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Loving All Creatures Great And Human: Today, The Stray Dog

November 30, 2014

For a deeper insight into the philosophy behind this unique All Creatures Great and Small Series auction to be held on December 2, Learning and Creativity presents an essay ‘Loving All Creatures Great & Human: Today, the Stray Dog’ by Neville Tuli, Chairman – Osian’s Group.

“All Creatures Great and Small” Series Auction: 2nd December, 2014
Unique Auction celebrating Animals in the Indian & Asian Fine Arts, Antiquities, Crafts, Books, Prints, Photographs & Film Memorabilia
Venue: Tao Art Gallery, 165, The View, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai.
Call: 022-61563108

MF Husain's 3 Horses (Oil on canvas, 1992)

MF Husain’s 3 Horses (Oil on canvas, 1992)

In “a celebration on various aspects of the animal-human unity, which will hopefully encourage others to reflect and maybe consider volunteering their efforts to build a better world for animals”, The Osian’s Group is presenting works of masters like M.F. Husain, Jamini Roy, Abanindranath Tagore, Nikhil Biswas, The Ravi Varma Presses, Prokash Karmakar, Ganesh Pyne and others in its first “All Creatures Great and Small” Series Auction on 2 December 2014. The Opening Preview Exhibition was held on Friday, 21 November at the Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai.

The highlights of the auction include:

The rare Sherratt Style Staffordshire Ceramic of ‘The Death of Monroe’ modeled after the famous ‘Tippoo’s Tiger’ automaton originally owned by Tipu Sultan.

Two magnificent Kawari – Kabuto (Helmets) from the medieval 17 -18th century Edo (Tokogawa) period Japanese Samurai Tradition.

Two important 18th century Tibetan Thangkhas on the ‘Heruka’ theme, formerly from the Jucker Collection, New York.

Rare 1st Edition 19th century Antiquarian Illustrated Books on Zoology, Parrots, Birds, Insects, Angling, Snakes, Parrots & Oriental Sports including rare prints by John Gould.

For a deeper insight into the philosophy behind this unique theme, Learning and Creativity presents an essay ‘Loving All Creatures Great & Human: Today, the Stray Dog’ by Neville Tuli, Chairman – Osian’s Group.

Loving All Creatures Great And Human: Today, The Stray Dog

By Neville Tuli
Chairman – Osian’s Group
Neville_Tuli

Neville Tuli, Chairman – Osian’s Group

At the heart of most human relationships and their lack of fulfillment is that the love offered cannot be calmly accepted and embraced by the other. With many of our fellow living creatures we do not suffer such lack of embrace.

If we do, it is not because of any stain on their heart, for that is pure, rooted in a primal innocence which most humans have lost or have suppressed given the journey chosen. Of course, there will always be the most frightened stray which cannot easily trust again despite all the care and patience. Yet, offer them a loving home (if you can catch them), and that distance will also soon dissolve.

Of course, their inability to speak out, to defend themselves in our material construct, also inspires all of us to feel deeper and eke out a role to help them live with love, playfulness and dignity. In helping them find a greater freedom to be themselves, they inspire us to a deeper level of compassion, making us gentler and more forgiving, accepting the small joys of daily mindless playfulness.

Who among us cannot marvel at the joy a cat derives from a simple crumpled paper ball or pen top, or the delight the dog extracts from a bone or shoe or tummy rubs, or the laughter of a goat or donkey from hiding from those who seek. Endless are these daily moments enriching the human smile, allowing us to realize that whether we are caring for our elderly or orphans or children or Mother Earth or pets or physically challenged or parents or strangers, we all are the same fragile family, loving whom instills that daily dose of compassion which the materiality of a spiritual soul needs resuscitated every hour. It is like receiving clean oxygen during our sleep with a gentle caress.

Hence across the world for millions today, finding true purpose beside our speechless companions as we would beside humans is a daily truth.

