Beast, India –
2005 – There
are many things left to tell you about India. I hope you can stand
one more installment. Next
see an American Great Dane,
I promise. In the meantime, I hope you'll stick with me.
It's been said that whatever is TRUE of
India, the exact opposite is also true. Another way to explain it is
through an ancient Indian
parable. It speaks of
six blind men who together encounter an elephant for the first time.
The modern version of the tale goes something like this:
The first blind man
put out his hand and touched the elephant’s side. “How smooth!” he said. “An
elephant is like a wall."
The second blind man touched the trunk. “How
round! An elephant is like a snake."
The third blind man touched
the tusk. "How
sharp! An elephant is like a spear."
The fourth blind man touched
the leg. "How
tall and straight! An elephant is like a tree."
The fifth blind
man touched the ear. "How
wide! An elephant is like a fan."
The sixth blind man touched
the tail. "How
thin! An elephant is like a rope."
An argument ensued,
each blind man insisting that his own perception of the elephant
—Lillian Quigley, The Blind Men and the Elephant
Of course, the elephant was huge, and each
man touched only one part. They would have to put all the parts together
to discover what an elephant is really like. Even then, would they
truly understand the elephant? I think not.
The same is true of India
I've been to India
many times, but I do not know India. I never will. It is beyond
my grasp, and it always will be. The best I can do is share some impressions
of what I found to be " true" in the context of
The illusive Great Dane
Since this is first and foremost
a web site about Great Danes, we'll start here. Yes, they have Great
Did I see any? No. Did I expect to? No.
However, I was contacted
by a breeder, Rajesh Katyal, who owns "Quinn" (CH Paquestone's
Quinton Quest), who was named the top Great Dane in India for three
years running. Rajesh, who lives in a suburb of New Delhi,
urged me to drop by for a visit. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible
to travel all the way
Rajesh has invited me to come back in December
to visit his Danes and attend
the Noida Kennel Club's annual show. He's secretary of the club.
by 2 different judges on the same day. The Dane entries for the last
couple of years have increased; we now get about forty.
If you cannot make it,
please try to come in January or February as we have a lot of shows
in North India. I am sure you would have a good time.
As for the number
of Danes living in India, they have increased a lot in recent
There have been some nice imports coming
into India from the US, some imported by me and some by my very good
friend, Ms. Gauri Nargolkar, who is also a breeder."
I'd love to go back to Delhi, one of my favorite
Indian cities, to see the Great Danes in the show ring. Maybe
it will happen.
Speaking of dogs...
The streets of India are completely overrun with stray dogs. Ten
years earlier (during my last visit to India) that wasn't the case.
Back then, the streets were home to countless goats and cows that foraged
teeming population of city dwellers. Their niche has now been taken
of ragged, homeless dogs. How many dogs are running free in India?
Five years ago the number was put at 25 million – one stray
for every forty persons. The current number is thought to be
80 million. That's one homeless dog for every twelve persons!
dogs lead a pitiful existence. They struggle to survive, ignored and
shunned by the general public. They are shunned for good reason. Rabies – almost
exclusively due to dog bites – kills
over 20,000 Indians a year, according to the World
has warned that the death toll could be as much as ten times higher
due to under-reporting.
What can be done? The most obvious solution
would be to destroy the street dog population. However, that's unlikely
to happen anytime soon in India, because a law was passed
in 1992 that made it illegal for municipalities to kill stray dogs.
would be another approach, but the expense of trapping and treating
over 50 million stray dogs is beyond the reach (and will) of the Indian
government. A cheaper solution would be to limit population growth
the dogs' access to food on the street. This would require Indian cities
to revamp their heavily burdened and inadequate
solid waste disposal programs.
Unfortunately, as far as I
know, the government is doing
little to address this mounting problem.
I predict that at some point,
when the threat to public health becomes intolerable, they will have
slaughtering the dogs.
where did all the "street goats" go?
In recent years India's middle class has
experienced a vastly improved standard of living. India's goats have
(apparently) also benefited, because they now travel around in auto-rickshaws
instead of on foot. I would not have believed
I had not seen it with my own eyes. My husband and I were riding in
a small rickshaw down a crowded city street in Ahmedabad. Suddenly
another rickshaw pulled ahead of us. Staring out from the back canopy
was a white goat. I'd swear he was smiling at us. The same rickshaw
two other goats, plus two boys. They were all crammed into the back
those of you who haven't seen one, an auto-rickshaw is a small open-sided "taxi" characterized
by a tin and/or iron body resting
on three small
in front, two
on the rear). It is one of the main modes of transportation in India.
There is a small seat for the driver up front and "bench seating" for
rear. It is not uncommon, though, to see numerous people tightly jammed
into the back of a rickshaw.
Traffic in India
My husband has long contended that riding in an auto-rickshaw is the
most dangerous thing we can do in India.
ride in rickshaws all the time. Traffic on the streets of India is
one big game of "Chicken." Vehicles of all description crowd
the road, from
camel carts to huge (and often grossly overloaded) trucks, most of
are in terrible condition. Traffic rules? Forget it. Indian drivers
love their horns – and they hate having anybody in front
of them. The boldest drivers
of the biggest vehicles demand the right of way, while rickshaw drivers
fearlessly weave in and out between them, jockeying for advancement
in the bottleneck. When things get particularly bad, I just close my
eyes and hope for the best. (The World
reported that in 2004 approximately 100,000
persons died and more than 1,500,000 were seriously injured
If the roads don't kill you in India, the bad air may just do the job.
You can smell India the minute you step off the plane.
Always. It's a distinctive smoky smell. As you move closer
to the cities the odor usually intensifies. Sometimes your
water and you begin to cough. It all depends on the source of the polluting
agent. Sometimes I have to cover
my nose and mouth with a scarf while riding in the back of a rickshaw.
After a few days of traveling around in a crowded Indian city, my throat
begins to tighten and I get hoarse. My husband always points out that
ultimately we can get away from the pollution, while India's citizens
have to live with it on a daily basis. According
to the US Department of Energy:
and urbanization have resulted in a profound deterioration of India's
air quality. India
has more than 20 cities with populations of at least 1 million, and
some of them are among the world's most polluted. Urban air quality
ranks among the
world's worst. Of the 3 million premature deaths in the world that
occur each year due to outdoor and indoor air pollution, the highest
number are assessed to occur in India. Sources of air pollution, India's
most severe environmental problem, come in several forms, including
vehicular emissions and untreated industrial smoke."
So why visit India?
After reading today's installment, you might be asking that question.
Well, there are a million reasons to visit India. (Or perhaps a billion,
since that's the population of India.) I thought I could
end my series on India with this installment, but I
haven't yet told you why India is so special. It looks like I'll have
to write another installment. Stay tuned.
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