“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Welfare of Stray Dogs - An Abundance of Love for the Abandoned

It is a Sunday morning in Trivandrum. Anil, Christy, Dr KVS and I are standing before a house in Thirumala. The human occupants of the house had left the place a couple of weeks ago and are somewhere in North India. Gone for good. Nothing wrong here, except they have left two dogs, one a Dalmatian and the other a mongrel, whom they had kept, fed and presumably loved – and now abandoned. It seems that they have asked a maid to feed the dogs. But according to the neighbours, she hasn’t appeared since last few days .

Love for animals is perhaps an anachronism in today’s world. In the quest for riches, power and fame, humanity has discarded the very qualities which in the first place distinguished them from the rest of the animal world. In a world where man exhibits more ‘animal’ characteristics than animals, dogs are just a utility to guard our wealth or a toy for our children to play with. As our urban dwellings overflow with garbage and filth, in our streets roam stray dogs; most born on the streets, many thrown out of houses when they have become either old, sick or unwanted.

Stray dogs do not figure in any category in the country’s budget; but for the Supreme Court order banning the eradication of strays by killing, we would have continued to witness the most inhuman act of strangling, electrocuting, poisoning and such heinous methods by which local bodies had tried to cull its population. Stray dogs do create problems, but the most effective and humane way to cull their numbers is through mass sterilization and immunization against Rabies. In a country where trillions of rupees disappear into black holes, surely we can afford to spend a few lakhs for the welfare of street dogs.

Hope for humanity lies not in the billions of our fellow beings, nor in those who wield power and money, but in small groups who care for the needy. The Welfare of Stray Dogs, an organization based in Mumbai, is one such group. Established in 1985, WSD is a group of people committed to cause of strays. The organization has its own clinic where the volunteers bring dogs from the streets. They do a lot of awareness programmes in schools and colleges and urge people to adopt stray dogs. Below is an extract from their website, www.wsdindia.org

· Between 1994 and 2007, WSD has impacted the lives of 90,000 stray dogs through sterilization, vaccination, healthcare and adoption.

· Sterilization and immunization of 31,000 stray dogs between 1994 and 2007.

· On-site immunization against rabies of more than 15,000 stray dogs.

· On-site treatment for more than 40,000 stray dogs through our on-site first-aid programme.

· Rabies awareness drives in public places like railway stations and parks.

· Presentations to hundreds of children and adults on the stray dog issue, rabies and its prevention and the avoidance of dog bites.

· Adoption of more than 200 abandoned pets and stray dog.

It is so heartening and encouraging to know that there are such small bands of people who do such service without a thought for name and fame. It is so good to remind oneself that there still remain patches of greenery in this vast, barren land.

On a lighter note, I reproduce what Cyrus Broacha has said in the FAQ of the above website:

Q. I’d like to purchase a dog. Where and how could I get one?

This question really gets me mad. My blood boils and the ticks die immediately of food poisoning. Firstly, remember it’s not whether the dog’s good enough for you but if you are good enough for the dog. You must pass a test showing you have the time, patience, love and respect to look after a dog. If you are of sound mind and good character, if you are willing to give quality time to the dog, then after adequate training maybe, just maybe, you’ll be good enough for the doggie and he’ll lower his standards and let you in.

Q. I’ve had a Pomeranian for the last 7 years. Now that I’m getting married, my ma-in-law won’t allow my dog ‘China’ to live with us. What to do?

Annul the marriage. Change the mother-in-law. A pact with a dog once in place is unconditional and lifelong, and cannot, I repeat, cannot be broken. If your ma-in-law won’t bend, get rid of her. If your wife won’t bend, get rid of her too. There! Your Pomeranian has already done you two favours so what are you prepared to do for your dog? Huh?

It is midday. Blackie and Tomy, the abandoned dogs, jump around us happily. Both pee-ed for at least 5 minutes! They haven’t had any food or drinking water since 3 or 4 days. Tomy is the Dalmatian and Blackie, the mongrel. Blackie is a very intelligent and affectionate dog. Tomy has severe ear infection and there are a lot of bruises on his back, probably due to the iron railings of his cage. Though strangers, they knew we meant love; both wolfed down the meat and rice mixture Anil and I had brought. I treated them to dog biscuits too. We let them out of the cages. I have asked the local PFA chapter (People for Animals)
www.peopleforanimalsindia.org/ to take them in.

