15 January 2011

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated"

I have to go on a couple of small rants about things I'm angry about today. It's going to be a bit of a random.

Firstly - one that I never got round to talking about. Last month, just before New Year's, my family and I were in Amritsar and decided while we were there to take a quick trip across the border into Pakistan. We went to Lahore for two days (definitely too short) just to see what the place is like. Sure enough, Pakistan is exactly like India except Islamic and a little more politically/socially complex. 'A little more' is an understatement of course. Anyway, India-Pakistan subjects are most certainly not of interest to me. I just need to make a quick point about something that disturbed me deeply.

On the evening that we were driving back to Amritsar, we first went to meet someone for tea at the Pearl Continental Hotel. The hotel's bad enough as it's got a tacky, commercial, flashy vibe - very Dubai-like. Attached to the hotel is a mini shopping mall, so we decided to browse while waiting, and this is where my main story is. Two of the shops (as far as I looked), were very proudly selling 'Shahtoosh' shawls and displaying them in their windows. Now I should apologise, because in my anger I got too worked up to find out if it was even real Shahtoosh, where/how they got it, their contact details, and all the things I probably should have done. But I did ask them if they knew that selling shahtoosh is banned and they claimed it's perfectly legal. Then I got told my by sister that I was being rude for no reason which sparked quite the fight but that's not part of my story.. It may well have been fake shahtoosh, but to show it off as a shawl that's illegally come from the endangered Tibetan Antelope is wrong and I'm contacting people about this... Raping our natural heritage in the name of luxury has really got to end. And in the name of pseudoscience like traditional medicine too for that matter.

As always, I'm also feeling particularly worked up about the stray animal situation in the subcontinent (and lots of other countries too). For once, it's a problem I can't blame humans for and one that hasn't got a simple, easy to implement solution. But the fact that around India, these animals are abused and hit by cars is one that can be blamed on humans and can fixed quite easily. Every time you drive around an Indian city, you're almost guaranteed to see a stray dog that's being shooed away and hit by some random guy for no good reason, or one that's horribly injured, or worse, dead on the side of the road. It is not pleasant to see so often and it's definitely not necessary suffering. Of course on the other hand, you do see dogs in markets that are given coats to wear during winter, food and water, or just simply dogs that are being petted by someone - that's heartwarming.

On that lighter note, do have a look at the website for Friendicoes SECA (and the Friendicoes blog) an organisation I've been hearing about since my school days when we'd organise donations of food, blankets and newspapers for the shelter. At that time when I was living in Delhi, I remember spending every weekend going from house to house in the hostel, collecting the week's newspapers from everyone. My mom used to shout at me for the pile as tall as me that would build up in the balcony. There was a stray dog called Dingo and her puppies who I semi-adopted, and I also remember being shouted at for spending hours sitting outside and combing ticks out of her fur when I should've been studying for exams. For years, all Friendicoes meant to me was the rescue vans that would come to the hostel every now and then either to treat the dogs or to pick up my newspapers. Finally, last year I went to the actual shelters in Delhi and Gurgaon to help out Cara. Around the office there are a few of their resident dogs who all have such strong personalities and touching stories, you can't help but fall in love with them. The shelter itself is not an easy place to visit. Inside are cages and cages of whimpering dogs and cats, baby macaques and abandoned pedigrees. Some have been so badly injured, even seeing them in recovery is too much to handle. They do the best they can to take care of them but it's such a difficult task. For those of you in Delhi please take the time to visit Friendicoes and contribute to their efforts. Adopt a Desi dog. While you're at it, also take a look at Wildlife SOS, Friendicoes' sister organisation headed by Kartick Satyanarayan

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