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Animal Care

Archangel of the Les Misacrables – Rafat Ahmed

Coexistence is best learnt from animals, they do not cross their boundaries while we repeatedly do. If survival was our reason for antagonism towards animals it might have been pardonable, but nothing justifies the atrocities meted out to them out of sheer intolerance. A lot of us like getting clicked with cute puppies and cats, but how many of us care for them when they are hurting, bleeding, or dying?

It is all consuming to keep one pet at home, then how do you cater to 80 of the undomesticated ones, from rescuing them, cooking for them, feeding them, ensuring their sterilisation, treatments, and spending sleepless nights with anxiety over every single stray that she takes in, Rafat Ahmed does it all. Vexed with the society for their severe bitterness towards the friendliest of animals, Rafat has also built a few shelters for them as she risks being ousted from hers from those who oppose her mission.

A never-ending love story
‘I hate dogs, I hate dogs”, she grumbles good-naturedly about the love-love relationship she has with all the animals around her, domestic or pet or strays, that’s not the classification she makes or imposes on anyone let alone animals. She hates the fact that she cares too much for them, she hates the fact that she is obsessed about them, she hates that one tear in their eyes or a one runny nose will keep her awake at nights and that her happiness is directly proportional to well-being of these les miserables.

Friends refer to Rafat as ‘The Mother Teresa of animals’ and she might very well achieve the sainthood if you see her through the eyes of her stray pals. In fact, you should rather see the adulation in the eyes of her sworn friends to know her. The unmistakable love and affection you witness there is the biggest trophy you can hold out for her. As Rafat herself admits, ‘food or no food, they love you’ and she just can’t help love them back with all the means she has, her home, her kitchen, her funds, her time and her heart.

Cradling the strays
Rafat is constantly shocked by the senseless animosity of man towards such creatures who loves man more than themselves. Dr. Pradeep Rana who has been healing the animals that Rafat carries to him regularly for the last 3.5 years, remembers many a days or nights rather when Rafat went out in dangerous circumstances to answer the call of one stranded or mauled animal. All by herself, without the luxury of a trained team, animal traps, even without another pair of hands, rescuing animals from ditches, dark roadsides, overflowing gutters. Animals attacked by other animals in a dog eat dog world, by vehicles speeding unmindful of others on the road and just beaten by humans who can’t tolerate other beings sharing the space which earnestly is theirs too, Rafat rushes out to help.

She has learnt first aid and she will answer a call even in the dead of the night and try to knock as many doors as she can to see if some trained vet can help her save a life. She will go any distance to ensure that all the voiceless creatures survive another day or die in peace.

Having started when she was in the 7th grade in Lucknow, today she dedicates her whole day to the cooking, feeding, nursing and care giving, overstepping her own limits but pushing the threshold all the time. She has been fighting for their rights even from the educated society. ‘It is not your world alone, it’s theirs too’, says Neha, a friend and volunteer with Rafat.

Damsel undistressed
She’s not the one for the faint hearted, she takes them all in, liquid or chocolate eyes, those licks and wags, the cuddles, and then the broken spines, the ruptured intestines, the maggot wounds, the depressed and shunned ones who once used to be the apple of someone’s eyes in a luxuriant household abandoned for another object of affection. It’s a concept that applies to all living things alike, Rafat tells us that ‘even pet animals are turned out from carpeted floors to streets because they are old, or ailing, or just because it’s not convenient to have them anymore’. Even the most treasured pets are thrown out like an old piece of furniture, and there is nothing that these animals can do, no courts they can appeal at, no protests can they stage, they can’t even cry their hearts out, their unconditional love only makes them lick their wounds in private.

Rafat has made shelters in Noida sector 99 for them. There are a lot of resistance she has had to face, stiff upper lips sometimes for they have no patience with those on the streets, dogs or not. Having struggled with society’s apathy towards these innocent creatures, her biggest win today is that the same people have turned around and carried the earlier ignored animals to her doorstep, wanting them checked for ticks, bites, rashes and most of all to ensure they are sterilised.

Wishing for an animal sanctuary
Rafat hopes she can increase the radius of her reach at least in Noida and farther and farther if possible. But one Rafat cannot adopt all the animals in the world we need to do more than just click pictures of them and add to your Whatsapp or Facebook but you could take a step today, volunteer for an animal lover around you, volunteer maybe for a dog’s society.

It’s the most natural stress reliever for her when wearied with a world of woe, she comes back to the dogs, pups, cats that will make her world whole again. Didn’t someone say ‘Heaven is where all the dogs you loved rush to greet you!’

