Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Captain's Ark

"If you can't look after it, don't adopt it."

Captain Krishna Kumar Nayar

Last year, Shakiran - a student from Batch 18 of MMMC - met a dilemma concerning a puppy that he and his girlfriend have adopted sometime ago into the apartment unit he shared with two other batchmates. The puppy's name was Belle. When Shaki made a decision to shift to another apartment, he was adamant that Belle would not be moving with him to his shiny, new pad.

"I was against the idea of adopting the dog in the first place!" he responded when I asked him about his downright despicable act of abandonment, and he had insisted that it was his girlfriend who actually wanted the puppy - not him. I did not interview his girlfriend concerning this matter because she slaps my arm very hard every time I approach her with stupid questions (and also because I always make fun of her height) - so let us just take Shaki's word for it, okay? I believe him and you should too. We cool? Alrighty then.

His primary priority then was to find a new home for Lil' Belle (who wasn't so Lil' anymore at that time) and he had sought out a man known as the Captain by the local community here in Manipal, India. He had heard that the Captain helps people look for new homes for their pets.

I was instantly fascinated by this "Captain" character and asked Shaki to tell me more. While paying absolutely no attention in the Pharmacology lecture class we were currently attending, he related to me that the Captain is an animal rights activist of sorts and that he had been trying to get the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to open up a chapter here in the vicinity - and that he himself had adopted many canines which he could not find a new owner for rather than setting them loose on the streets. Also, he was a captain of a ship once - hence his honorific.

The Captain had managed to locate a local couple interested in getting a white dog and Shaki reported that they were practically ecstatic when they saw Belle. In Shaki's own verbatim; "They were so excited that you'd think they want to eat the dog - not keep her."

I'm sure Shaki was just joking.

I went on to ask him how I could find and talk to this noblest of man, and he told me that the Captain is the manager of Sonia Clinic - the place all MMMC students go to after they realise that they are too sick to go through all the red-tape bullshit to get treated for free by a trainee doctor over at the Kasturba Hospital;

I don't think this photo needs a caption but I wrote one anyway.

I choose to walk the kilometre there instead of taking the a-buck-a-ride auto rickshaw because I needed a bit of time to quickly improvise a set of questions to ask the Captain when I see him. I have never done such a thing before so don't stone me for not... uh... practising in front of a mirror prior to the meeting or something, okay?

When I got there, I approached a nurse at the counter who was chatting with some old bloke and asked her where I could find Captain Krishna. Amused, she gestured at that same old bloke she was talking to. Real smooth, pal. How many journalists have absolutely no idea who they are interviewing? I mentally smacked my own face on the spot.

He was sitting on a plastic stool with an attentive look on his face. I approached him and said, "Uh sir, I heard from a friend of mine that you help people look for new homes for their pets."

"What sort of dog do you have?" he asked, his face changed to a slightly more concerned expression - kind of like the one my doctor had on when he saw my latest blood cholesterol report.

Oh shit, he thought I was one of those no-good, dog-disposing scums pestering him for help! No offence, Shaki (Haha).

"No sir! I write for an online periodical and I'm just interested in interviewing you for a story I'm writing," I said, clawing frantically to salvage a sinking first impression. Haha, online periodical. I slay myself sometimes.

"Oh," said the Captain his face changed again, this time to one that positively beams. "Come with me into the pharmacy. We'll talk there."

The pharmacy?

The Cap'n 2
Meet the Captain.
After parking ourselves on wooden stools opposite each other in the little unmanned pharmacy of Sonia Clinic, I rummaged through my bag for my notepad and pen. I left the tape recorder I borrowed from Ilyani in the bag because it just didn't feel right use it. I didn't want the whole thing to be too frightfully formal-like (besides, I'd probably botch up real bad trying to get the prehistoric sound-capturing machine to work).

I learnt that prior to coming here to live in Manipal back in 1992, Captain Krishna used to sail in the Merchant Navy and had ported in Penang, Port Klang and Singapore in his day. He must have been around the Malay Peninsula quite a bit because he had picked up the habit of ending his sentences with the Malaysian suffix of -lah. Nowadays, his day job consisted of administrating Sonia Clinic and running a few businesses here and there.

A couple of those businesses can clearly be seen advertised on a sign in front of his home;

The Cap'n 3
Captain's - a brand name you can trust.
"You own Captain's Ice?" I blurted in surprise. "I walked past your advertisement outside Snack Shack many times before!"

See? I have absolutely no professionalism at all - interrupting my interviewee like this half the time.

He's a busy man, that much was obvious but yet he still finds the time in between running a obstetrics/paediatrics hospital and juggling several companies to help our furry little friends - and in his time, he had witnessed many instances of unnecessary cruelty against creatures who can't speak up for themselves.

