Sunday, December 12, 2010

Towards Hope and Change

Hindustan Times asked me to write for a column on the second anniversary of the 26/11 attacks. This appeared in the HT edition of 28 November, 2010.
Little did I know as I was vaccinating stray dogs around Nariman House on November 22, 2008, that it would go through such mayhem four days later. In fact, little did I know of Nariman House at all.

A year later, I went in when it was opened to the public, to pay my respects. I was pained to see the walls riddled with hundreds of bullet holes; ‘live’ television images of a petrified nanny bravely clutching baby Moshe flashed in my mind. How could she have had the courage to do what she did? But there were stories of such bravery across Mumbai during the attacks.

Some of these heroes lived to tell their tales; sadly, many did not. They left behind families and friends whose pain could be sensed by others, but not entirely. The survivors, too I’m sure, were forever changed by the trauma of those horrifying nights.

What could the common man do to show that he cared? We turned out in large numbers at Gateway of India on December 3, 2008, a week after the attacks began.I was one of nearly a lakh people who congregated there to express their rage and demand changes.
In the crowd were youngsters and senior citizens, college students and office-goers, homemakers, celebrities and everyday Mumbaiites, people from far and near, children, even some toddlers… it was democracy at its most vibrant.

The protest was vocal and yet peaceful, with candlelight vigils and placards huge and small honouring the memory of those lost. Signature campaigns and T-shirts made their declarations; there were spontaneous renditions of the national anthem.

Two years on, sceptics might ask if it was enough — all the meetings, functions and prayers. I think it was a good start. Every meeting and memorial is not just a tribute to those we lost but also a push for political change, maintaining pressure on the powers that be. Just like the RTI, a single Act, changed how the average citizen interacted with the government.

I think it was due to all the citizen-led movements that there have been at least some improvements — like us getting a more proactive home minister at the Centre, new bulletproof vests for our policemen, modern weaponry and security equipment, a more mobile NSG, better disaster management cells, a more secure coastline, Force One commandos, armoured vehicles and so many more metal detectors.

Of course, the ultimate vindication will probably come only when we see a fast-tracked judgment against the perpetrator(s) as per India’s legal and constitutional framework.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

WSD - Lucky Dogs Of Mumbai - Calendar 2011

The Welfare of Stray Dogs calendar 2011 celebrates the many individuals and families who have opened their homes and their hearts to street dogs.

These wonderful people have understood the significance of adopting a loving animal from WSD rather than buying one from dubious breeders. In some cases, the families wanted to buy a ‘pedigree dog’ but found true love when they met one of our kennel dogs.  These dogs of the Indian Pariah breed are hardy, intelligent, good-looking, affectionate, and make instinctive watchdogs.

The WSD Adoption programme was started in 1994 to promote the adoption of street dogs and abandoned pets. WSD behaviorally assesses each dog and matches his/her temperament with that of the prospective owner. We also screen the owner to ensure that the dog goes into a responsible and committed home.

All the dogs featured in the calendar - although once living the hard life – are now the embodiment of ‘happily ever after’ stories in their new homes.  In spite of being adopted as adults, they have adjusted beautifully to their new surroundings, shattering the myth that only pups make great pets.

We hope that these success stories will result in many more such beautiful bonds.

The calendars are available at the following places for Rs 150. All photos taken by Rohan Mukerjee.


South Mumbai
Colaba and Kala Ghoda

Rhythm House : 40, K. Dubash Marg (Rampart Row), Kala Ghoda, Mumbai 400023. Tel: 4322 2727
Dr Padam’s Clinic: Ground Floor, Mohini Mansion, Opposite Strand Cinema, Colaba, Mumbai – 400 005 Tel : 22834842
Greenfields : Army Navy Building ( back entrance), Behind Westside, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai – 23. Tel : 65157507
WSD Office: C/o Mr F. Broacha, 2nd Flr, Yeshwant Chambers, B.Bharucha Marg, Near Fab India, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai – 23 Tel : 64222838

Valhalla : Eros Theatre Building, 42 Maharshi Karve Road,, Churchgate, Mumbai 400020  Tel :  67353535
Dr Leena Dalal’s Clinic :Green Fields, Opposite Oval Maidan, Churchgate, Mumbai – 21 Tel: 66153497 

Kemps Corner and Warden Road
Celebrations :  Cymroza Art Gallery, Warden Road, Mumbai  Tel :32953043      
Ibrahim’s Pet Shop : Kemps Corner, Mumbai – Tel: 23806278

