Friday, January 25, 2013
They're everywhere. Stretched out on street corners, dozing on steps, they're even to be found asleep on roofs. India has more free roaming dogs than any other country. Scores of millions of them. It also has a third of the global rabies toll. More than 20,000 people die every year from the disease. In Delhi alone 85,000 people reported being bitten during the course of 2012. The dogs are tolerated because they keep down the rat population.
Most of the dogs are the local breed ; the Indian pariah dog. With its wedge shaped head , pointed ears and curling tail they are thought to be descendents of prehistoric Chinese immigrants. Others think they may be related to the equally ancient Australian dingo.
None of this bothers the little Jain lady. To her they're all Gods creatures. As she ambles through the alleyways they trot up to her. She doesn't say much but they rub gently against her sari, unafraid, tails wagging. For the dogs a brief moment of unbridled joy - a human who cares. The brightness in their eyes says it all.
A quick check, a stroke behind the ears, a quiet word of encouragement. A reminder that all life has nobility. Somehow she has names for all of them. Those with monkey bites have their sores cleaned, ticks and fleas are treated, bleeding paws salved. The hungry fed. If possible the dying taken away for a final moment of dignity.
Innocence, sainthood or naivete ? A waste of time ? Whatever it is we're thankful to have seen it.