Social Responsibilities

When the going gets tough – Kamala Mills heroes – Suraj Giri and Mahesh Sable

With no time for second thoughts Mahesh Sable and Suraj Giri, two security guards, put themselves literally in the line of fire because they couldn’t tear themselves away from the screams and cries of the nearly 250 people trapped in the infamous Kamala Mills fire.

‘They just couldn’t walk away,’ said Mahesh as he remembered the screams and scuttling of people and the blinding smoke that engulfed the entire Kamala mills compound. With no time for contemplation the first thought that occurred to them was that the only exit doors were crammed with store room deposits and the only alternative door was shut, even if those trapped could break the door down, they wouldn’t find the way out of the interconnected compound. The horror of the casualty and stampede that would ensue jerked them into action almost instantly. This was stuff that movies are made out of only there you receive a standing ovation but here our real-life heroes were forgotten after their initial un-negotiated claim to fame.

Courage in the face of fear
Last month when bail was granted to the owners of the two pubs responsible for endangering the lives of almost 200 people by unashamedly flouting all civic body rules of construction, we dug out information on the two guards who risked their lives not once, not twice but repeatedly that night until they were sure that there was no one else still struggling with the flames that gobbled up 14 lives on that fateful day.

Lost in oblivion after having been followed everywhere by paparazzi for days after the fire, these heroes, we believe, need to be idolized forever. “The smoke in the restaurant was black, so thick and pungent that one couldn’t breathe for even two minutes. I covered my nose with my shirt and just went in and then I kept pushing people to the exit,” recalls Mahesh who was struggling to find a job at the time of interview, despite his bravery and recognition during the course of a year after the dreadful day.

Suraj Giri with his quick thinking assumed the duty of a navigator and directed people out with the best escape routes and helped alleviate an escalating stampede. Suraj Giri called the police and the fire brigade and helped these two teams with the site plan and facilitated the rescue operation. Later they went into their own newsroom and rescued the staff there who were completely unaware of the danger outside. The security guards posted on duty at the two restaurants were the first to scoot at the threat of peril, but not these brave hearts who jumped without a second thought to save those clamouring for their lives.

As the facility was housing 2 restaurants and several offices, there were a lot of gas cylinders lined up and the assessing the gravity of the situation, Suraj removed the cylinders out of the way to prevent further disaster. Till hours later either of the two still hadn’t called back home to confirm their family of their well-being amidst this tragedy, till hours later this thought for self preservation hadn’t occurred to them.

Faded glory
Today in all humility they remember the many parents, friends and relatives of the survivors who had subsequently visited them to thank them and who hugged them crying tears of gratitude. They also shrugged their shoulders in despondence when asked about any special favours or privileges that were granted to them. Some of the survivors came back to thank Mahesh and Suraj and those are the memories that they hold dear.

Stoically Suraj says that every news is celebrated for just about a week and their hour of glory was rather short lived. Both Mahesh and Suraj have moved on from their jobs at the Times Now office but every detail of that gory night is etched clearly in their minds as their brave spirits and kind souls continue to rule the hearts of the many lucky survivors that lived to tell the tale.

Animal Care

A special breed of humans – Janani Krishnamurthy

While we pass by humans lying on the road, we couldn’t care less for the hapless animals even though it only takes a minute to call the helpline for them. . The atrocious crimes against animals daily are appalling and these poor godless beings are at the mercy of people like Janani Krishnamurthy who have dedicated their entire lives to be the voice of the voiceless.

They were here before we were and then have equal right to be here. They can be your playmates, your friends, the best that you may ever have, but they should not be your toys. It is not okay to petrify them with a string of crackers on Diwali or kick them and flog them like little boys would do, and it is definitely not okay to poison them because our civilized society couldn’t bear their agonizing wails in the night.

A rescuer at 9
Janani started her compassion journey at the age of 9 when she brought home an abandoned baby squirrel and would smuggle it to school too so she could keep it warm under her school shirt. She found her calling while we were still acclimatizing to the world around us. Janani was a kid volunteer who would rescue animals and cycle down to Blue Cross of India to get them help. She then started fostering them and helping in finding homes for these innocents.

An environmentalist at 13
The squirrel she had rescued also alerted her to another catastrophe that she learnt of early in life, deforestation. This made her an environment champion and not just an animal rights activist as she found it rather difficult to restrict herself to one cause since the two have cyclical impact on each other.

In her hometown, at the age of 13, Janani recognized the devastating effects of sand mining on local wildlife and soil erosion. That was the first state-wide campaign she began, and fortunately, was able to curb illegal sand mining which is still rampant in most other states.

