It’s exam time. Kaveri needed a break from studying. We decide to watch Pink, the movie, 1.45pm show. A quick two-hour distraction would do her good – she can then get back to her books. This was yesterday.
We decide to take the short-cut as usual to PVR at Infinity mall in Andheri West through Raheja Classique. A very dear friend lives there so the route and the premises are familiar – the watchmen do not stop us. It’s 1.35pm.
A few metres from the exit gate of Raheja Classique, I spot a pariah or stray dog lying on the side convulsing violently and instruct my driver to stop the car. The dog – it’s a “she” – is howling into the air, sharp teeth snapping aggressively and defecating, urinating all at once. Dragging herself through a smattering of her own blood on the rough ground.
She is having a fit of some kind, I don’t know what. Having seen my pet Lyka (a gorgeous St Bernard) behave similarly as she died in my arms many years ago, I try to call my vet frantically for help. He is busy and doesn’t answer my call. My friend who lives in the building is travelling and unavailable.
It’s a heart-wrenching sight. Kaveri is in tears. There is an open gutter towards which the dog is dragging herself in a semi-conscious state, body still convulsing violently. I call out to the assortment of drivers and watchmen around me for help, they stare at me indifferently and carry on with a “why-is-madam-going-mental-over-a-dying-stray-dog” kind of look.
Playing cards, blowing the whistle, scratching their balls, picking their teeth and digging their ears.
My driver struggles to close the heavy gutter door on his own; the darn thing is really, really heavy. No help is forthcoming in spite of my many requests. A posh-looking lady passes by and enquires about the whereabouts of the club house, her eyes passing over the convulsing dog in sheer indifference.
She hasn’t even noticed. Just like many other passers-by. Kaveri begs that we take the dog into our car and rush her to the vet – I tell her it may be a risky thing to do, for the dog and ourselves.
SPCA (Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals) helplines go unanswered. I then call up Mr Oswal from the Animal Welfare Board. The kind man is in Pune but immediately connects me to a colleague in Mumbai, Mr Rane.
He informs me that all their ambulances are out and will not be able to reach the location anytime soon. Will I be willing to pay for a private ambulance? Of course I will, can we just help the dog please? I await a revert.
In the meantime, I call up Save our Strays. Sorry madam, we cannot help you. Please call a private ambulance service.
Someone sees my social media update on Twitter and tweets back to me that I should call Jaagruti, an NGO that helps animals in distress. Another kind lady, again from the animal welfare board, sees my update on Facebook and gives me a number for an Andheri West dog rescue centre.
I call one number after the other. Responses are similar – ambulances are unavailable; this is not our call of duty kind of.
It’s past 2.30pm. Kaveri and I are still waiting anxiously around the dog that has suddenly stopped convulsing so violently. Her tongue is not hanging out of the mouth in that macabre way either and she’s looking better. Thank god!
Mr Rane from the animal welfare board calls to tell me that he has managed to divert his ambulance and it should reach us shortly. Just before the ambulance reaches us, the dog has sat upright, convulsions have stopped.
As the ambulance rolls into the compound, the dog raises her head, gets on her four feet and walks away! Just like that!
Phew! So much drama. That too in the mid of complete apathy of people around. The playing of cards, scratching of balls, the loud guffaws all continue around us in the building compound. As if nothing happened.
As if the dog wasn’t ever there. Or neither were we – two distraught individuals trying to help a dying dog. Or at least what we thought was a dying dog, before she got up and just coolly ambled away.
What is it about Indians that makes us so indifferent to suffering? This kind of public apathy is appalling.
By the time Kaveri and I tumble into the theatre to watch Pink, it’s almost interval time. We sit through the movie but it’s no fun. We decide to come and see it again when time permits. A film like Pinkdeserves full and undistracted attention and respect.
My vet calls me back after it’s all over to explain that such fits are common in dogs. No medical reason apparently – they just come and go. Happens in humans too he says.
I explain the ambulance situation – the paucity of it in a city like Mumbai where distances are so vast. How can help ever reach on time? It’s the laws he says.
Our laws don’t allow animal hospitals within city limits – the veterinary hospital in Lower Parel exists only thanks to the British. It was founded and funded by the white men.
No structure has been given permission to come up since then. Really? Why? Does anybody know? Where does one turn to for help besides the NGO?
I am sharing below the numbers of some organisations and charities that help with animal welfare and rescue. Hope it helps.
PFA India, People for Animals: 01123357088. PFA doesn’t handle emergencies. They work on policies and direct calls as per NGOs in the particular city.
Andheri West Dog Rescue: Contact person Nilesh Rane, 9920777536, 9821061114, 9920777536.
World for Animals Cruelty: 9820001506
Save our Strays: 9820141310
Kaveri and I decide to name the dog “notty chica” for our memory of yesterday. Cool no?
As to why I referred to her as “she dog” before we gave her a name, well it’s because I so dislike the word bitch. That I save for a certain kind of human.