I was quite surprised when my friend Leela, invited me for her child’s birthday party! I didn’t even known she was expecting a baby and, out of the blue, this invitation made me wonder how the urban hustle- bustle can overtake human relations. Not too sure whether it was a boy or girl, I settled for a pair of bath towels as gift and went — all prepared to cuddle the new arrival. After all, Leela had been pining for a child for ove 15 years and it was a happy occasion indeed.
There was a fairly large gathering and not too surprising as Leela is quite an active member of the Ladies Club and fairly popular. The usual buntings and balloons added to the gaiety. There was a sudden hush, as Leela entered with her baby — a lovely black poodle! Everyone ‘cuchee cooed’ over the little one but somehow, I could not join in the festivities that followed.
What a disappointment. I’d have expected a staunch social worker like Leela to have at least adopted a child and given an unfortunate homeless waif love and a new life. Instead, she preferred adopting a dog! Granted, we have to be kind to dumb animals, but surely not at the cost of humans! How topsy turvy is our value system!
I think we carry this love for dogs to an alarming extreme. There is a vegetarian friend of mine in the Armed Forces, who got a dog only because meat is given as ‘free’ ration. Surely she could give it to her maid who has growing children? Her contention is that as she does not have to spend on food, she may as well keep a dog! Many childless couples acquire half-a-dozen dogs and pamper them and fuss over them. Instead, why not adopt a few slum children to the extent of providing food for them or sponsor their education or something that will give them a better life? “Dogs are more loving” is the argument. Surely not more satisfying than the smile on a child’s face or the delight of a baby’s gurgle!
Women like Leela who are opinion leaders in society should set an example. If they can choose between bringing up a baby or a dog, why not go in for the former or both, if they can afford them? “Who knows what stock the child comes from? At least in the case of a dog, we are sure of the pedigree”. There are some who go to the extent of mating pedigreed animals to be able to ‘adopt the pup’.
Being kind to animals does not mean treating them to goodies which could do more for humans. Nature has willed it that animals serve humans. A cow is meant for milking, a sheep can be sheared for wool, a horse for riding, a dog for guarding the house — we seem to have mixed up this business somewhere along the line.
I remember a very pathetic refrain from Auden’s poem. A dog with a lovely satin bow around his neck is lovingly lead into the house while an old man and his grandson are shivering on the pavement. The old man says the dog is lucky for he is not a 'German Jew’. The poem talks of the misery of Jews in Hitler’s Germany, but have we come any farther from that?