Once he saw a bull standing in the middle of the road with a bit of rope tied tightly at its nose - so tight that the poor animal was bleeding. Of course, approaching a big, dumb, horned animal weighing more than a Kancil which had a bit of rope cutting into its nostrils, had no fingers to take it off and is half-mad with pain is never a very smart thing to do. At the risk of sustaining grievous injuries, the Captain and a friend managed to tranquillise the animal by sneaking from its back with a syringe. After he got the rope out, the Captain stood guard over the animal till it woke up again because he didn't want to leave half a ton of prime beef sleeping in the middle the road on its own. Some truck might run over it, see? Yes, some drivers here are that blind.

"I have a three legged bull at my house right this moment," said the Captain. "It got injured as a calf and my wife and I took it in."

Besides Tripod Taurus (no, he didn't name it that) he currently owns three Pomeranians, a Retriever, a mixed-breed, and a German Shepherd hybrid which once belonged to a Chinese boy who studied here in Manipal but had gone home to Malaysia (that's half a dozen in total). There are also four strays which he fed regularly and they ended up hanging about outside his house all the time.

Kind of reminds me of the three moocher pooches we have here at Acharya Compound;

Fifi, Socks and Mom, lounging on my doorstep. Read more about Fifi here. She still limps though.

I asked the Captain about his efforts in trying to get the Indian SPCA to open a branch here in Manipal. His answer was a short and curt, "They simply aren't interested."

He told me that animal rights in India is never a properly looked-into issue. An example he cited was the controversy over the government's half-hearted attempt to neuter the strays in the city of Bangalore1 as a mean of checking the local canine population. Dogs were simply rounded up, castrated and splayed, and were put right back on the streets almost immediately. He explained to me that a dog needed proper care for at least 2 to 3 days after being operated on.

"What did they expect to happen?" he said. "The dogs would just get infected and die!"

A slow, painful death. It would have been kinder to just shoot the poor creatures.

He also talked about the mobile butchers that roam the streets of Manipal in the dead of night. Men operating these set-ups would break the legs of cows they find, hoist the heifers into their truck or van, and carve up the animal right there in the vehicles in almost no time - all ready for sale the day after.

"There's a demand for beef from the Muslim community here. The debate about this between the Muslims and the Hindus has been going on for a long time now," he commented and prudently left it at that.

Our little tête-à-tête was frequently interrupted by the clinic's patients looking to fill their prescriptions - which were competently taken care of by the Captain (is there a thing this man can't do?). Aside being a repository of drugs, the pharmacy also doubles up as a candy shop. I welcomed these little breaks because they gave me time to extemporise more questions to ask the Captain.

"Selling candies from a pharmacy counter is precisely the sort of nice thing a man like him would think of," I mused privately as I watched him help a little kid choose a lollipop.

The Cap'n
The Captain at work.

Due to the regrettable lack of enthusiasm and support from the SPCA, the Captain had decided to start his own animal care trust, which at the moment is backed by 7 trustees. He said that he planned to register his trust on Monday (which was two days ago, two days from the Saturday I interviewed him). The registration fee itself would require Rs 4500.

"It'll be called Captain's Animal Care," he said with a roguish smile. "After all, everyone around here knows my name."

He has further plans to build a pound, where proper neutering procedures will be done and care will be given to wounded animals. Pamphlets would be circulated to educate the student population of Manipal (which after all, is a university town) about the responsibilities of a pet-owner and his philosophy against mistreatment of animals.

"The biggest problem is money," he said. "Every time the question of money comes up, everyone would disappear. All monetary support for my efforts so far had come from my own pockets"

He was confident that provisions for the dogs can be easily acquired for free in the form poultry bones from the eateries and hotels in Manipal and slaughter wastes from the Century Egg and Chicken Farm. But the medical instruments and more importantly, the workers he planned to have in the animal shelter needs Paper Gandhis. He can't very well pay people in chicken bones, can he?

"So, do you have anything to say to my readers - especially those that are looking to adopt a pet of their own?" I asked the Captain.

His answer was, "If you can't look after it, don't adopt it." But he beseeches to everyone that if they could not bring their dogs back to their own countries at the end of their courses for some reason or other, please seek him out at Sonia Clinic.

"Do not abandon your dogs on the streets. I'll try my best to find new owners for them."

The Captain's card.

I have always adamantly opposed the practice of adopting pets - the idea of which appealed to many of the Malaysian students of MMMC doing their long, dreary two-and-a-half-years here in Manipal. I feel distressed every time I hear that someone in my class had adopted a puppy from the local breeder or had imported one from who-cares-where because more than half the time, that overeager pet-owner is going to realise that he or she simply do not have the time to care for the poor little thing. Everyone wants the cuteness; the bounding fluffy ball of yips leaping at them when they got home from a hard day at school, the furry warmth wrapped around their tootsies when they slog at the study desk, and the tiny breathing sound beside their pillows when they sleep. Puppies and dogs have a great capacity to love a person completely in their dopey little ways. I understand that because I love dogs too.

And I also understand that nobody likes dog-shit splotched all over their spiffy apartments, the midnight bark solos, and the persistent and persevering chewing of a teething pup. I know that because I had a puppy once - a beautiful Cocker Spaniel who grew old as I grew up.