Boundless spirit
She has been an animal rights activist most part of her life and vociferously fights for the environment with knowledge, perseverance and grit. Without a claim to fame she has been instrumental in stopping the ‘Bali pratha’ in Tamil Nadu temples; she has campaigned for Kurinji, the flower that blooms once in 12 years in the southern parts of India; she has been conducting anti-rabies vaccination drives in Kodaikanal and goals for complete eradication of rabies by 2030. Amen!

She recalls pleading and arguing, citing quotations from the scriptures and articles from Indian laws to establish the illegality and irreligiousness of animal sacrifice. Once at a temple, she almost had a scythe hanging on her neck and after five-and-a-half days of rational and emotional reasoning she was able to save 27 baby goats and ‘that’s all that mattered’ says Janani.

Love conquers all
In 2007 when she got married, she moved to Kodaikanal and while no one can refute the beauty of the place Janani could spot the imminent danger that the mounting backyard garbage dumps posed and took up the cause. This is also when she restarted Kodaikanal Society for Protection and Care of Animals (KSPCA). In two years the team has managed adoption of 250 puppies, a huge accomplishment for Kodaikanal which hosts a population of 35000. She has been in life-threatening situations but came out of them victorious and braver than before because love conquers all.

She has worked for the Animal Welfare Board of India, State Board for Wildlife and in the Captive Elephant Welfare Society where it’s her responsibility to govern against cruelty towards animals, prevent sacrifices and poaching, and administer healthcare.

There are many ‘Me’
Janani credits her many successes to the support of the government officials, to the religious and spiritual leaders of the regions, her mentors like Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, her KSPCA team, and to the many animal lovers who have generously donated to the cause every time she has raised a cry.

She passes her love for animals to her son as she inherited it from her parents. Her son bids her to go to the rescue of the animals anytime she receives a distressed call for ‘mama, I can speak but they cannot’. She also mothers 7 canines and 5 felines at her home. Married to a prosperous dairy farmer Janani is a vegan by choice and says that ‘animals can only be my friends and not food on my table or my fashion accessories’.

Rescuing the forgotten ones at Kerala floods
With prior experience in disaster management in Chennai at the time of tsunami, she landed in Kerala on 9th of August, unaided and unescorted, to rescue the ones who were completely forgotten because ‘every life matters’, she says.

“The rescuers faced knee deep muddy slush, leech bites and even ran in high current waters to cross to affected areas. With roads blocked we had to walk to these areas … sometimes 5 hours of walk. Animals and people lost their lives and livelihood. Many animals were tied or went under the mud.” [Excerpts from Janani’s blog https://aviewfromthehillbilly.blogspot.com/2018/09/kodagu-eye-opener-to-untold-tragedy.html?m=1]

Having started out as an animal crusader at the age of 9, Janani dreams of a sustainable tomorrow to keep the world going round when she is not around. Janani would like to live in a retiral home for animals, to be with them till the end of time. She claims she is a ‘fanatic’ and we think it is fanaticism like this that holds any hope for spreading goodness. It’s probably us who need to be disciplined then not the animals.

Animal Care

Rare comrade of manas’ best friend – N Pravallika

Poaching, hunting, killing, eating, experimenting and entertainment – where do we stop in cruelty towards animals?

About 100 stray dogs at Sanskruthi township near Infosys campus in Anojjiguda were poisoned and burnt on the night of October 5, 2018 by dog killers, hired allegedly by the township committee. It made the headlines nationwide but how many of us were rattled by it? How many of us spent sleepless nights over it? At least one, N. Pravallika, who has spent her entire life striving to get them the personhood they deserve and can hear their muted cries.

My first siblings
Born to the first set of animal lovers she ever knew, her parents, Pravallika was raised in a home that had adopted several stray animals that her parents had rescued. Her fondness for them was, therefore, inevitable, they were the first siblings she knew. “When I was little, I used to wonder why some of the stray dogs would disappear every now and then, till I found out one day that they were been taken away by the municipal corporation and electrocuted. I was shaken, helpless, traumatized. That day I decided to fight for the rights of these guileless, artless creatures. Twelve years later I became a rightful activist armed with knowledge and resolve.

‘I have seen suffering of animals everywhere, which shaped me into an animal rights activist. Even as a software engineer, I dedicated my weekends to the welfare of animals and I joined Blue Cross of Hyderabad as a volunteer in 2011. They further honed and shaped my objective and after two years as a corporate employee I quit to follow my cause wholeheartedly’.

The hurdle race to humanity
She has dedicated herself to various animal welfare activities like dog census, feeding them, medical treatment, fostering them, and finding homes for them. But the road is more rock-strewn than one can imagine, she shudders every morning as she picks her phone to learn of animal cruelty cases.

