle in mind and thought, careless of the fate of the dogs. Who, with their threadbare sense of ethics, saw nothing objectionable in the inhuman treatment meted out to a dumb creature. And if they did, who could not be roused from their mental lethargy to protest against the cruelty enacted before their eyes.
A child of around seven, was watching the scene with a gleeful expression on his face. His smile widened with every squeal and for a moment, my attention was riveted towards him. He wore a checked shirt and long trousers and his oiled hair was neatly parted and combed. His gaze was fixed on the enactment before him. There was something positively hideous in his totally absorbed stance. Here was a human, a miniature of a man but with the same look as an adult. A strange thought entered my mind. I saw humans as not growing from small to big in size and thought, but in the reverse, as big to small. Reducing in height, over the years, to be dwarfed like a child. Their intelligence, feelings, emotions and sensitivity, narrowing in intensity, their growth not only arrested but getting retarded into an obtuse lumpish form of flesh. And this was how they would look – like this boy. Small, a clean shining face with ironed clothes on a stunted body. But who would gaze at the savagery of humans with a delightful expression on his face. He could only have a stone for a heart. And then he could only be a lump of flesh! With a start, I wondered – had the reversal process already begun?
I stepped forward to argue with the men, but it was as useless talking to them as a street dog shaking off the clinging drops of water in a ceaseless downpour. Finally, they got into their truck. Innumerable pairs of soulful, defeated eyes stared into mine. The pregnant dog looked at me accusingly, with pain and anger burning in her eyes. Her hate of all mankind drilled a hole of misery straight through my heart. I felt guilty, almost as if I was responsible for what was happening to her and all the other `fellows’!
It was at that point that I realized that I had to do something for dogs. At least one dog. . .Anything. .Since then, my family and I have tried to reach out to as many homeless dogs as possible. We adopted several dogs, fed them, and got them neutered. We offered pups up for adoption and spread awareness about the importance of adopting street dogs.
I’ve gone through a series of wrenching changes within me—vulnerable, painful, and finally satisfactory. The following story is a perfect example of a sense of achievement.
Some years after the incident narrated above, I went to live in an area with five street dogs, and fifteen buildings. 90% of the people in the neighborhood were either scared of the dogs or disliked them. When I moved into that area with my husband, I noticed at once the antagonism of the neighbors towards these dogs, who were completely harmless and moved from building to building for food and love. I began feeding the dogs, got them neutered, put collars on them and started training them. I printed pamphlets about how to behave around the dogs and how to understand them. Despite all my efforts, one of the hostile neighbors threatened me that he would get the dogs killed. It was at that point that I realized, that trying to change the adults was pointless. They were too rigid, their attitude was formed. If I had to get my message across, it had to be through the kids.
It was then that I formed an animal welfare club with the neighborhood children. I imparted scientific and humanitarian information to them, made them spend time with the dogs, playing, feeding and cleaning them. I taught them how to react if a dog chased a bicycle or car, or barked at a stranger. The kids had always been cautioned against the dogs by their parents, instilling a sense of fear in them. But once in the club, they learned fast. Now, they began telling their parents not to fear the dogs and explained how friendly and loving they really were. Six months later, these same kids were making informative posters about street dogs, and enacting skits. Gradually, word spread about the friendly dogs, people began feeding them, and today there are ten dogs in the same neighborhood. These dogs also acted as watchdogs and one night, they prevented a major theft from taking place.
The man who had threatened to kill them, now staunchly defends these same dogs.
Moral of the story? Attitudinal change is possible. And so is preventing the future generations from being mere insensitive lumps of flesh. . .
Manjiri Prabhu Bio:
I live in Pune, India.
I have been a short Filmmaker and Television Producer for several years and a writer for most of my life!
I have directed more than 200 short films for children and adults, for TV as well as the web. And have published two romances, two mystery novels, and a non-fiction book on Hindi films. Bantam/Dell, of Random House (US), has published two of my mystery novels. “The Cosmic Clues” was selected as a ‘Killer Book’ by Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, America. ‘The Astral Alibi’, a sequel, was honored as a Notable Fiction Book 2007 in the Kiriyama prize.
I am also an active animal lover and work for the sterilization and adoption of street dogs. I have worked for street dogs in my own small way for several years and I have come to one solution : ‘The Dogtrine of Peace’, which perhaps I shall explain at some other point in time.
Welcome to my website .