For a few it is reconnecting with deep childhood memories of life and love with pets, animals and nature; for some it is the joy and calm of just being with animals for themselves; for many it starts as a deep void to be filled, a loneliness left by human neglect, or losing the chance for having children normally; for others it is about fighting for a cause against cruelty and injustice; for vets and nurses it is about protecting the sanctity of life for every living creature with the full might and mind of their work; for others it may be about a holistic vision of creating an atmosphere rooted in a creative compassion, where the ‘nature-animal-human continuum’ must find balance amid their inter-connectedness, thereby creating a surplus of love so as to inspire others around, and in that energy change the paradigm and framework within which we play and work.

However, irrespective of the direction from which the roots rise, sooner or later the animal-human togetherness transforms itself from being a second-best substitute to a full focus first choice. Sustaining this journey gives rise to empathy. So emerges a new strength, the true gift which animals bestow on humans – empathy dancing in a vibrant soul.

It is this dancing empathy, inherent in the daily act of deeply loving nonhuman living creatures, which inspires some to help build a better world for all creatures and their rights, from bandaging the daily wounds to building havens of joy. Yet today, fulfilling this duty is only accomplished by a small minority, even though everyone is capable of doing so, at most stages of life.

In the urban landscape, having empathy for animals, takes itself to the point of adopting a pet or two, maybe feeding a stray or two, maybe donating to friends who are more dedicated to this journey, maybe even helping to build a NGO or so. After all why and what should one do with empathy towards speechless animals in a land where basic human dignity is absent for the majority? Why would Indians rise towards such a cause?

Yet if we can inspire them to act, how can they rise for the cause of preventing cruelty against our domesticated gentle creatures? Especially the stray dog, the most gentle and honest soul, our speechless eternal child, who roams and struggles with fellow humans, scavenging for crumbs and care, fighting off mange and ticks, ready to lick any kind hand which shows generosity and gentleness. How will this happen?

Sri Duttatreya (Raja Ravi Varma)

Oleographic print on paper, nd Printed text in Devanagari ‘Sri Duttatreya’ l.c., Chitrashala Press, Pune

For one who is the ancestor of the Dingo, who has accompanied man for over 10,000 years, for one who was the last to walk with Yudhisthira to the gates of heaven and so acknowledged as Dharma himself, and for one who is expressed and depicted as the four sacred Vedas with Sri Dattatreya, the divine Trinity form of Lord Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, we Indians truly treat our stray ‘pariah’ dog with vulgar disrespect, neglect, hypocrisy and shame.

The hopeful success of the Swachh Bharat vision in the coming years will ironically only add to the woes of the stray dog, who survives on crumbs and scavenging on open mounds of garbage and trash. Gandhiji, himself would be facing the dilemma for along with the desperate need for hygiene and sanitation in all spheres of life, he was a true believer in the need to love and care for all living creatures, and that such love and care would define the quality and integrity of the civilization we build. Both must succeed, civic hygiene and animal welfare must grow hand in hand.

The irony is that it really does not take much but a simple vision and desire to transform the life of strays. They seek so little and offer so much more to humans in return. Foolish gossip and half-baked rumors pass around about dog bites, barking and Rabies, causing ignorance to be compounded.

Of course, rebuilding demands a dedication, an increased awareness and opening of the heart. However, for society as a whole, where daily human dignity is offended in every way possible, to have this love between man and animal as a shining symbol on every corner, will only help the task of poverty alleviation and improving the quality of all life in so many ways.

A rare version of Jatayu, Ravanna & Sita from the Ramayana by Jamini Roy

A rare version of Jatayu, Ravanna & Sita from the Ramayana by Jamini Roy

In this brief note I cannot talk about the changes required regarding tackling the links between human homelessness, living in the urban slums and the strays. It is a very complicated matter and no clarity will be possible so briefly, but as many of us know, the treatment of the common man towards their fellow stray traveler is very decent given all the pressures and difficulties faced. They share a common sorrow and empathy that comes to the surface so as to co-exist with basic dignity, though of course the media will highlight the one-off cases of great violence, from burning puppies and beating them senseless. These by and large are exceptions. My total faith in the common man to share the difficulties of life with a living creature while fulfilling their basic duty is not doubted. It is the relatively richer middle classes where the failure of understanding and dereliction of duty is deepest. It is here that the great education and awareness outreach programs need to focus.

