In a little shack of a home next to yet another tall building in Bangalore lives a man who has been in the city for only over a year. He works as a watchman near my sister's house, a Gurkha who came from here with his wife and kids looking for work. This man is special. In a place where people hardly find time to look up from their phones, this man spends his precious hours looking after four dogs, a few goats and a wandering cat or two.
This man reminds me a lot of my grandmother, who always seemed to be surrounded by happy animals. He makes me miss my cats too... One thing I had always told myself growing up with tamed cats was, when I got a place of my own or a job of my own, I would spend at least a little - time and money - on animals. I began my stay in Bangalore on a good note by befriending the strays around my sister's house. I felt rather high-horsey proud of myself until I met this man, and his four beautiful dogs.
Only found two models. Tiger and Ramu, the liveliest of the four, refused to stay still.
Dogs are man's best friends, he told me, when no one else stays with you, they will make sure you're safe. He told me how there used to be five dogs, but someone complained and a dog catcher took one away. They also wanted to take away Ramu, the rather spirited one, but the man's wife cried and cried that he was their pet and they had no business taking him away. The animals and the people of the household all sleep on these rickety cots under the open sky.
One of the dogs had an ear infection. They took him to the vet and he was cured but was left partially paralysed, it appears. They were not able to give him enough vitamins. He walks with a slight wobble. They give him meat whenever they can. I offered to buy him dog food whenever I could, and have tried to live up to my promise. The man told me if I feed the dogs, they will follow me around and love me like anything. You wouldn't believe, he told me, the sick dog who couldn't even walk straight would fuss over this young man who used to pet him. They just want your kindness, the man said.
One of the dogs spends his day in a small tea shop a little way away from the man's house. Through the day, you can see the happy fur-ball being a quintessential puppy and begging for scraps. At night, he cozies up on a bench and often, coming back from visiting a friend or the other, I have seen him surrounded in the tiny place by new dogs, other strays seeking shelter. It's lovely. And every time I pass them by, I feel ashamed. How thoughtless to say I needed to wait till I got my own job to help these needy many. You don't need a big income or a big house to do good. All you need is a big heart.