“Har taraf har jagah beshumaar aadmi..phir bhi tanhayiyon ka shikaar aadmi,” (A melee of humanity and yet the loneliness..the loneliness) wrote poet Nida Fazli to sum up human isolation in crowded cities where throngs of people rush to go to work, hurry back home but stay disconnected from each -other and even themselves.
But then there are some who just watch the city go by. Who belong nowhere and have nowhere to go to. Street children with wide, hungry eyes. The beggar who hobbles towards you near the traffic signal. The dogs who try to survive another day on the streets. We pass by this invisible flotsam of urban existence, unaware of untold stories, unaware of human-beings and animals who are part of out cityscape and yet not of it.
And yet, even in these dark, hollow spaces of dispossession and loneliness, sometimes a bond is forged. In this case, between a homeless man and unloved street animal.
Manoj appeared on various Facebook feeds recently, standing with the help of his crutches on one leg, holding up a hurriedly scribbled, laminated poster that said, “I am an orphan, please adopt me.” Standing next to him in the hazy photograph was the orphan Vicky- a street dog who has adopted Manoj and follows him everywhere.
Manoj came to Bangalore a few years ago and has been begging since then to make ends meet. One night, in an alley, he ran into Vicky and the two have been inseparable since then. Things have been hard. Both of them have been attacked and threatened repeatedly on the streets. With time Manoj grew desperate to find Vicky a safe home. His laminated plea reached a few ears and he was connected to Yasmine Claire and Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, two animal lovers who immediately took him in and offered to help Vicky as well.
We find Manoj on Sunday morning outside the couple’s home, petting Vicky and feeding him some dry food. This has been a good day so far. Ask the articulate, middle-aged, startlingly dignified man just what his story is and he shakes his head, “My story mattered once. Now it doesn’t. I thought about life once. Now it is about just today. Then tomorrow. Nothing more.”
Prod him gently and he shares a little, “I am from Konkan. I studied till class 10 in Pune and even got admission in a college but then got into bad company, lost my way, got into crime. Lost my leg to violence. Lost everything and came to Bangalore. I even worked as a technician for a while but now I beg at signals. I walk everywhere and get enough to get by. I had dreams once. But no more.”
Vicky found him at his loneliest and he agrees that sometimes an animal can recognise pain far more intuitively than humans do. Vicky is not a friendly dog. He is defensive and aggressive and yet with Manoj, he behaves the way a trusting, dependent baby would around a mother.
He shares, “He and I have many enemies because I beg and he is protective of me. I used to beg outside eating joints and once a hotel owner got angry and came to attack me. Vicky snapped at him and became aggressive and the owner hit him so hard with a stick that the stick broke. He also threw hot oil on Vicky.” The burn has healed but the duo has been chased away from various places by verbal and physical violence and sometimes even death threats.
Yasmine who has been hearing this story, says, “We are fostering 11 dogs and 20 cats at home. Many of them have been abandoned by able-bodied, affluent people for the vaguest reasons. And here is a man who has nothing but a heart, big enough to feel responsible for another life. He has been telling us, “don’t worry about me, find Vicky a home.” She continues, “His story needs to be told and if anyone can help him get a job at an animal shelter since he loves animals, they can contact us.” The couple has also offered Manoj a job at their own home where he can help with the upkeep of the animals but their resources are already stretched as they also feed scores of street animals. Those who are always willing to help others also need help. Donations could help as also a secure, stable environment (maybe a farm house?) for Vicky. Manoj strokes Vicky’s head, “He takes time to bond but when he does, he is your friend for life.”
From a seven-year-old who lived with two dogs and his parents in a village and dreamt of a bright future, Manoj has come a long way. He is 45 but looks a lot older. He has seen and suffered a lot and he doesn’t hope for much but maybe, it is time he got a second shot at a life of redemption and peace.
Those who want to help Manoj and Vicky can contact Jayaprakash at 8105396401. Or mail him at email@example.com.