Hopefully, the privileged strata of Indian society, especially those who have travelled, those who are deeply exposed to the changing world values towards natural heritage, environment, wild life, will rise to the task at hand. It is upon them jointly with the government that one will have to pin the hopes of working out a clear strategy and effort to save the stray from a life of daily ignominy.

Naturally, with such calls to action, one must transform one’s life first as much as is possible, before requesting others. That being done, I will share a few of the practical priorities which seem evident to radically improve conditions for the Indian stray.

Firstly, the safe vaccination, sterilization and post-operation care of strays are dominant needs. This is a mountain of effort, but with joint public and private energy it is surmountable in the next few years. Linked to this is the obvious small size and relatively poor quality of the veterinary staff and experts in India; their levels of education and research, and the lack of dialogue with international innovations and progress in the field of veterinary sciences. Those few vets who fulfill the highest standards are swamped, daily under inhuman pressure with the huge numbers of injuries, illnesses and diseases rampant among the domesticated animal communities. The size, quality and dedication of the volunteers and potential para-vets are also minimal compared to the needs before us. Thus a systematic outreach campaign to students and others is essential herein.

A Study for ‘Ploughing’ by Ramkinkar Baij

A Study for ‘Ploughing’ by Ramkinkar Baij (Watercolour on paper, late 1940s. Signed in Bengali ‘Ramkinkar’)

Linked to the above, are the efforts towards adoption of pets and strays. Naturally, this is absolutely miniscule compared to the task before us (some claim India has over 35 million stray dogs). Further, adopting a newly born cuddly puppy is relatively easy (though even if this alone significantly grows it will be a saving grace); the current need are for those aged 6 months onwards, which demands a genuine compassionate heart and a will to share yourself with a ‘lifetime’ commitment (anything more than 10 – 12 years for a dog). Those who start adopting puppies, later realize the care required as they grow, and many are abandoned, only leading to further problems and loss of hope in those who gave it a chance. This needs to be avoided desperately.

Naturally, the elderly, blind and severely handicapped dogs are the hardest to place in normal homes, for which special institutions and shelters need to be built and open their doors with love and care. This is a task which is falling behind radically, demanding the deepest service, compassion and heart-break. I feel until the general awareness and atmosphere towards strays and the related tasks at hand are not grasped, this will continue to be falling short of target.

The Deers by Kshitindranath Majumdar (Watercolour and wash on paper, nd, Early 1950s,  Signed in Bengali ‘Kshitin’)

The Deers by Kshitindranath Majumdar  (Watercolour and wash on paper, nd, early 1950s. Signed in Bengali ‘Kshitin’)

Of course, feeding decent food, providing medical and emergency care regularly is an obvious need, and in many urban communities today, there are the angelic souls who dedicate themselves to this task irrespective of hail and storm. Seeing such souls (Sonya Ghosh being the angel of my vicinity) should further inspire all to take on this larger responsibility, though at times it feels disheartening unless many others share this task. It is just like bandaging the infinite wounds which keep on coming, and bottomless tummies which find no relent.

For example, in just one small corner of Vasant Kunj, I count over 3,000 needing daily nourishment. One tackles 5% alone, thus (looking on the bright side) one would require just 20 more supporters in their community (from a population of over 20,000) and at least the daily survival moves calmly, allowing one time to tackle the larger framework systematically.

