Article by Rakesh Shukla for ‘The Voice of Stray Dogs’.
For more than 10 years I’ve seen this sea of green canopy in front of my 6th floor window – its about 1sq km, and most people who see it from my window are left dumstruck for this to be in the middle of Bangalore. I knew it to be government land, not open for construction. I am like one of those people I’m throwing stones at, other than perhaps that one struck me, and I woke up.
The sea of green wasn’t the only thing I was thankful for. Where I stay is where you buy an apartment for maybe $250K + and in this golden circle of convenience there are two 5 star hotels, a golf course, our office and 2 of our largest customers Intel and Microsoft. All within a straight line distance of less than 200mts! In my myopic view that was good. Right?
On the main road everyday there is a group of dogs that I feed. Some stay around. Some don’t. One of them (the friend of one of my babies – called Mama – therefore called ‘Mama’s friend’) was not around for a month, and yesterday she came. She’d evidently been lactating and I decided to follow her to her babies. I was out of the chicken-rice meal that I carry so decided to buy a few large packets of glucose biscuits (crackers!) for the dogs that I was going to find – and started following her.
As I entered the lane, there is a tap where there are always people in the morning when it is giving out water. That is only for a couple of hrs everyday. Mama’s friend and I walked – past a few of my dog friends jumping with joy with the smell of me, and the biscuits. 150mts into the lane the narrow concrete lane ended and we entered the canopy. But this was not a sea of green, it was a clearing with a village of small shanties under the canopy.
The scores of dogs and puppies were now joined by a group of children all gunning for the same biscuits. I kept handing them out and kept walking. A scene from the really truly rural India lay in front of me. Women going to and coming back with plastic pots (matka’s) on their waists, one clutching the pot the other a small child on her bosom. A man cutting firewood. A clutter of houses – all temporary constructions with salvaged wood, pieces of plastic and fallen coconut palm fronds for roofing arranged in a wide T.
The children were followed by their parents and I learnt that this place has been here for 9 yrs. Most people are from Gurbarga in North Karnataka. 70 families live here. About 500 people including 50 children. But that itself is not startling, what is, is this:
- There is no water – the lone tap at the head of the lane is the supply. The days it does not give water, there is no water at all.
- There is no sanitation or toilet facilities of any kind.
- There is no electricity.
- The only source of light and cooking fire is firewood and candles
- All of the population speaks Kannada but they just be in some other country – for none of them even have a voting card.
Within 200 mts of my ‘golden circle’ are these forgotten people – people who don’t exist because there is no single identification of any kind they carry. People that the government has forgotten – or rather they don’t even exist.
But you could see that they smile easily. And that there are dogs, puppies and babies that play around. This is also the one part of Bangalore where there is no man-dog conflict. That must be the only silver lining. If my dogs have to have a better future, these folks deserve it too.