Pawfect : Shop no AS 10, Forjett Street, Anand Nagar building , Tardeo, Mumbai. Tel : 64463129 
Dr Tina Rustomji’s Clinic :Gamadia Polyclinic, Gamadia Colony, Tardeo – Mumbai - 34 Tel: 23519105

Central Mumbai
Blue Frog : Mathuradas Mills Compound, NM Joshi Marg, Lower Parel, Opposite Kamala Mills Compound, Entrance From Tulsi Pipe Rd  Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013 Tel : 40332300
Dr Makrand Chavan’s Clinic : Shop No 1, Matoshree Tower, Kohinoor Mills Lane, Shivaji Park, Dadar – Mumbai- 28 Tel: 24380756

Western Suburbs
Paws and Furs : Shop No 3, Kailash,156, Waterfield Road, Bandra, Mumbai. Tel: 66990858
Tailwaggers : 16th Road, Behind Hawaian Shack, Bandra, Mumbai. Tel: 9820127572          

Dawgz : B4, Snowhite CHS, Ground Floor,  18th Road, Opposite Fabindia on Khar Danda Road, Khar (W), Mumbai. Tel  26056810

Vile Parle
Pet Range : Shop No 4, Saroj Building, Opposite Grasshopper Restaurant, Near Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle, Mumbai 400 056.

Dogaholics : Shop No 6, Garden View, Shastri Nagar, Lokhandwala , Andheri(W) – Mumbai. Tel : 9819004010

Eastern Suburbs
Dr Deepa Katiyal’s clinic : Ghatla Village Rd, Opp.Ratna Supermarket, Chembur 8, Pushpanjali Co-op Housing Soc.Ltd, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400071. Tel : 25503887
  Anokhi, 6, Russel Street, Kolkata - 700 071
 Earthcare Books, 10, Middleton Street , Kolkata - 700 071 

(Please telephone the respective outlet for their timings and availability)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mumbai's Bird Man

The first time I met Pradeep was some fifteen years ago when we were vaccinating street dogs against rabies in the Fort area. He was playing cricket on an empty Sunday  street, on the otherwise busy P.M. Road and he suddenly came up to me and muttered in Hindi. “I will help you in the vaccination”. That was to be a very long association and he still helps us not only with his passion- the birds but also with other animals .  
Had written this for the Outlook magazine some years ago…..this is the unedited version….
Pradeep D'Souza - ducking the camera
You will have to go round and round a spiral wooden staircase that winds up  four floors, come to a open to the sky terrace, enter a little room, climb onto a steep ladder, go through a little window and finally you would have entered into Mumbai’s birdman, Pradeep D’Souza’s little bird haven, a shelter cum hospital ‘nestled’ on top of a small terrace in the heritage Queen’s Mansion in the Fort area of South Mumbai. 

Pradeep had a passion for birds since his childhood days as his older brother used to keep pigeons as pets. When they fell sick and as there was no vet who was specialized in the treatment of birds, all he could do was see them die. Determined to save his birds, Pradeep started reading books on bird care and medication. He learnt about preventive vaccinations for Ranikhet or Newcastle disease and treatment of various bird ailments.
A rescued masked booby

Thus in 1997, he started treating injured and sick birds brought by other people and till date must have treated over 3000 feathered flock of different species.  From the common ones like parrots, pigeons, crows and kites to the rarer ones like eagles, falcons, mask boobys and night herons; they have all passed through his healing hands.

Pradeep treats more than hundred birds a month. His name as a bird savior has spread far and wide and people bring injured birds to him from all over Mumbai, even from far flung places like Virar and Nala Sopara.  There is a cage kept in the compound of the building where people can deposit the birds. He is currently housing more than 250 birds that include thirty parrots, eight owls, thirty kites, hundreds of pigeons, a duck, a mask booby, a night heron and crows.  All these are housed in cages weaved and built by Pradeep himself. As soon as a bird heals up he lets them free depending on their original habitat.

He says that his birds always remember him. A kite that he housed for two months due to injury and was set free after it healed, refused to go away and kept coming back. His family has played a big role in supporting his passion. His mother helps out in the feeding and his brothers have always helped out financially. One of his brothers, Donald who runs a cable TV business and is a partner in a fast food joint called Fido’s near Sterling theatre has helped him with the costs he incurs on building bird cages and buying medicines. There are also some individuals who fund the feed expenses. 

