There are many stray dogs in Mumbai, most of which have a proprietorial air despite their starved and down-at-hell looks. They compete for the same food and resources (I suppose) as the poor street children.
Looking as though they have completely the right to be there, they will lie down in the middle of a busy pavement (or street sometimes) sunning themselves, or even settle in the corner of a stairwell in a public building having just wandered in.
The weird thing is that everybody will just walk round them, almost pretending that they are not there. Not a “shoo” or a kick to disturb them.
In fact, there is a tan dog that just seems to think it is a good idea to lie in the highway near Flora Fountain. And the taxi drivers – who care for nobody else - just drive round him...!
This is nothing similar to the British love of domestic pets. No one pets these animals, or feeds them, attends to them, or wants to care for them.
In my (admittedly limited) experience of households in Mumbai, it is mostly the upper classes that share the insane idea that it is good to keep a dog in the house; or indeed keep a dog at all.
So how to account for this apparent consideration given to those dogs who… well, frankly… are in the way…and not a little frightening?
I was about to put this down to the Mumbaiker’s great sense of insouciance until I learned one day that the black dog that lies around outside our building had bitten one of the drivers late one night. We all fussed around, bought some medicine, and bandaged the wound.
To my amazement however, the next morning I saw the black dog lounging in the lane as usual – completely undisturbed.
Rabies is still prevalent in
The staff was amused by the thought that I could “contact the authorities”. What authorities?, they asked.
In frustration more than seriousness, I suggested: “Shall we organise a humane shooting of the dog if the authorities will not pick it up?” I asked this question of the security guards as I thought they might be a little more thoughtful – after all, after the children, they were next at risk.
They looked horrified. “Shoot it? No one can shoot it”.
“We would in
And so, the dog is still there.
I take a very wide circle around it when I walk down that way.
What I had forgotten was the visceral, cultural, Hindu repulsion for wanton killing. The dog survives, because killing something is simply repulsive.
To commit such an act would be more damaging to someone than being bitten by the dog.
This aspect of India took its most manifest form was I was in the ‘slum’ one day, and a large bristly cockroach made an appearance in one of the homes. They’re quite quick, so I determined to stamp on it before it disappeared – but this was plainly not to be allowed. The lady of the house shook her head, and chased it out with a brush instead.
Afterwards I said to her – don’t you even lay traps for the rats that so often come in? No, she did not. Surely, you must slap the mosquitoes that settle on your skin? No, never, one drives them away with smoke. Surely, you spray fly-killer at least? No.
I was stunned. The disease brought into the slum by mosquitoes in particular causes havoc.
Later she confessed to me that she had once, years ago, killed a snake in a fit of fear, but that her culpability for its death haunted her even now.