Although she was largely driven by her heart, Pravallika followed her passion by arming herself with formal training by undergoing animal welfare course from TANUVAS, Chennai and attended residential training on Animal Laws of India at NALSAR, Hyderabad.

The horror stories of the ‘animal farm’
Mass culling of dogs continues in the state of Telangana despite several public uproars in the past, in fact in May 2018 as well. Is that what we would do to control human population burst? Animal birth control is the no-brainer solution here but obviously that would mean a lot of work that humankind is willing to overlook for cheaper and quicker and often inhumane alternatives. ‘As stray dogs were not vaccinated, frequent rabid cases were seen because of which a dog starts biting and people instead of getting them treatment like they would a pet dog, start chasing and killing the dogs brutally’, Pravallika explains. Dogs were beaten to death and sometimes axed and beheaded. How can this be amusement to anyone?

Even in this era of evolved human rights and technology, it is alarming that there are still many communities and people who are governed by superstitions and would unscrupulously slay innocent animals to seek illusory benefits. Pravallika deals with brutality, cynicism, counterrevolutionary and rigid mentality. Starting from negligence of pet dogs to killing and poaching of wild animals as well as cats and rabbits, there are several evils that she combats daily.

Champion against the dark ecology
‘As an environmentalist, I make sure every step that I take is an eco step and a green move. Leading a zero-waste lifestyle, responsible waste managing, eco-consumerism, growing my own food and living a sustainable life is how I contribute to the fight against the dark ecology facing us’. Pravallika has adopted 12 dogs and she credits her personality and strength to her parents and family who sensitized her to a harmonious living at birth – a belief and a practice that she has endeavours to inculcate. Unfortunately she is trying to evoke sentiments that should not have been missing to begin with. And unfortunately it is man that has altered his planet unrecognizably, beyond renewal and beyond redemption. Take a pause and think, saving humanity biologically and ethically is not the burden of any one person, it will take all of us, every human.

Animal Care

Hope is where miracles blossom – Anuradha Mishra

Euthanasia is not the same as animal slaughter or pest control, unfortunately that’s not how it is practised in most parts of India. Euthanasia or ‘mercy killing’ is an extreme measure considered only when all other possibilities have been deliberated and tried. It’s about second chances that we as humans will afford ourselves and our near ones, but when it comes to animals, PTS is the final word.

Not very far from Delhi in a farm at Noida sector 134 is ‘Hope 4 speechless souls’ where Anuradha Mishra nurtures all these damned animals and gives them a second chance at life. It’s no short of a miracle that about 99% of the stray animals, or sadly even domesticated ones, that this miracle worker rescues, survive. Some of them went on to live as long as 12 years or more. For her, ‘put to sleep’ (PTS) is not even a remote option as she fuses life back into these abandoned animals even if it takes days, months or years, so what if they broke their spines, lost their legs or eyes, they had ‘hope’ and so does she.

Animal Care

A prayer for the birds of prey – Wazirabad Brothers

Having received a lot of social acclaim and awards for their almost heroic contribution to our society and environment, Nadeem and Saud, now residents of Wazirabad, treat thousands and thousands of birds each year without any financial aid for their noble task.

Kites Vs Vites

It happened one day, when Nadeem and Saud found a kite with its flight clipped ironically by the kite manja that a lot of birds fall prey to every year during the kite-flying season. These seemingly competent birds of prey succumb to their injuries lying on the ground waiting to die as they are unable to feed themselves with their wings injured.

Delhi, like most other metro cities in India, does not have sufficient number of bird hospitals and the ones that exist often reject birds of prey as they have to be fed non-vegetarian food which these hospitals can’t source for several reasons. Having been refused by the hospital, 15 years back, Nadeem and Saud decided to take these derelicts under their own wing. They brought the kite into their home, into their lives. They nursed this kite and sheltered it and did not stop at it, within a few months this shelter was home to several injured, ignored and homeless birds.

Birds of prey that we love:

Starting with Rufus – Rufus the Hawk is a Harris’s Hawk used by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to keep pigeons away from their venue. Described as an “important member of the Wimbledon family”,[1] Rufus has been scaring away the birds for fifteen years, taking over from the previous hawk, Hamish.