But the soft spoken, shy and humble Pradeep says that it does not cost too much to maintain birds as medicines are not very expensive. He never charges anyone his services and in fact is shy when it comes to accepting any money.  He adds that his neighbors have been very supportive and never complain as his birds have never been a disturbance to the people around.
Pradeep's little bird haven
His dream is to have a large terrace which has plenty of sunlight; some where in South Mumbai so that he can treat thousands of birds and release them more easily.  Terraces anyone …. For the bird cause!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

And Mumbai's lifeline is being pulled by an engine !

These photos taken by me at 8:30 am today of a local train running slowly and is being pulled by an engine. This is between the Grant Road and Bombay Central stations on the Western Railway during peak commuter hours and it sums up "The Motormen's Strike' which paralysed Mumbai yesterday and would continue to do so today unless it is called off.

Read reports about the strike which is the biggest since 1974 , here here and here.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Kipling at the J J School of Art.

When I was in school, I used to go into the dean’s bungalow in the campus of the Sir J J. Institute Of Applied Art and collect ‘gunja’ or the red beads that fell into its compound from the red sandalwood / bead tree also referred to as Ratangunj in Marathi. In olden times, it is said that goldsmiths used to use these red beads as weights.

My visits were because of the fact that I studied at the next-door St Xavier’s High School and used to visit my sister who was a commercial arts student at the J.J School. Many years later as I developed an interest in Mumbai’s history, I came to know that the dean’s bungalow where we collected the red beads was historic as the well known Scottish born author and poet Rudyard Kipling was born here on December 13, 1865. Of course, the bungalow in which he was born was pulled down and another (shown below) was built in its place.

Rudyard’s father, John Lockwood Kipling was the first Principal of the J.J. School of Art. The J.J. School was funded by Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy, designed by George Twigge Molecey and opened in 1857 with additional buildings constructed between 1878 and 1907. Eminent architect, George Wittet who also taught at the Architecture school designed the School Of Architecture building. He has designed other Mumbai buildings like The Gateway of India, Prince Of Wales Museum (now Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya), G.P.O., Institute of Science, The Small Causes Court and Wadia and K.E.M Hospitals.

Here’s what Kipling wrote about Bombay in his ‘To the city of Bombay

The Cities are full of pride,
Challenging each to each --
This from her mountain-side,
That from her burthened beach.

They count their ships full tale --
Their corn and oil and wine,
Derrick and loom and bale,
And rampart's gun-flecked line;
City by City they hail:
"Hast aught to match with mine?"

And the men that breed from them
They traffic up and down,
But cling to their cities' hem
As a child to their mother's gown.

When they talk with the stranger bands,
Dazed and newly alone;
When they walk in the stranger lands,
By roaring streets unknown;
Blessing her where she stands
For strength above their own.

(On high to hold her fame
That stands all fame beyond,
By oath to back the same,
Most faithful-foolish-fond;
Making her mere-breathed name
Their bond upon their bond.)

So thank I God my birth
Fell not in isles aside --
Waste headlands of the earth,
Or warring tribes untried --
But that she lent me worth
And gave me right to pride.

Surely in toil or fray
Under an alien sky,
Comfort it is to say:
"Of no mean city am I!"

(Neither by service nor fee
Come I to mine estate --
Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.)

Now for this debt I owe,
And for her far-borne cheer
Must I make haste and go
With tribute to her pier.

And she shall touch and remit
After the use of kings
(Orderly, ancient, fit)
My deep-sea plunderings,
And purchase in all lands.
And this we do for a sign
Her power is over mine,
And mine I hold at her hands!

                                                                                                                                  Gillian Tindall in her book, 'The City of Gold' clarifies the reason why Kipling used the words “between the palms and the sea”. “When Kipling was born land – reclamation was only just beginning and the bay beyond the railway lines wasn’t yet filled up by the then Alexandra (now Indira) docks. The railway itself was a newcomer. The V.T.Terminus (now C.S.T) was not yet built and instead there was a small station called Bori Bunder named after an old wharf. So the Kiplings’ bungalow, with the trees of the maidan behind it could literally have been described as ‘between the palms and the sea’.

Another Rudyard Kiplings’ Mumbai connection is that of the beautifully sculpted marble panels in bas-relief on the Crawford market and the decorative panel of tutelary animals and the Indian River Goddess on the fountain inside the Crawford Market. They were crafted by Rudyard Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling.

Coming back to the bungalow, currently it is lying vacant and there was some talk about it being converted into a Museum but not naming it after Kipling. Hope they preserve the bungalow and if you have the time take a stroll into the beautiful J.J. School campus and look it up like so many foreign tourists who come clutching a copy of The Lonely Planet asking for directions of the Kipling bungalow.