Thursday, September 19, 2013

There is life in the darkest places inside us

Even before you read this blog, please forgive the cynic and the pessimist in me, who have chosen to surface after ages. You may move on to read what has made me whimper today.

Every day, on my way to work, I see many homeless people. I see many, who suffer from senility. I see many, who are differently abled. I see many, who start their day, with a hope that, at least, today is going to be a better day. I see many ambulances squeaking its way through the sea of vehicles. I see many road accidents. I see many men beating up their wives. I see many patients and impassive-faced relatives waiting for eternity in hospitals. So, don’t I see happy faces at all? Of course, I do. But, humans tend to remember the dark faces that translate emotions seamlessly, don’t they? And it happens quite naturally. You don’t need words to explain those feelings, but those voiceless emotions scar your hearts for life. Out of all the moving images that I encounter every day, there are few faces that make my heart grow heavy. Those faces create a lump in my throat, which I find hard to swallow. And those are the faces of those stray dogs that have no clue of why they were born, the innocent eyes of cattle at the butchers’ stalls and the sad faces of the cooped chickens.

Humans suffer. Animals suffer. But, involuntarily, my heart goes out for animals. But that doesn’t mean that I am ruthless towards humans. My love for animals is truly unconditional. I was even told by a friend once, that he found my thought-process absurd. I agreed with him. But, at the end of the day, this is ‘me’. I’m not the one, who would sadistically enjoy when humans are in trouble. But my heart bleeds for the animals that are in predicaments. Let’s put it that way.

Some of my most-wonderfully-started days have been grayed by the sight of a dog’s carcass that’s smashed by vehicles on the roads. All that I could do for the animals that suffer meaningless death was to pray that they should never have such a pitiful birth, phone up the corporation to clear the carcass, talk to empathetic people and ruminate for a while. Is there anything within my capacity that I can do  to avert such accidents? The answer is negative. But, all that I intend to do is to be kind to animals. Not just dogs, cows or cats; but every animal that I meet. From smiling at them to feeding the strays, I am determined to do my wee bit to help them. Will that help? I really don’t know. But for the nonce, helping them is the least possible way that seems to give me the much needed peace.

So, whenever I meet an animal, (let’s say a dog) I smile at it, say ‘Hello’, shake hands, talk to it for a while and feed it. Many find it endearing and many more find it ridiculous to smile at an animal and exchange pleasantries. But I totally believe that animals reciprocate all that I do to them. So the smallest displease in their face creates an amplified distress for me. And through Facebook, I learn that I’m not alone and what I’m doing is not lunacy.

One such person, with whom I travel on similar lines, is popular photographer Martin Usborne. If you haven’t seen his ‘The silence of dogs in cars’, please visit his website to see 41 heart shattering pictures of dogs that are left in cars and his moving description about the project.

Martin Usborne wrote,“I was once left in a car at a young age. I don’t know when or where or for how long, possibly at the age of four, perhaps outside a supermarket, probably for fifteen minutes only. The details don’t matter. The point is that I wondered if anyone would come back. The fear I felt was strong: in a child’s mind it is possible to be alone forever. Around the same age I began to feel a deep affinity with animals – in particular their plight at the hands of humans. I saw a TV documentary that included footage of a dog being put in a plastic bag and being kicked. What appalled me most was that the dog could not speak back. I should say that I was a well-loved child and never abandoned and yet it is clear that both these experiences arose from the same place deep inside me: a fear of being alone and unheard. When I started this project I knew the photos would be dark. In a sense, I was attempting to go back inside my car, to re-experience what I couldn’t bear as a child. What I didn’t expect was to see so many subtle reactions by the dogs: some sad, some expectant, some angry, some dejected. It was as if upon opening up a box of grey-coloured pencils I was surprised to see so many shades inside. There is life in the darkest places inside us.”

After seeing his pictures and reading his write-up, I realised that I am not alone. All the sadness that I see on the faces of those strays, cattle and the pets that are ill-treated by humans piques many and those voiceless emotions are the ones that cause depression. The animals that suffer at the hands of humans are the ones that need to be salvaged.

As I scroll the disturbing pictures captured by Martin Usborne, I think of a handful of strays, that I feed on the road, Inji, Juju and an unnamed dog. As I see the photographs that convey immense emotions, I think of late Brownie and Whitie, that I used to feed. As I think of the dark world where those animals are lost, I think of my neighbour’s pet, Buddy, who is perennially locked up in a small space and waiting to taste freedom. As I realise that I share Martin’s perspective, I think of all the animals that are being eaten and all the animals that are being tormented.

I see their expressive faces that say a thousand words. I see a world of sadness in those lustrous eyes. I see a pinch of hope in the way they look at me. I see them yearn to spend more time with me. I hear them whisper ‘Take me home’. But all that I can do is capture their beautiful faces, close my eyes, keep their images in a virtual safe and lose myself in their dark world!

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