28th April, 2019: It was yet another field work day at Raushil village of Uttarakhand. With deadline nearing, the pressure of completing a study on ‘Water Availability v/s Consumption’ had compelled me to work even on a Sunday. In my opinion, that’s perhaps one of the most-commonly shared disagreement, and why not. Sunday is the only day when most of the people get a break from work and can catch up with friends and/or family members or doze off until late afternoon.
Well, I had no option to skip work but a choice to approach it differently, adventurously. What otherwise would’ve been a commute of 12km drive and 4km trek to the village down the mountain, I chose to travel 60km around the hill and reach it. At the outset, the plan of the journey was itself exciting and was complemented by the beautiful boulevards of pine trees across the entire route. At the climax of the journey, I had to park my bike at the bank of river Gaula and cross it on foot to reach the destination village Raushil on the other bank.
“A dog lover”, that’s how people who know me, will describe me. I already have two pet dogs – Alpha and Beeta and hope to form a tribe till Omega. While I was exploring the way through stones to step on and cross the river, I found Zudo (a dog). Right in the middle of the river (roughly 400m wide), surrounded by streams was Zudo, teary-eyed and jumping like a rabbit. She had brown hair, mixed traits and would’ve weighed about 500 gm; a stray breed, about a month old. She was longing for someone to discover her and show some compassion. With rough terrains around, remote location, sparse population and her being a puppy, one can easily deny that she lost her way and ended up here. She was abandoned!
After a long travel, this meeting was a perfect energizer. I could’ve never imagined this moment of being surrounded with mountains, sitting right in the middle of a river that flows for 600 km and meeting a friend I’d later name Zudo. When it was time to part ways and resume my journey, I could find no trace of human beings as far as my eyes could see. Neither could I leave this puppy stranded.
What could be the reasons that compelled someone to abandon her here? In the absence of an answer, I adopted her.
Coincidentally, during my study at Raushil, I came across Mehtas*, a family of 15 members that constitutes a couple (husband and wife) and their 13 children, all girls, from the age of 3 to 19 years old. The head of the family cursed his fate that his wife could not conceive even one boy and said that their purpose now was only to survive till their end. Such mindset combined with the poverty had worsened the condition of the family. We talked about many possibilities of a better life. But, this family has written off the potential they have for a better and deserving life. Not only that, with the stigma created by the society they live in, they haven’t let their girls pursue education or work in unorganized sectors or farms or even with cattle outside home.
They’re confined within the walls. The pitiful financial situation leaves their hope of getting married as if it was a fairy tale. Who is responsible for this? Half of the misery is created by the family while the other half is ensured by those living around.
In this disparity, it is interesting to know that we haven’t even spared the animals. Every pet lover would’ve come across the discrimination and to be honest, even my family suggested me to leave Zudo at a pet center or with any other responsible person, when they got to know that I’ve adopted a bitch. The biological changes in all the female species are similar but I couldn’t find any strong reasons, not even on Google, to change my decision. One would rightly argue that women are capable to take up available opportunities and enjoy the freedom but there are latent social and psychological hindrances that affect their evolution to be as free or safe as men. I hope we soon see a day when we are free from gender biases and respect co-existence of everyone. It’s just amusing how the debate competitions in school still have the topic of gender inequality as it was a decade ago.
Each time I look into Zudo’s eyes, I still ask the same questions and fall in the loop of thoughts wondering when would the times change. “Born a female. Is it my fault?”, she asks.
PS: Gaula river is a common place where people abandon female dogs. My flat owner here does not like them either and she offered to throw Zudo in the river as well.
*Name changed to protect identity