Every morning she is up before dawn. It does not matter how the weather is outside. She doesn’t mind the heat of the summer or the chill of the winter or the wetness of the monsoon. The weather does not interfere with her experience. Walking to the bags, she sorts out the food for the day. 200 mouths to feed. It is their only meal. It is their only source of strength for the day. If hunger strikes any of them again, they have to forage for scraps. Scraps that were once easily available, but which the pandemic and its closed restaurants took away.
She knows they are dependent on her, and yet the task of feeding so many does not intimidate her. It energies her. Her spirit rises with the thought of seeing them. She loves going out everyday to feed them. She believes this is what God chose her for and this is what she does willingly, without resistance. She asks around for financial help to do this sometimes. At other times, she creates beautiful dreamcatchers and sells them to finance this feeding. Did she plan this? No. Does she avoid this? No. Has she wanted to escape this? No.
With bags and baskets full of food, she loads her car for its early morning run. This will take her a couple of hours at least. She wears her mask and sets off for her rounds. The first few come running to her as they see her. They live in her colony. They are her friends. She is known to them. Tails wagging in eagerness, they wait for her to place the food on the ground. Fur babies, she calls them and watches to ensure they are eating well. She checks for signs of issues with their health. If she sees any trouble, she has more work on her hands. She will coordinate their visit to vets, treat them, or find them places to heal, rest and recover.
She drives around her area for the next two hours feeding these dogs that live outside communities, in empty parcels of land, and by the roadsides. Dogs shunned by most humans as dirty, wild creatures who are criticised for having vile tempers and being prone to bite humans. Not her. They rush to her with eager hungry stomachs.
As she carries on her work, the pandemic rages on. She has lost a relative. Her heart is heavy but not her mind. Her fear is not for her life. She has learnt the beauty of surrender. She knows her strength comes not from defending against an unknown enemy but in trusting the God she loves. The God who watches over her as she works. ‘Dog’ has ‘god’ in it, she tells everyone. She dons her mask, carries her sanitiser, and does what she believes is her calling every day. Every day, every single day. There are 200 mouths to feed after all.
Love to her are the 200 tails that wag with happiness at her arrival every morning. And that is all she sees in the world. Little four-legged creatures with faith in their eyes, acceptance in their hearts, love in their licky tongues, and joy in their wagging tails.
(For Tina from Baba. Who watches over us all, always.)