Love, only love can bring true joy. And when love blossoms, it overflows from our hearts. Everywhere – into our surroundings, our human siblings, our children in the animal and bird kingdom and enables us to bond with each other.
I always experienced joy while talking to my friends in Canada who live or visit my house- cats, racoons, skunks, birds, squirrels, opossum even crows. They did not just eat food but also showered me with their love and compassion. Not just to my son in cat’s body- Ira but also to me and all family members. How a cat whom we named Sundari will come and touch our bodies to show affection or sit next to us and silently talk tales of love! Or birds will chirp on seeing me in the morning and after eating their food, sing merry songs while swinging from various branches. Or squirrels would eat their peanuts and blink at us happily and then play hide and seek with us and other friends in the garden and bring on full entertainment. Every day, rain or shine, drizzle or blizzard, was made more beautiful by the meanderings of our little children.
And then I came to India a few weeks back and this visit opened more doors to the hearts of our furry friends.
There was joy and happiness in Canada with these little creatures and of course immense love which my cat son, Ira gave me. But pure love from absolute strangers, unbridled love, protective love, flowing non-stop from moist eyes or being openly shown by continuous purring; that love, I found from unknown friends in the animal kingdom here.
And today my heart overflows with happiness and my cup runneth over.
I write to thank all the dogs and cats out on the streets who we call strays and felines for sharing their lives with me and giving me a name/title which I will wear with pride all my life- “Biscuit/Anda baba”.
It all started at Juhu beach Mumbai where I stayed for a few days. There are more than fifteen stray dogs who live there at the beach near Chowpatty area either at the beach itself or at the bus stop near it. With them close to ten cats also call the bus station their home. These are children trying to survive on streets and being merry despite hardships, hunger and at many times, rejections from humans.
Remember this is not their natural habitat or a forest where they can hunt for food on their own. This is a tourist spot, visited everyday by thousands of people and where they are totally dependent on humans for their food. And what do we do? We scare and shoo them away, we treat them as parasites and unwelcome guests who are spoiling our tourist areas and some among us even throw stones at little cats or dogs to try and make them run away. Some of the dogs were in real bad shape, suffering from various illnesses and some stay hungry for most part of the day.
On my first day, I saw a man trying to hit a dog and then a few dogs barking back at him and I went and asked him why he would do that. And then I went to my furry friends and petted one of them. And lo and behold! A few of them came to me with wagging tails and the ones who were being called ferocious by that person were just pure souls trying to connect.
From that day onward, till the last day I stayed in that area, morning, afternoon, evening, I would spend time with my furry friends, share biscuits, pet them which they reciprocated whole heartedly by loving me back I return. Even the cats ate biscuits which was a huge surprise to me after having previous experience of only carnivorous cats. I guess necessity is the mother of invention and the same applies in the animal world too.
Besides people who treated them with disdain and cold, hateful stares, I also found that there were humans with great empathy and also support groups who took care of these children, almost daily. Like a man who will come riding on his scooter and bring them food late in the night. The way all cats and dogs will welcome him, play with him, eat their food and then spend joyous moments with him was a sight to behold.
Next stop, IIT Bombay where group of ten to twelve dogs with spent time with and one brown furry friend took ownership of me and started treating himself as my owner, was protective of me and would not leave me for others.
And finally in the last three weeks I have been staying near the Chakala metro station and go to nearby market where a group of ten plus dogs and an equal number of cats stay. Here I have found unbridled love. Whenever they meet me, they express their joy and shower their love.
So much so that one brown little cat and her very tiny daughter now consider me as family and every night when I feed them, after eating, they will ask me to sit on the ground, then jump on me, sit on my lap and continuously purr and ask me to keep petting them. They will not allow me to leave and if it was up to them we would just sit under the open skies all night, stare at the stars or even the world passing by and feel happy in knowing that we are there for each other. This is inner peace in its pure Zen form.
And yes, a HUGE shout out to hundreds of men and women who work in support groups or on their own and continuously feed these cats and dogs out on the streets daily without fail and take care of them and protect them. Thank you and may your tribe increase.
In this world full of humans finding reasons to hate, discriminate, fight, abuse, insult, humiliate, these furry friends have taught me the futility of being a part of the complications of human race.
Wish I was could just think like a dog or a cat and simply feel happy with a few small things of life. And a touch of a friend!
Next life as they say. Till then, in this life, I will continue to enjoy the warmth of my friends in the animal world not just in the comfort of our houses but also out on the streets.
So next time you go out on the street, look around. Maybe you too may be showered with true love from strangers, like I am today. And yes carry some biscuits or eggs or treats along. For you it may be nothing, but for a few it may enable a good night sleep without hunger pangs. Amen.
Posted in Times of India on 17th March 2022. Link below-