What stood out for me was the transparency, both in terms of intent and finances, with which the service project was being executed by the RSS.
- Surendra Prasad Peravali
May all bipeds and quadrupeds gain strength and nourishment (Urjam no dhehidwipade chatushpade). Our ancestors recited this Yajurveda mantra before every meal. Setting aside a portion of our meal for animals has been part of India’s civilizational ethos. Now, one has to be an animal activist to practice this simple act of compassion.
If serving animals is your life mission, then be prepared to get ridiculed by all and sundry.
Since I was 10 years old, I felt that stray animals in our country (especially dogs) have had a raw deal from us humans. We have only TAKEN from them, without even giving an ounce of sympathy in return.
My maternal grandmother and my mother used to feed stray dogs in our street. Inspired by them I started feeding a couple of hungry, orphaned pups that had strayed near our house. That’s how my service towards these voiceless creatures began—around 1985.
Now, my family has grown and I feed about 50 stray dogs, 8 stray cats (one of which is handicapped) and a few cows on the streets. However, instead of appreciation, I continue to encounter more ridicule.
Compassion is always heavy on the pockets. I end up spending almost half of my salary feeding these animals every month, but the Joy is untold. Soon, I also began taking sick and injured animals to the veterinary doctor or an animal shelter for treatment and recovery.
The recent lockdown implemented after the Covid-19 outbreak has very badly affected these animals, whose only food is from garbage bins.
Post lockdown, hotels and roadside eateries have been shutdown, making survival that much more difficult for stray animals. Even regular animal welfare volunteers are finding it tough to leave the relative safety of their homes to serve a few morsels to hungry animals.
Procuring foodstuff and going out to feed them became quite tough for me as numbers swelled and venturing became tough due to police restrictions. Luckily, I found support in a few good friends, among whom is a colleague of mine who happens to be associated with the RSS in Hyderabad.
All along, he knew that I feed stray dogs. He apprised me about the service work initiated by the RSS IT Milans for the poorest segment of people adversely affected by the lockdown. To my surprise, he said they would like to allocate a certain portion of the fund raised exclusively for feeding stray animals, and if I would like to lead this part of the service work.
I was soon added to their WhatsApp group meant for the coordination of their service projects. This group consists of people from diverse economic and social backgrounds such as IT professionals, retired defence officers, commercial pilots, chartered accountants, security guards, and also self-employed people.
Group (RSS) member’s actions are bereft of craftiness, selfishness or greed. Their compassionate and service-oriented outlook shows they are anything but what is portrayed in the media and political discourses.
One of the group members, in charge of coordinating this service initiative, rang me up to say that the allocated fund has been transferred to my account. The amount was enough to feed my wards for a total of four weeks. With this amount and some of my own contribution, my fur kids are now able to eat a little bit more, and better. In this service, I’m graced by the presence of another RSS volunteer who helps me in feeding these animals.
This development was indeed surprising for me as it came from a group of people associated with the RSS, an organization better known for its muscular nationalism.
Being in their WhatsApp group is an experience like no other. Each and every individual contributes selflessly and tirelessly to the cause. There is no usual clamour for self recognition or promotion among the group members. No place for a sense of hierarchy. Views alone matter not the identity of the member. My non-association with RSS was never an issue for anyone and what I do alone matters.
What stood out to me was the transparency—both in terms of intent and finances—with which the service project was being executed. Here, names of the beneficiaries are decided based only on their need. Hunger indeed has no religion here.
The widely held perception that RSS is a bigoted religious organisation now sounds strange incredible to me. Their compassionate and service-oriented outlook shows they are anything but what is portrayed in the media and political discourses.
Group member’s actions are bereft of craftiness, selfishness or greed. We, as a nation, are destined to achieve unparalleled heights collectively if every citizen imbibes the dedication and compassion with which these RSS volunteers work.
I consider myself fortunate that I could get connected with such a group who try to serve as per the rich ethos of this land. Compassion towards all creatures alone could be a solution to the problems we are facing now.
I would be keen to continue this association with RSS if they could somehow include animal welfare services in their massive network of service activities across our country. Not only me, it would appeal to many animal lovers like me (who mostly operate individually) to participate in large numbers. Hope my humble request reaches all those concerned in the organisation who matter.
(The author works as Senior Editor at a British online media company at Hyderabad )