Sunday, July 5, 2015

More than just charity

People are frail. They err. They repent. Err again. The world isn't composed of angels, after all. People are good in some ways and bad in others. There are dimensions of both. Once in a while, yes, you hear of people who do good all day and get nothing but rebuke from the rest. But that's rare.

Not that it's unusual, but my guess is that this world is scattered with so much frailty that such exceptional cases demand nothing short of absolute kindness as response. Never happens.

The point is that I've come across such a person. She lives in Piliyandala. Her name is Nandani. The moment you see her, you'll think she has been marked out for misfortune. In a way, she has. That misfortune has unfortunately figured in the greater part of her life, but that's not what I'm writing about here. I'm writing about what she does. About what we should do.

Nandani takes care of some dogs. For free. She feeds them, tends to them, even ensures they are properly medicated. This isn't a problem, you might think. But it is. Last time I checked, there were more than 10 dogs. She has to manage them all. Day in, day out. Tough.

There hasn't been much help from people, either. Whenever there's kindness, there's some way it's made use of. Some people continue to do that. They come by her house, dump their unwanted dogs, and drive away. Sometimes she doesn't even know until it's too late. By then, she has no choice. She has to tend to them whether she can manage it or not. By the looks of it, she can't.

I want to write about her because I've seen her. I've seen where she lives, how she lives, and how she takes care of all these homeless dogs. She never fails by them, although (as she admits) there are days when she is forced (yes, forced!) by circumstance to neglect. Like when she can't get enough food on the table. There's a shop that (begrudgingly, I am forced to conclude) gives her rice (not for free). She doesn't admit it, but almost always that rice is rotting.

I also want to write about her because we live in a country where dogs are pampered. Some are abused of course, but think about how they are celebrated and you'll realise how they're treated. They are pets for the most part, but I doubt Nandani keeps her dogs like that. She treats them. She genuinely cares. Naturally enough, people have exploited her. Makes me ashamed of what we are.

Not everything's bleak, thankfully. She has a daughter. She has neighbours who help (though not all the time). She has her sympathisers. But in a world where kindness is trashed and people would rather say nasty things about each other, she has her detractors. Some say she should just let the dogs go. Others are franker. They think the dogs should be abandoned. 

Whatever the opinion, I know one thing's clear. Nandani loves them all. She loves them so much that she can't let go. There are those who'll scoff at this, no doubt. But think for a moment. If you were to consider a love for a child, created through time and attachment, would her bond with all those homeless waifs be any different?

I don't think so. She didn't wish it to happen this way, after all. It was imposed. On her. And since she was forced into it by others who made use of her love for dogs, I think we should give her the benefit of the doubt. We should give credit and lend support. Not critique.

Let me be clear. She doesn't need charity. She needs help. Our help.

You can call Nandani on 0725235416. She'll be grateful, I should think. As will we.

Written for: The Nation INSIGHT, July 4 2015