************** Balachandran V, balanpnb@gmail.com 27.02.2010

PS : Please visit www.wsdindia.org. They have brought out a great calendar (Rs.150/-) with excellent photographs of stray dogs who have been adopted and now lead an enviable life. If you cannot keep a stray dog, at least support generously those people who devote their time and energy for the cause of the stray dog.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Enjoying nature

Enjoying forests, birds and the breeze

Enjoying music, reading, traveling

Enjoying looking, listening, feeling, touching –

I realize -

More than this joyful spread before me

More joyous is this gift, so special,

To find joy, to discover beauty

In matters all, piddling and profound.

Deprived, denied of everything

Of riches, of senses

Even in darkness I will remember

The light, oh life, you shed on me.

I will hope and wait

With the glow of happy memories

Warming, keeping me alive.

******* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 23.02.2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The day I almost killed myself

It is an afternoon, with a lull in business. Many of my blog posts have been written here clandestinely and then e-mailed to myself and thence to blog. I wonder what to write about; this blogging has become an addiction. Soon, will I get tired of it?

Reading my posts, the common pattern I see is that I have always tried to link an incident in my life to a universal fact, so that readers can identify themselves with the situation I have described and gain their own insights.

In 1978, one year after graduation, I wrote the entrance test for FTII, Pune. I had become a serious movie buff; wherever there is a film show, I would be there. I was a member of all the film societies in Trivandrum, like Chalachitra and Chitralekha. I read Sight & Sound. I read books on making movies and documentaries. Though I could not afford to buy a camera, I gorged on every available book and journal on photography.

I saw life in a series of frames.

The FTII entrance test was the first ever test other than academic that I wrote. I was a naïve young boy; I thought passing the test meant an entry to FTII. I was wrong; there was a 3-day series of tests and interview to get through. At the interview, the head of the interview board was the famous film director, Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He asked me if I had any godfather in the film industry. “Then how do you expect to survive here”, he asked to my answer, “No”.

I couldn’t have done well in the tests, but I saw others who did worse get admission effortlessly. That was when the bubble burst. Undaunted, I went on to Bombay where my sister and brother-in-law lived. He was a big shot in BARC. I thought there was no point in going back home, continuing my listless postgraduate studies. I wanted a job. I wanted a job badly because I was in love and wanted to marry and I would not, I thought it wouldn’t be fair to marry when I cannot feed her on my own.

My sister and family stayed in one of the tall apartments in the BARC complex. On the first day evening of my arrival, Mr N, my brother-in-law’s colleague and his wife came to visit. Introducing me to him, my brother-in –law said – “ Vimala’s youngest brother” – then, curling his thick lips he added contemptuously in his Palakkadan accent – “ His only achievement in life is that he passed a test to Pune FTII; flunked in the interview, of course!” Mr. N and his wife looked embarrassed and changed the subject. I stood there, immobile, crushed, cringing, my heart split like a rotten log. I remember looking at my brother-in-law who overrode my wish to study English literature and forced my mother to make me accept Physics, which I hated. With father no more to guide or to decide, my mother had left such matters to her eldest son-in-law, the brilliant chemical engineer, who knew things.

Later in the night, I went up to the roof of the 20- floor apartment. Far away, I could see the blinking lights of airplanes circling to land at Santa Cruz. Looking up at the dark sky, I came to know the feeling of pointlessness of life for the first time. That my dream bubble of becoming a cinematographer had burst, that I am a failure, incapable of achieving anything, that my romance was fading away, that at 21, I was aimless, jobless with nothing to look forward to – far below I could see the cars parked.

Ever since, whenever I look down from great heights, cliff edges in the Himalayas or Western Ghats, I have this eerily calm thought in my mind – of falling through the air – and I smile to myself realizing how thin, narrow, how sharp like a razor’s edge is the bridge between life and death. I realize that how so much I may value my life, a vagrant wind can topple me down the chasm.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 23-02-2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Great Escapes

My old friend who is in New York rang me up at my land phone a couple of days back. P took the call. Cheriyan told her that he could not get me on the mobile phone – ‘Switched Off’ – it had said; and there hasn’t been any recent posts in the blog for someone who churns out one almost every other day. P told him that Balan has escaped from Trivandrum – for a few days.

In Trivandrum, the mercury is shooting up. To boot, we have the ‘Festival of Women’, the largest gathering of women in a single city on a single day, the event that has gained entry in the Guinness Book of Records. The Attukal Pongala.