When you accept a tiny, precious life into your own, please be prepared to give as much love as you expect to take from it - because you don't deserve to have it if you don't. Ask yourself whether or not it deserves someone like you. Ask yourself whether you would take it back home to your country where you come from - this creature which had loved you. Ask yourself before you adopt a puppy.

Because it lives, it breathes, it loves.

And it's not a toy.

P.S. I promised the Captain that I would help raise funds for his animal care trust. If anyone is willing to help me, please do. I might be planning a donation drive sometime at the end of this year.

Editor of an "online periodical",
k0k s3n w4i

1 A big-ass city half-a-day's worth of butt-numbing bus ride from Manipal.


fuolornis said...

well said my man!

getting a puppy requires a lot of responsibility. I treat dogs like my brothers and sister. Not even a pet. Mind you, i have a pic of my "sister" on my study desk.

It seems that it's some kind of trend here. I wonder why all the manipal students are so eager in getting a puppy?

Dogs are not js ordinary pets. They hv emotions. They feel lonely when abandoned even js for a few hrs. One needs to think twice before getting a dog. I waited for few yrs before my family decided to get a dog, knowing the responsiblitie and the trouble when a dog is around.

And getting a dog when you only have two and a half yrs here in manipal is not a problem but rmb that an average lifespan of a dog is 10yrs... what the dog is going to do after that? rot here in manipal?

sXydeViL said...

you know what?
this post is very meaningful...
i like it.

me don't mind volunteering for ur year end proposal. =)
never owned a dog back home in malaysia.

and i admit i was one of the trend follower when i got here but didnt succesfully adopt one dog. so, im not dat mean afterall.

And then Biscuit (the puppy abandoned by kissy and cassy were taken in by the CEGs) gave birth to 4 puppies.

So, i dont need to wash dem or clean their diarrhoea mess. =P all taken care by jimmy bear and housematoes. i juz play and feed. lolz.

Crux said...

I once had two terrapins to take care off, a present from my sister's doctor (who was going back to Aus). They were already difficult enough to take care off, and I always felt that they were not getting enough attention. I was quite happy for them the day my sister finally agreed to let them off in a nearby pool, which had a hundered other terrapins already camping there.

I can't imagine what a dog must be like.

Jonny said...

That's a very meaningful post. I just wish that everyone would read it before they EVER think of adopting a pet.

fuolornis said...

and count me in for the donation thing! do let me know about your plans

InnShan said...

i don't know.
if u r quite enthusiastic, i wud suggest u to talk to mr. anand about ur idea of getting collections.
maybe he can help. at least get permission 1st..:)

respect to both u n capt.

Anonymous said...

Hats off to you for your sense of altruism. Personally, I prefer to adopt a dog from SPCA instead of buying from the pet shop. I hope I can spare my dime to your fund, if only I have PayPal. Give me a buzz for an updates. :)

k0k s3n w4i said...

but rmb that an average lifespan of a dog is 10yrs... what the dog is going to do after that? rot here in manipal?
My point exactly! I guess having a puppy is just appealing, esp someone is far from home and is looking for love and acceptance. A puppy always love. A puppy always accept.
I Haven't drafted any plans yet, but I'll buss you when I do. I have the hols to work on it. I have to see the Captain to work somethings out.

lucky you. getting all the fun without the work. Adopting a dog isn't mean. It's healthy actually, but it's just that people aren't just don't know how much work having a dog would amount to. I aim to let ppl know that.
Thanks for volunteering. I'll keep u posted :)

Well, you can't put a dog in an aquarium, and they shit, pee and bite stuff. it's a real handful. But most people find the payback worth it.
What sort of pool has that many terrapins?

I'm hoping at least to send this message to everyone in my college. thanks.

of course, permission must be garnered first. I'm not an anarchist. And i'll have to find out all the legalities - can't just start a donation drive out of thin air...

@zen master
Thank you. I don't have PayPal either but you can always help out your local SPCA. Other than the SPCA in Selangor, the SPCA in some other states is quite appallingly under-supported :)

Anonymous said...

Spell check: "breathes"

k0k s3n w4i said...

how very embarrassing for me. rectified. thank you, scary unknown person.

Crux said...

It's a pool inside a public park. People like to sit at the side and throw food in. It's full with terrapins, turtles, and whole lot of other river life.

My only bane with the place is that the river is fenced, and the terrapins have no ground to walk on, save a little 'island' in the middle. I used to always let my terrapins out of the aquarium so they can wonder about on hard land, not just float in the water the whole day. It can't be too healthy.

I wish I could do more, but this is the best choice. They require attention I lack the time to adequately spare. Sigh.

k0k s3n w4i said...

I dare say the island would be a pretty awesome sort of holiday camp for your terrapins. Hanging out with their own species beats hitting their noses against the transparent plastic tank all day long right?
Personally, I wun keep any other animals other than cats and dogs. possibly hamsters. it felt wrong keeping anything else.