Era walked down the slope with heavy feet. Another day at college had disappointed her. Her hopes were crushed with in the first few days of college life but every day elevated the disparity. She was mercilessly bullied by every other person and she couldn’t figure why. She was just another student like many others. There was nothing special about her, not great in studies, wasn’t involved in extracurricular activities yet there was unexplained disliking amongst the students towards her.
A squeak caught her attention. She turned around to a tangled pup to her neighbour’s hose. She felt pity but not brave enough to help him. She liked dogs from a distance but anything more than a wiggling tail scared her. Before she could think a possible way to help him out her neighbour poured a bucket of water on the pup. What, why! She thought. She unlatched the gates, took off her overcoat and calmly untangled the pup. For those few seconds she ignored her neighbours presence. Once the pup was free she wrapped him in her coat and walked away without making eye contact with her neighbour.
Deep down her blood was rushing with nervousness. She knew that her bravery would lend her in her neighbour’s bad books and not win praise. She calmly wiped him dry, fed him her leftover from lunch and let him go nuts in her lawn. For those few minutes she forgot how petrified she was of dogs. Satisfaction of reaching in the time of help was new. But she liked the feeling. Suddenly she was distracted by a pool of pups outside the gate.
‘Oh! What do I do now?’ She thought to herself as four pups with the mother stood gapping at the pup, who was inside. She remained perplexed. Opening the gate wouldn’t necessarily let the puppy out, it could just prompt the rest to come in. She didn’t care if they did but her fear was not letting her do anything. She scanned her fencing through and forth and found a spot which could let the pup out.
He was safe and now free. So she walked back in her house only to hear her mum yell an hour later. Her mum had returned from her work to the horror of 6 dogs and destroyed vegetable patch, which she had patiently planted. There was dog poop right on the steps which led to the front door of the house. Era scratched her head, smiled to herself and calmly assured her mom that she would take care of everything.
And she did, like a pro. She cleaned up, did possible patch-up of her mum’s kitchen garden and fed the overexcited pups who were now jumping all over her. And all through this the mother dog just sat calmly, in the lawn. Era was not yet ready to deal with the big one so she just threw some bread towards the big dog. She smelled and sat aside.
Era felt a little strange. So she tried again but the dog just refused to eat bread. So instead Era tried feeding her home-cooked roti which was graciously accepted by the mother dog. Once they were all fed she let them outside but only not to realise that this would now become a daily affair.
Post that day the pups and the dog eagerly sat outside Era’s house to welcome her when she returned from another awful day at the college. This forceful feeding and evening playtime with the fur babies made her smile, forget the awfulness and at peace. Gradually she stopped being afraid of them. Those minutes made her forget the problems she was dealing with. She kind of liked being around them and most importantly she felt the love that the dogs were showering back.
But in the meantime what she failed to realise was the clamour in her neighbourhood. Era lived in upper middle class part of the city. People here had a little more than sufficient but acted out as if they owned the town. She never understood their arrogance of possessing a little more but she hoped never to be like them. A penny less would do if it ensured not to be swapped with heartless people.
People began to dislike Era’s feeding the strays. They couldn’t understand why she was doing it. Feeding kept these dogs in the neighbourhood. They chased unknown passer-by’s like crazy, destroy peoples shoes, poop and pee in peoples compound and sometimes even pulled down clothes hung up to dry. The last one was complained by only one neighbour but they did. Because Era was probably doing the right thing and their neighbour people refrained from saying anything directly but the buzz of dislike was always on. She just didn’t know how to stop it because it did bother her, a lot in fact. Since people couldn’t complain the good act they began with the bad act. They mercilessly pelted stones, ran their car over, splashed water and the list just went on. But this didn’t really stop Era from doing what brought joy to her. She did care about the negative atmosphere but not more than the dogs. Over time she got all the dogs sterilised with the help of a local NGO(Pet Life), who offered to help and do it for free but couldn’t help her find a new home for these homeless.
One fine day when Era returned from college she saw the pups barking furiously at the mother dog. She just didn’t know why until she took a closer look. The mum dog had something in her mouth and was not letting the pups have it. When Era opened the gates she followed her in, climbed all the way up to her waist and handed her stale piece of bread, which she was carrying in her mouth. Era stood all puzzled not sure of what had really happened. All she could do was smile until she saw her neighbour pelt stones at one of the pups. By the time she rushed outside the gate her neighbour stood calmly without any sign of guilt of what she had done. In fact she gave a warm smile, greeted Era and walked back inside. This kind of behaviour was disturbing Era mentally. She didn’t know how to deal with such inhuman behaviour.
