By Priyanka Das
My pet has started wondering if I have been fired.
One of the many things that this pandemic has taught us is to reflect, to spend more time with family. Old parents are happier as their kids, working or otherwise, are (more) at home now. In a similar fashion, it is the best of the times for the pets as well.
Love exists in many forms. For me, this quarantine could have driven me insane if it wasn’t for the selfless love from my pet, Piggo. But stupid doggo has also been throwing judgmental looks at me, quite frequently, with a very clear “Quarantine? Your first time?” kind of stare. In the first week of quarantine, he would even thank me for not rushing myself to work at 8 am, since he too could finish his sleep. Added to that, he would get his meals on time, could use a daily shower, could indulge in frequent playtime and cuddles in abundance.
The panic had heightened when the national lockdown was declared on March 25th in India. We rushed to the stores or flipped through e-commerce apps, to hoard food for the future, or at least for the immediate consecutive lockdowns. After ordering essentials for my sustenance, I ordered 3 large packets of Pedigree dry food. On the 18th day of lockdown, my hopes are waning. I often forget what day it is. The date, however, is not allowed to be forgotten; the pandemic reports from across the world on your google news feed, the distorted information trending on your social media account, or the leader of the nation throwing ‘clapping’ or ‘candle-light’ challenges, ensures that. Nonetheless, the conception of a weekend does not exist anymore. I either work throughout the night or lose track of time binging web-series. But this has made things tough for Piggo. The mayhem of my routine has landed me up in a state where I am finding it impossible to wake up before mid-noon, followed by a good half an hour to compose myself having risen from the dead, before I can think straight. This means Piggo is going hungry a major part of the morning. My stock of dog food is dwindling as well as the supply, even though both the central and the state govt have ensured that pet supply or animal feed shops fall under ‘essential services’ and, hence, are to be kept functional. But with the collapse of the interstate transport it is not hard to imagine why the availability of products is gradually reducing. Piggo has started complaining about the amount of food that I have lessened with every passing day.
On one hand, wild animals are finally getting a legroom. Even a nocturnal civet cat has been spotted walking on the zebra crossing in broad daylight in Kerala. One particular video claiming “Dolphins are back in Italy”, whose authenticity was debated, made such an impact that an array of memes immediately flooded the social media. However, one cannot deny that the world has indeed suddenly become a good place for wild animals. While on the other hand, the ones who depend on humans for survival, are gravely suffering. Their condition is worsening. With scarcity of food and water, the fight for survival is getting tougher every day. More dog-fights, hence more unattended wounds.
The lockdown has already witnessed enough of the strays going starved. If a samaritan is found feeding the strays in the locality, people are heard hurling abuses from their luxurious balconies. With zoos and sanctuaries, in and around the country, shutting down, the authorities are not only experiencing a deficit of workers but resources as well. Animal lovers and activists are gravely concerned about the plight of the animals. The Wildlife associations and the NGOs, dedicated to the voiceless, have been issuing notices appealing to citizens to continue feeding and rescuing animals and assuring that animals do not cause or transmit the novel coronavirus to humans. More recently, since the news of a 4-year-old Malayan tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo testing corona-positive that too contracted from a human caretaker, has been doing the rounds, people started encouraging others to keep away from animals. Many are abandoning their foreign breeds on the streets to die. Some are even generous enough to leave theirs with a handful of dry food and water. How the fear of extinction and attempts of self-preservation have dehumanized mankind to another level!
While the world is falling short of graveyards, live animal trade is back on business. As ironic as it could get, in their search to find the vaccine to fight a zoonotic virus, researchers are experimenting on and with animal parts. Perhaps it is time for humans to rethink their treatment of nature, because a global toll beyond millions in this age of technological advancement could either be a cataclysmic biopolitical weapon or the Armageddon itself.
If this is a platform to disseminate awareness, then I hope this unembellished message will reach the concerned and the not-so-concerned ones.
Priyanka teaches at the Department of English, Presidency University. Her domains of expertise are Marxism, Popular Culture and Holocaust Studies. And on days when she is not lost in Sci-fi narratives, she is doing her bit for the voiceless.