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The Amazing Dog Lady

I have learned my lesson with dogs. Its futile falling in love with them, for they invariably leave you after a few years. I was fortunate to have had Dora, Shadhu, and Dingo (The Great) with me for more than 16 years, which is supposedly a pretty advanced age in doggy terms. But they are no more, and there were others - Coco, Bhomlu, Kalua, Gypsy (Dingo's wife) and poor little Dodo, none of whom lived as long. Which is why I have often considered having tortoises for pet.

I know that is rather selfish of me - who'd take care of the tortoise once I'm gone? Either way, love in the conventional sense is selfish, for its perpetually nagged by 'I' on one side, and 'you' on the other. Rarely is it able to stand as love alone, in its pristine, self-fulfilling glory. But then I digress too much.

To sum it up, I've been 'dog-less' for more than ten years, and I see no reason to get ensnared in that 'love-trap' again. Which is why I barely notice (or have trained myself not to notice) the mongrels on Kolkata's streets. They breed, grow, get injured, fight, survive, forage in dustbins and street litter, make an awful lot of noise, chase cars, jump around in roadside sand-heaps, and (inexplicably) seem to be having a lot of fun! This, despite their miserable, abandoned existence. While humans trudge around  with long faces, they always seem to have a wag in their tail, and shine in their eyes. And they die without fuss. Scavengers by compulsion, they also help keep our streets clean, which we so gleefully litter. 

However, unlike the indifferent me, there are kindly souls who actually take notice of them, feed them, take care of them when sick or wounded, or arrange for them to be neutered by the vet. I've known one 'crazy Dog-lady' (I'm not sure if she's still alive), mid fifty-ish, short and stooped, thin as a shriveled stick but like a Dogzilla of  Compassion!

She had made it her life's commitment to look after street mongrels. She'd walk miles down Kolkata's lanes to get acquainted with these dogs, pick them up, have them neutered, nurse them to recovery, and then release them back where they came from. Some kind of an indelible mark would be put on the dog, so that when the municipal dog-catcher came with his tongs, the neutered one would be spared.

She used to live alone in a 'slum' area, in a little house with two rooms, and twenty or more street dogs for company! While a few were permanent residents - victims of accident, cruelty or ill-health, whom she had pointed out to me with great affection, the overall number rose and fell as new dogmates were brought in, fed/nurtured, and rehabilitated. A few vets helped her with these projects, and I have nothing but respect for them.

I've only had a glimpse of Mother Teresa once. I was walking down Park Street when this MOC van whizzed past me. She was sitting in the front seat, next to the driver, looking straight ahead. I'm sure it was her, for the image has stayed with me all these years. But I've been longer than that with this Mother T of Kolkata's mongrels.

I think she was/is crazy, going by the 'normal' definition of that word - for my limited human heart couldn't fathom the extent of her compassion. I hope she's still alive, if only to make ordinary people like me feel uncomfortable, and inadequate in her presence :)

Oct 2014 

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