After lot of research, e-mail exchange and talks she came to a conclusion. She loved the dogs. Those eight months were the best months of her entire life. But at the same time she couldn’t adopt all of them. They had a modest house, two cats and her parents had full time job. There was no way that they could manage this level of energy after a tiring day. So she decided to rent the property opposite her house. The land was sufficiently big, properly fenced, had water supply and completely vacant. She volunteered to build temporary space for the dogs to sleep at night and during rains. Her family fed them twice a day, the NGO vaccinated the dogs and Era always played with the dogs in the evenings. To fund the maintenance cost she volunteered to work at Pet Life for few hours of every single day and longer hours on weekends.
This was just the beginning to her newly discovered love for animals. Every step motivated her to do something better and bigger. Gradually as funds flowed in which was donated by kind hearted people she decided to channelize it the right way by doing the right thing. Pet life operated the pets but always lacked space. So she opened her temporary shelter to more dogs which were injured and on their period of recovery. She worked day and night to ensure safety and well-being of these pets. She directed every thread of her energy towards helping these lives. But she was scared because she not only helped but also loved every single one of them. She shared genuine bond with every single dog and wasn’t sure if wanted to let them go. Now she had bunch of dogs, few cats and even a cow. Cats always found a forever home but nobody opted to adopt stray dogs in spite of being sterilized, vaccinated and human friendly. Gradually the dog count went up to 30 but Era remained positive and worked hard so that they didn’t have to go back to the street.
Everything was going smooth but her neighbours were getting irritated day by day. The dogs were out of their compounds but they still didn’t like the idea of having bunch of once stray dogs with a good life in their vicinity. They kind of felt hurt. Era’s actions had dented their ego. The power of money was being torn down by a 19 year old. They just couldn’t figure out how to crush a dependent girl’s good work.
So they tied the NRI in loop, who had rented the property for dog shelter and convinced him not to do so. The very next day she got an e-mail which brought her life to a stand still.
I would like to have my property back as I plan to begin with construction of my new house. Since we do not have any formal lease agreement this process need not be difficult to comply. I can give you one weeks time to empty my property but exactly seven days later my men will begin with the construction.
Have a Nice Day’
Her mind spontaneously switched off but she knew these were not Mr.Sharma’s words though he had e-mailed her. She couldn’t think or interpret anything. For the first time she had put her heart and mind to build something from nothing. Her devotion and good work was being questioned and about to be destroyed because some men didn’t like her good work. She couldn’t understand the cruelty level some people imbibed.
For the next two days she continued with her life without sharing the e-mail details with anybody. She couldn’t contemplate herself forget making others understand. Finally two later she took the initiative to speak to her parents. For a second they were mad at her, for being unnecessarily brave and trying to be all helpful and standing against the people she lived around with. She knew their reaction was coming from a good place and that they were only concerned and not really agitated. So she kept her calm and spoke to the Pet Life authorities. No way could they shelter 30dogs in a weeks time neither was anybody else interested to adopt them, not even a single one of them.
She tried to convince Mr.Sharma to give her some extra time but that didn’t quite work in her favour. She assessed and the only alternative the state welfare authorities gave her was to euthanize each one of them. She could adopt one or two but the rest needed to be put to sleep. Her heart sank when she heard the word euthanize. They were stray they said but Era’s emotions couldn’t distinguish between stray and best breeds.
She counted every minute until the last day. She had tried everything she possible could. Even hoping for a solution didn’t seem correct. For three days she kept walking up and down the lanes of her neighbourhood. She couldn’t seat without being bothered even for a minute.
On the last day she let the dogs free not sure why and continued with her walk. The dogs followed her around. On the way she spotted her neighbours special aided daughter who was seating in the lawn painting on a canvas. She was autistic and also an amputee. Era stood for a second, scanned around and opened the gates. She had never ever spoken to the neighbours ever since she had walked out with a soaking wet pup. The moment she unlatched the gates the dogs rushed inside. Era’s mind warned her decision of opening the gates but her heart knew that she was doing something right.
The moment Aanaya (The neighbours daughter) saw the dogs got down from her wheelchair and hugged one of the dogs. They all showered her with love. They were licking her, jumping around, wiggling their tails. With in minutes the dogs and Ananya were rolling in the mud, she laughing her heart out, expressing and acting out like never seen before. Era’s eyes moistened as she had eye contact with Anaya’s parents who were silently tearing up, standing on their poarch. They had never seen their child happy. No toys, no wealth had made her smile or express the manner these dogs had.
Without a word Era walked out and so did the dogs. Anaya followed on, on her hands encircled with dogs. Era spent her rest of the evening like any other normal evening. She knew her compassion had paid off. That night as planned she fed the dogs the best meal they ever had, petted each one of them and returned home all relieved. Post dinner she checked her phone. Mr.Sharma’s e-mail was notified.
‘Sorry Era, continue with your good work. Humanity wins again’