On May 10, at MG Road's Metro station, the Rangoli Art Centre will celebrate something unusual. It will celebrate compassion. On stalls number 8 and 9, from 11 am to 4 pm, Bast's Bazaar, an animal welfare initiative will raise money for rescued feral cats and other strays by selling art pieces and crafts. For most of us, street animals or even those crammed in shelters are invisible beings.
And yet, amongst us are individuals who dedicate their entire life and a large part of their resources to these voiceless citizens of Bangalore, without any organised help from any quarter. The Bast Bazaar, however, hopes to support the tireless efforts of Yasmine Claire and Jayaprakash Satyamurthy who have turned their home into an animal shelter.
A volley of barks and lots of tail-wagging greets anyone who walks into this unusual home shared by two humans and their 22 (and counting) children. It's no mean task to have so many pets at home, manage full-time jobs, but the couple manages with the help of Prema, their housekeeper.
Castaway dogs and cats left on the streets, animals run over by trucks and cars find their homes with Yasmine, and their adulation for her is evident in their licks and cuddles.
So why this love for animals? "We both have animal lovers for parents. So we grew up with pets," Yasmine explains. "When my sister was three, we could let her play in the garden without worrying, because every time she strayed towards the gate, our pet dog would pull her gently back by the hem of her frock and bring her to safe territory," Jayaprakash reminisces.
And romance blossomed amidst animal love. "Eight years ago, he wanted a pet kitten, and I had one. That's how it began," Yasmine relates. And today, their home is a happy jumble of little puppies looking for a permanent home, pampered old cats and restless kittens snoozing on every table, shelf, cushion, window sill, even the flower pots in their terrace garden. When the demolitions at Ejipura happened, the couple rescued a pet dog injured by a bulldozer and got it home. It is not always easy to go up against apathy and cruelty and they and their animals have been threatened many a time but there are obvious joys in this life of abundance. "It's definitely pleasant to be woken up with friendly licks every morning," Yasmine laughs. Security is never an issue either, for the dogs are fiercely protective.
Yasmine and Jayaprakash, with their enthusiasm for animal rights, have made it to many cover pages, but as they admit, media coverage leads inevitably to more people dumping their pets on them.
Not many understand the challenges and responsibility that comes with having pets. "Giving them all a bath is a project in itself," Yasmine relates. And with so many animals living together, hygiene is tough to maintain, and infections are nearly impossible to avoid. Spaying, neutering, visits to the vet and deworming sessions can all be time-consuming. There are financial constraints too.
When it comes to newspapers, shampoos and kitten food, there is no such thing as enough. "We do get donations, which we are thankful for, but that is not what is most important. It would help if people volunteered time and space. We have volunteers who come in on weekends to help with bathing, feeding and brushing the pets," Yasmine explains. "Apart from that, the biggest help would be to give some abandoned animals a home until we can find them owners who care for them. That would ease our burden, and ensure better care for the pet," she iterates.
But there is a bigger problem. "What we come up against,most often, is human apathy towards animals," they maintain. "There are too many abandoned pets, and too few homes willing to take them in. We've seen people who lock up their St Bernards in cages, and those who walk away from injured puppies after running over them in cars. We need to understand that humans are animals too, and we are all part of the same ecosystem. It is our responsibility to live without causing them harm."
To adopt pets or volunteer to help Yasmine and Jayaprakash, contact them on 9845380748 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
(inputs by Anusha S Rao)