Women come from all over Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They spill out of cars, trucks, buses and trains. They throng the street sides, houses, railway station, bus station, vying for the better locations that offer shade and quickest way out. Glamorous actresses and foreigners add colour and spice. Sitting around makeshift hearths on the roadside, they cook rice and sweetmeats in the morning, sweating out in the sweltering heat to the background din from tons of massive loudspeakers and sound boxes spewing out cacophonic music. In the afternoon, at the signal of sprinkling holy water over the Payasams and Therali appams, the grand gala festival is over. Prosperity for the next year assured, the exodus begins.

I am hardly doing justice to the event. You have to experience it to understand the magnitude of the crowds, of the ear-shattering noise, the suffocating smoke of thousands of fires, burning dried palm fronts and other such inflammable materials, the tons of waste of half-baked bricks used to keep the boiling pots over the fires, the frenzy of devotion.

For the last 5 years, I have been escaping the city during Pongala. Being in the heart of the city is no fun on the Pongala days. Since one cannot fight religion, the best option is to get away. I go to the hills where all that falls in my ears are the songs of the wind and the birds. All the chatter I hear is that of the leaves in the wind. In the morning, mist rises before my eyes.

I have nothing against these thousands of my female compatriots (including the mother of my son) who pray and offer Pongala to the Goddess Kali. I have nothing against the air pollution, noise pollution and the garbage they leave in my city. But this year, sitting in my thatched hut far away in the hills of Attappadi and gazing at the Malleesara peak and scattering rice to the Spotted Doves that crowd around me fearlessly, I thought of the 5 Kindergarten children and their Ayah who died drowning in the sewage of our City as their school van went off the road and fell into Parvathi Puthen Aar on the eve of the great day of Pongala and wondered if the tens of thousands of women who braved the sun and prayed for prosperity for their families and the Goddess Kali who benignly smiled upon her devotees – did they ever, for just a moment, think of the innocent children who lay in their little cheap coffins all dressed up in white and flowers around their heads and the heartbreaking wail of the mothers and fathers and the shocked and uncomprehending faces of the little children who stood around their dead friends…

Of course they could not have. You see, they are praying, the tens of thousands of prayers that goes up into the warm skies of Trivandrum along with the blue haze of smoke are tens of thousands of prayers, each for herself and her family, so what if a few kids died, the Pongala of life must go on…

Sitting on the bank of the stream and watching a Grey Wagtail hop and skip over the rocks, I remember the faces I saw in the newspaper, the faces of innocence and beauty, which must be now slowly changing to unrecognizable putrefying flesh beneath the soil. I remember one particular face of a little girl and my heart constricts in pain as I watch the bird disappear into the darkening woods.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 21.02.2011


Friday, February 11, 2011

Birthday Brood

Standing before my bookshelves

I gaze at the books fondly.

I remember you, I tell one,

Do you, the nights we spent together?

You made me laugh, cry, you made me angry

And yet you gave me peace too, and great joy!

Yes, yes, I nod at another, you too, of course.

They all look back at me, smiling gently,

These souls who have been with me for so long.

I look at them and at those I haven’t read

Perhaps – no, quite likely - never will.

The night is quiet; silence broken only by the old ceiling fan.

Browsing through my CDs, I look at the pictures

The places I have been to, the faces I have seen.

I smile at the old files, remnants of countless attempts

At setting the world right; how wanton I have been with words!

How I had dreamt! How valorous I have been and oh, how naïve!

Here in these pages lie my words, my dreams, myself

Glittering , scattering like confetti in an evening sun.

There are so many places I haven’t seen

So many books I haven’t read

So many songs I haven’t heard

So many things I haven’t done–

Oh! There is so much, so much of love I haven’t had!

**************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 11.02.2011

painting courtesy : http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=24456032

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Broken Yo -Yo Waiting for Godot

(This poem was inspired by KPJ’s ‘Abandoned’)

Inside the waste bin, I look around.

This crumpled piece of paper

Tries to imitate me like a ball.

This ant that scrambles over me

Tickles; he thinks he is

On top of the world!

Licking the wrapper of a toffee,

I muse over the places I've been-

Rather, the places I could've been to

If it were not for the Thread, and the Hand

That had held me, pulled me back.

One day, the bin would be emptied

Into the Great Heap of Waste -

A boy from the slums would find me, I'm sure!

Happy, I am, inside this cosy bin

Waiting for the happiness awaiting me!

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 01.02.2011