The city of Pune where I presently live is a haven of activists. You can’t cut a tree in your garden—the environmental activists are watching. Don’t stare at a stray dog—animal rights people are all over. However, you can call the animal welfare department when you spot a stray dog or a snake.
If you spot a snake in your garden, then dial a specified number and they will come with their snake van, catch it. They will take it to the snake sanatorium. Every Tuesday, they release them back to the wild. A lot of development is happening all over the city. It results in snakes and other wild animals losing their habitats and food. So, they have to stray into private properties and gardens.
So, one day my moment to be a proud animal lover came. I spotted a snake, hurried home to to call the Snake Van people. Nobody picked up my call, by the time I returned to make sure the snake is still there, someone had killed it. If you are lucky to get through to the snake welfare department, and if the snake you spotted is lucky too, then they may come in their van to catch it. These lucky snakes get another lease of life.
Now, the Dog Van also works the same way. If your neighbourhood has stray dogs all that you have to do is punch the number of this department. And sit back! They may or may not come. If your stars are favourable, they may turn up.
You will know if they are coming or not. By the time they are at the gate of the 25 acre campus where we live, every single dog disappears! They come in their van with dogs that they have already caught in cages. Some may be barking and some howling, unhappy with their bondage. The strays pick up the scent of the new prisoners. Their fears are confirmed by the howling and barking of the agitated captives. Maybe they are warning their fellow-creatures to run for their lives. They are concerned that this misfortune should not fall on them too.
The snakes in the snake van just crawl in a corner of the cage when caught. Each time the snake catchers come (if they ever come), they catch more snakes. There is no one to warn them. Their own kin who were caught don’t realise there is danger.
When I was much younger, I was fooled by a mugger on my very first visit to Mumbai. With some hand-tricks, he just walked away with my money and gave me an empty wallet. I was ashamed to tell this to anyone. In order to get some help, I had to disclose this to a few friends anyway.
The news reached my friend’s father who was a sort of mentor to me. One day, when I paid him a visit he asked me how did my visit to Mumbai go. I said, everything was perfect and really enjoyed it! He prodded and I had to tell him how that mugger walked away with my money. Then came the question: ‘Why do you keep away this from your friends?’ Obviously, I didn’t have an answer. The wise man, he continued after a contemplative pause. ‘See son!’ He continued. ‘Only if you share what happened to you with your friends, they will be watchful. By telling them what happened to you, you will help them to watch out and avoid what happened to you.’
That was like an apple falling on my head. Honest admission of our failures can help others. Like the dogs in the Dog Van, they are probably ashamed that they were not smart enough not to be caught. They howl at the top of their voice to warn others to avoid what happened to them. What happened to them is shameful, but they don’t want to add to this guilt as well—guilt of not warning others. So, it is a narrow choice of shame and guilt; I think in such situations it is better not be guilty.