It is relatively easy if you just see the numbers involved, and yet lifetimes will pass with no respite. After all, with the refrain, that if we cannot do so for humans, how will it happen for stray dogs, sits in the back of all minds. Paradoxically, the inherent foolishness of this refrain actually opens out the solution, for each must give what they can and will. Some may find it easier to deal with dogs than humans, are they to be criticized for that? Do we stop giving in one corner because another corner is more desperate and hungry?

The existence of a deeper malaise should never stop the solving of other smaller related problems, for in that momentum and energy, the larger disease will ironically find new solutions and perspective. Of course humans will radically gain from the solving of our stray dogs challenge, mostly in the compassion which is generated in society, which today could be more easily inspired towards animals, for maybe we have more trust and kindness towards speechless animals rather than towards noisy humans. It may seem a most awful thing to say, but it may be true for some, given the problems the human race creates for itself. The resulting empathy which follows in the service of our domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats, would help the humans more deeply very soon.

In a way it is like how one felt when helping to create an awareness and loving appreciation towards the Indian arts. One had hoped that it could be tackled via charity, with writing books, organizing exhibitions, bringing fine minds to debate together, archiving, documenting, furthering research, and yet this was totally insufficient in itself unless economics deeply entered the arena. Thus, the first focus fell on helping to build an art market, to increase art prices with credibility, and through the market developing all the other intangible needs, step by step.

The realization broke the heart to some extent, but one had to sustain that journey, and later again transformations of strategies and foci will always be required, but that is the need of sustaining vision. The key is not to compromise on either integrity or the focus on quality, irrespective of failures. Today nurturing art appreciation through its aesthetics, history and creative values is so much easier than it was fifteen years ago. It will be the same for poverty alleviation. Any true developmental mind recognizes the tangential benefits of fighting smaller battles to prepare for the larger war.

Swachh Bharat is one clear example of that larger vision. The key is to see that in the success of one vision, others do not suffer too much, or more appropriately, all the potential victims must become heroes in new playing fields. The stray dog is like a child (science shows a dog has the  intelligence of a 2 year old), a deeply affectionate and honest creature, representing the very best in the human heart and soul, their prosperity will only herald human prosperity on so many levels, reinforcing once again the belief in human decency, so creating the momentum to once and for all re-tackle poverty, injustice and inequality in a more meaningful manner. Their invisible ‘blessings’ will inspire our day towards a new goodness, transforming the very atmosphere in which we work and play. So, find common friends who share your passion, systematically apply your minds to supporting or setting up an NGO or charitable society, find a good administrator and lawyer, start out simple and small, with objectives focused, something you can sustain weekly.

Over the coming years, hopefully we all will be able to contribute in some meaningful way, but for now, from Osian’s and myself a simple auction and catalogue, with no charitable intent, but simply a celebration on various aspects of the animal-human unity, which will hopefully encourage others to reflect and maybe consider volunteering their efforts to build a better world for animals. We are all children of the same cloudy sky; we all smile amid the droplets with the same desire to reach out and dance with empathy.

 Glimpses of the Opening Preview Exhibition

Osians auction

The Opening Preview of “All Creatures Great & Small” at Osian’s, Nariman Point, was attended by Connoisseurs from the worlds of art, film, diplomacy, banking and business, notably, eminent artists Gieve Patel, Sudhir Patwardhan, among others, noted film producer, poet & writer Pritish Nandy & wife Rina, India’s only International Steward for Formula One Racing & owner of the iconic Liberty Cinema – Nazir Hoosein, leading Indian Tax attorney – Porus Kaka, various business personalities such as Akshay Singhania, Sanjeev Khandelwal, Mukul Jain, Anupam Agarwala with leading film archivists & writers Amrit Gangar & SMM Ausaja, and many more.

More to read

Celebrating Freedom of Expression Through The Genius Of Raja Ravi Varma
Shah Rukh Khan Sets New Record Buying 2 Mughal-e-Azam Posters for Rs 6.84 Lakh
History, Rare Heritage Stars Of Osian’s Film Memorabilia Auction

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