And then the fictional ones

Hedwig – Harry Potter’s snowy owl

Thorondor, Gwaihir, Landroval – Eagles in The Lord of the Rings

Chil – A male kite who helps rescueMowgli from the monkeys in The Jungle Book

Fenghuang – The owl from Kung Fu Panda

Equipping on care giving

If there are less veterinary hospitals, there is even lesser information and expertise available to treat these birds, so the duo educated themselves on how to provide medical care for these ailing birds with fractured limbs or torn wings. Unfortunately, the degree of proficiency and expertise available to treat even the most viable commercial animal, dog, is very low and so Nadeem and Saud have matured to provide guidance to vets who haven’t dealt with birds of prey before.

Garuda is a bird creature from Hindu mythology that has a mix of eagle and human features. He is the vehicle (vahana) of Vishnu and appears on the god’s banner. Garuda represents birth and heaven, and is the enemy of all snakes.

Garuda is a part of state insignia in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. The Brahminy kite is the official mascot of Jakarta. In Hinduism, it is considered as the contemporary representation of Garuda, the sacred bird of Vishnu.

The tenth master of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh Ji had many titles bestowed upon him, one of the most beautiful was ‘Chittay baaja wala”, the keeper of the white falcon. Guru Ji held darbar (court) where he met Rajas and emperors as well as the poor and needy. Guru Ji is often portrayed in paintings with a sword draped along his side with royal plumes decorating his turban and holding a white bird of prey, the Baaz. The word Baaz is Sanskrit in origin and mostly it is agreed that it refers to a falcon as opposed to a hawk. If the historical anecdotes are to be believed then it is most likely that the ‘white bird of prey’ which the 10th Guru handled was a Gyrfalcon. (http://www.sikhfoundation.org/family-corner/birds-animals-of-the-guru-granth-sahib-the-falcon-baaz/)

Having mastered this science and perfected the art of nursing, the savior duo are almost always recommended not just by Delhi police but by most vet hospitals too. Nadeem and Saud have assumed the complete responsibility of these imposing birds in their vulnerable state and not just rear them back to health but provide for them to breed and grow. It is very moving to learn that their entire family have spent many a sleepless nights to feed and care for the young ones of these birds during the breeding season.

It is very hard going for them as they selflessly nurture this almost extinct population with a self-cultivated, deep understanding and subject matter expertise in this rare care which they fund financially too from their humble family occupation.

Evidence suggests that art of Falconry may have begun in Mesopotamia, in Mongolia and China, with the earliest accounts dating to approximately 2000 BC. Courtesy: www.flyingfalcons.co.uk

When axing a tree is axing a specie

While we are witnessing the impact deforestation globally, it impacts birds directly – tree felling renders many birds and their young ones homeless overnight. Nadeem and Saud provide for them right from their transportation, to medical care, to shelter and food for them. The whole family has joined forces to feed the owls in the night as they, we know, are nocturnal birds. Just for the love of this ignored species of our ecology.

We as a community know a lot less about our environment and the ecological cycles and ignore the very important role played by owls, eagles, kites and vultures in ridding the environment of dead animal dump and owls are very instrumental in ridding our fields of the crop-eating rats.

The often quoted Book of St. Albans, first printed in 1486, often attributed to Dame Julia Berners, provides hierarchy of hawks and the social ranks for which each bird was supposedly appropriate. The eagles and vultures were fit for the emperor. Courtesy: www.flyingfalcons.co.uk

They too could be restricted to picture books

Another lesser known fact is that a drug like Diclofenac, prescribed to cattle for arthritis, renders the birds of prey terminally ill with diseases such as renal or kidney failure, when it feeds on the dead cattle. This also brings to the forefront the lack of a cattle mortalities system in our villages or even cities. Raptors have been the dead animal clearing service in our country for a millennia or more. This has led to the vulture population decreasing from 2 million in Delhi to a mere 2 lakhs, just over the last 15 years. The alarming rate of vulture expiration and the dead mass of the cattle left to drain the soil in the absence of an efficient disposal system poisons the soil and the underground water sources like wells in our villages.

There’s hope still: A community in Chandni Chowk follows a tradition of providing meat on their rooftops for raptors, it’s a diminishing practice but nevertheless some glimpses are still to be seen.

Time for action

Having received a lot of social acclaim and awards for their almost heroic contribution to our society and environment, Nadeem and Saud, now residents of Wazirabad, treat thousands and thousands of birds each year without any financial aid for their noble task. With a thousand corporate houses functioning in Delhi and a million trusts would it be very daunting task to adopt this mission so that more and more raptors can be rescued and the ecological balance restored? Can more people volunteer in all earnestness to rub shoulders with this duo and share some of their work load? Can we spread the word about the perils of kite flying and other such games that human beings play? Can we spare some of our fortune and share with these saviors so that they can employ more care givers for their shelter and research further for the greater good of the world we live in? Any takers?

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