July-August 2006 Newsletter
They root for animals, so route your money to them :-)
Never in the history of MBT has such a large gathering ever assembled
at such a small place (Well, actually, it has, but hey, I am allowed the writer's licence for a tiny bit of exaggeration,
Well, what happened was this: over a period of two days, we, the People
for Animal Welfare Service (PAWS), a group of well-meaning working professionals, organised stalls for (animal) welfare organisations
like the WWF (no, that's NOT the World Wrestling Federation, it's rather the World Wildl Fund), BWC (short for Beauty Without
Cruelty) to display and sell their wares. These organisations, through various means, mobilise funds and do their bit to ensure
that the oft-forgotten and neglected denizens of our planet - animals, the wild ones (no, we're not talking about the two-legged
variety here!) and the not-so-wild, down to the little ones like our own friendly neighbourhood dogs - live a good life too.
In order to make this event a success, the indefatigable soldiers of
animal welfare, a.k.a. PAWS members, came up with attention-grabbing posters and message-boards at various "strategic" locations
all over the MBT office. These posters provided teaser-previews of what visitors could expect at the stalls. And if the number
of visitors was any indication, then the posters and boards were a huge success.
Beauty Without Cruelty focusses on spreading the message of not killing
animals for commercial use. In their own words, they would like to "Introduce people to other options. Give non-leather a
chance." Most of us tend to believe that substitutes for leather aren't as good as leather itself. BWC's mission is to prove
such notions wrong. The number of products that they had on display was really a revelation for most visitors, including the
PAWS members themselves. The products ran the whole gamut from wallets (for men and women) to mobile covers, with everything
in between (including office stationery!). And if you thought the price would be a huge deterrent, well, you are in for a
pleasant surprise as well!! With all these, would a campaign for vegetarianism be far behind? No way! There were posters,
sign-boards and books that advocated "A Vegetarian Lifestyle" for all of us. And, thanks to organisations like BWC, this isn't
limited to veggie food habits alone!
It was very satisfying personally for us PAWS members to hear the warm
words of praise from BWC - they had received a huge number of orders from the zealous MBT-ans, since the stock that they had
brought with them had sold out completely!! Now, that's what we would call a job well done, is it not?
All good things come to an end - or so it is believed. But this is one
thing that should probably never end. I am referring to the magnificent work done by a
bunch of committed people and occasional volunteers at Uttara's Ark, situated in Katraj, housed in the same
compound as the Rajiv Gandhi Zoo (erstwhile Katraj Zoo).
What had started out as a seedling idea was slowly taking shape as we,
the members of PAWS (People for Animal Welfare Services), hit the road on our bikes last Sunday and wended our
way to the zoo, to meet one Dr.Neelam Khere, who is running the show at Katraj. We
got down to business and found our way to the man's office. One of the volunteers told
us that since meeting him would take some time, she would show us around Uttara's Ark so
that we could
get an idea about the place. It sounded like a good idea and off we went.
Uttara's Ark is a shelter for rescued wild animals. Rescued from what, you
ask? From unsuitable and cramped cages, from cruel owners and / or trainers,
and from labs that are still experimenting on them, much against the law. Many of the
animals are housed here temporarily, and are released back into their original habitats
once they're restored to their normal health
and fitness. But some of them have undergone a great
amount of physical / mental trauma prior to their rescue, and these are simply retained
at this place, where they're taken care of with loving kindness and affection. There's yet another category
of animals and birds: those that have never seen the wild, i.e., those that have
been born and bred in captivity. These get to
spend their entire lives here since they are simply not
capable of fending for themselves in the wild.
We saw parakeets (these are commonly mistaken for
parrots), eagles, a couple of hyenas (and a cub), a few bears, a handful of leopards (some cubs), lots of monkeys and many,
many more animals and birds. One of them, an exotic bird called Toca Tutan, is a resident of the South American
continent, but it was a mystery to us how she ended up here. She's got a biggish beak, her plumes are
of brilliant, bright colours and she sure turns many necks! We asked our volunteer friend
and she mentioned that she was handed over to them by an ashram where her care-taker had died and
she simply refused to eat when anybody else tried to feed her. These guys, however, were much
too smart for her, and they shrewdly placed a mirror in the bird-cage which seemed to do the trick!
Just for the record, we even saw a leopard which was allegedly of the man-eater
variety. Since she did not seem very happy to see us and expressed her displeasure in no uncertain terms, we beat a hasty
retreat and left her alone!
At last, Dr. Neelam Khere found some time to talk to us (he was quite busy that
day). He explained to us that this sanctuary (for the wild animals only) tended to nearly a thousand animals every year
(!!) And indicated that a tremendous amount of money was spent every year for the purpose. We told him
that, to start off with, we would help in getting their good work known to the world
by putting up a web-site
and that we would contribute our might by way of volunteering for work over the weekends. He reminded us that more than numbers,
he was keen on commitment to the purpose.
With our main purpose achieved, we decided to take a further look around the snake
park. Mr. Shirke, the manager, kindly arranged for the same volunteer to show us the snakes, up close.
When Devna, the volunteer in question, offered to let us hold the snakes, a couple of us
readily agreed, and yet another two were not really sure. Believe me, folks, the snakes are not slimy to touch,
contrary to the popular notion. The sliminess, we learned, was a direct consequence of the snakes' preference to remain in
/under water (snakes are cold-blooded and can't alter their body temperature so they cool off in the water). We
touched and held a "dry" snake, and found that it was quite soft though a bit scaly. It was not repulsive
at all, and I, for one, wouldn't mind holding one in my hands again, as long as
it's not poisonous. Thanks, am not confident of handling a poisonous one at all!!
Talking of poison, we saw one of the most poisonous of them all, The King
as Som likes to call it: the King Cobra. I remembered reading that King Cobras are generally
very long, but that knowledge didn't really prepare me for what I saw. Imagine a nearly
ten-foot long bundle of deadly venom, long enough for the raised hood to be nearly 2 feet up from the ground, and I'm
sure you'll find a chill going down your spine! We found this King slithering with ease
around the enclosure with amazing speed. I mean, we all know how those pythons move - slow and lethargic.
But slow is definitely not the word to when describing the King! I told myself that I wouldn't
venture anywhere near this one,
PAWS or otherwise!
After this, Devna referred us to another young chappie, Hiten by name, and
asked him to show us around the zoo. He did for a while, but then we realized we
were way too hungry to complete the trip without further nourishment. So, we quickly made our way to the nearest refreshment
stall and stuffed ourselves with what we could lay our hands on - which wasn't much actually. Anyway, the
lad excused himself and we continued the rest of the trip
around the zoo, sauntering in a leisurely manner
and admiring the animals in their spacious enclosures.
Before long, we found that we were famished (it was around
4 p.m., and we had started out in the morning around 11 a.m.) and decided to get back
to our homes after a meal. We all had a fabulous meal (thank you Somnath) at Pizza Hut,
where we also watched (on TV of course) Viru Bhai completing a scintillating double-century. We
left with good memories of the day and even
more enthusiasm about the work we were going
to commence. The ground-work was getting done and we were keen to get on with it.