My husband and I spent last Saturday shopping. A weary rather than exhilarating activity, both of us felt beat by the end of the day. So much so that when I was wrapping up the last chunk of requirements, I was already imagining scenarios to unwind. I pictured myself sitting at the corner table of Bird Song Café sipping hot chocolate, or curling up on our living room recliner, a book in my hand, or even getting foot massage with soft yellow lights in the backdrop.
But there was another scenario in store.
As I stepped out of the store, a heart-warming sight caught my eye. In the cacophony of glitzy lights, shopping bags, and intermittent rainfall, a semi-wet street dog, black and brown, average health, was standing on the pavement. He was not alone. A group of children had gathered around him. Five or six of them, dressed in rags, sitting down, encircling him. (I prefer referring to dog as ‘him’ and not ‘it’). Each of them was petting him. Tenderly. One of them caressed his head. The other one his ear. And the rest of them wiped the rain water off his body, helping him dry up. They were all showering care at this four-legged creature, unabashedly. And he was emoting back, eyes slightly shut, neck lowered to the ground, feeling gratitude.
The dog didn’t boast of a lineage aka ‘breed’. He didn’t have a beautiful coat. He didn’t have fancy-coloured ribbons clipped around his ears. He was ordinary. He was in the state of nature.
The children didn’t belong to families that had the luxury to buy dogs to keep them as pets. They came from difficult backgrounds. They didn’t have proper shoes to cover their feet nor umbrellas to protect themselves from the rain. I found that they belonged to families of two women who sold pens and handkerchiefs on that pavement.
Do you know what makes this bunch of children special? They had love in their hearts. They had kindness in their souls. And they had the courage to share that gift of loving kindness with others, including with a creature that stands lower in man’s self-centred hierarchy of universal domination. They shared this gift irrespective of the challenges they face for survival every day. Some of which we cannot even fathom because we live in alternate realities.
For me, these children had beautifully demonstrated the deeper meaning of what it meant to be ‘human’, the capability to feel and express empathy towards fellow living beings, oblivious of the unnatural barriers of socio-economic constructs that enslave us. I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s quote I read in childhood, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” I believe I saw its true expression only now.
No shot of caffeine or cushions or muscular stimulation could have relieved my tiredness as absorbing these fleeting moments of purity. As we walked ahead and sat in our car, my body was refreshed – inside out.
This article was published at Hindustan Times.