DISCLAIMER – The thoughts expressed in this article are purely my own and there is no attempt to defame anyone. Any reference to anyone is purely coincidental and completely unintentional.
I was never raised in a housing society. Coming from a defence background, I was raised in camps around the country. Growing up in the defence services taught me the spirit of cooperation and brotherhood. It gave me the gift of understanding because we grew up with people from different parts of India, following different religions and practices. The defence services taught me that collective decision making (arrived at via mutual discussions), solves problems.
My married life has been spent in housing societies in Mumbai. Frankly speaking the living has not been much different from that of camp life but the learning has been starkly different. While I learnt cooperation and understanding in defence camps, I have learnt intolerance and apathy in cooperative societies. Ironic isn’t it that a place which is titled a cooperative society harbors uncooperative people?
When did we become so intolerant to the feelings and rights of others? When did we develop such apathy or impassivity towards fellow humans? Leave alone humans, I see instances of this intolerance and habitual hatred towards defenseless animals on a regular basis. Growing up in camps I always thought cooperation was about coexistence. I guess I was wrong. I guess the values inculcated in me by my defence upbringing are wrong. It’s laughable that in the defence the very values we learn are used to protect people who do not uphold such values. Sad indeed!
You may ask what has made me feel this way. What has made me feel so marginalized? More than marginalized, I feel victimized by the very people whom I have treated as friends and acquaintances. You may ask why so? Well, it’s because I am a pet parent. I am a dog owner residing in a cooperative housing society in Mumbai. That is my crime and for some, that is enough.
When I am told by the society that my dog will not be allowed in the garden areas or anywhere near the children play areas, I agree. When I am told that my dog should be leashed on all occasions when he is brought down and that I should only use the cargo lift for transportation when I am with my dog, I agree again. After all, I am living in a cooperative society. When I am further told that my dog should not litter anywhere in the building and if he does then the responsibility to clean rests with me, I accept. When I am told that I must carry a poop scooper when I take my dog out of the house, I acquiesce. In fact I carry the scooper out of the society premises also and scoop on the road as well. It is my civic duty to do so. In short whatever rules the society forms, I agree to.
However, when such preposterous suggestions are put forth that all dogs must be muzzled when brought down to the society podium, I don’t know whether to laugh at or rue the mentality of such people. I am told that I cannot walk my dog in the building basement (even though I never let my dog near any car and clean up after my dog every time) except in monsoons, I do have a problem.
I no longer can mutely agree to the norms that the society continues to lay down for me as a pet parent. Now I feel marginalized, victimized and I feel discriminated against even though I am following all rules. There are times when my children (girls) take the dog out and if they are not given access to the basement then taking the dog out of the society they face the following issues:-
- They have to hold the dog on a leash in one hand and hold the scooper in the other. Doing this they need to cross a busy street which has heavy vehicular traffic. It is a hazard.
- They have to defend the pet dog against stray dogs which roam outside the society and are territorial. They attack at times.
- They have to endure lewd glances, comments and whistles from men & boys who frequent the streets.
- They have to do all the above in 40 degree temperature, in the Mumbai afternoon heat when the sun relentlessly beats down on them.
Honestly, living in the times that we do when crimes against women are at an all time high, I am scared to send my girls out with the dog. I do take the dog out and am happy to do so but as a working woman, there are constraints. I cannot be around for the evening walk. So what I understand now is that in accordance to society rules, I need to ensure that my children are unsafe. Yes, unsafe and not safe (you read it right the first time.) Ironic again!
We work so hard to ensure the safety of our kids. We even do not want other kids in the society to be unsafe. We create play zones for them so that they do not have to venture out of the society. We support others when it comes to their children but when the time comes to compassionately regard another’s; we have an issue.
Is this what the human race is reduced to? If it is then I must say it is better to be a compassionate animal than be a non-compassionate human.
Image – Emran Yousof via unsplash