LUDHIANA - Punjab, India: Part 3
We love visiting Punjab. It’s like we've come ‘home’ - a sense of ‘belonging’. We can’t describe the joy that we feel, but we know that we truly feel connected to the land. But we also feel a sense of sadness and disappointment in the way that animals and people are treated.
No doubt India makes an ideal backdrop for a photographer. It’s like one big photography studio with all the best props and equipment to play with - you’ve got a spectrum of colours from a majestic sunrise/sunset, vivid cloths and fabrics hanging from shop windows, and those rustic walls that have a ‘fading beauty’ element about it. But behind the stunning picture perfect postcards, there’s the harsh reality about the way the country, and it’s people, function at a grass-roots level.
The eyes cannot ignore that which they can see. Our heart literally feels shrouded in a black cloud when we see buffalos and their calves seperated from one another, and tied to posts by chains the length of both our arms. It’s the same for dogs kept as pets - chained outside in the blazing heat, with little (unclean) or no water. It would be unfair for us to say that ALL pet dogs and buffalos are kept in this manner, but in the five times we've have been to India, we've rarely observed any other way.
Our Mum told us that buffalo calves are seperated from their mothers, otherwise they’ll drink all the milk and there’ll be none for milking. We can see why that makes sense, and also makes us hypocrites for all the times we've ever drunk cow's milk. As for the dogs; well, they’re tied up because the owners fear they’ll run around biting people. Rabies anyone?
Perhaps the villagers are ignorant on how best to keep a dog, or to chain up their buffalos in a more humane manner. Or perhaps they’re obeying the orders of their elders, who have always done things this way. We did try to educate a female village elder on how to look after a dog (we had a beautiful best friend in a dog called ‘Zink’, for thirteen wonderful years), but the woman said, ‘It’s just a dog. We have it to keep watch of the house’. We tried to explain to her that the dog's water bowl needs topping up (which we did ourselves, and it lapped up immediately) and that if it needs to be tied up, do so under the shade. She just laughed at us as if were were being unnecessarily excessive for just a dog.
Our second trip to India was when we were eight, (first, when were three years of age) and our young Western eyes were mortified to see scraggy stray dogs (and people) sleeping rough, all bones and hardly and skin. We remember praying, doing our ardas, that the animals and humans somehow find some food, clean water and dry shelter each day - God, please Waheguru, look after the animals and humans. Don’t let them suffer like this. We would ask our parents why was there so much suffering in India. Why so many beggars? Why so many stray dogs?
We don’t remember there ever being a proper justification to the extreme poverty, and disregard for human and animal life.