Latest Entries »

Dr. Chinny Krishna

Puppies saved from a storm drain

In December of 1959, just outside the gate of a house, two very small puppies (later named Shaggy and Grimmy – after Grimaldi) were in a tight spot. Water from a storm was rushing into a storm drain where the two puppies, about three weeks old were clinging to branches and bits of rubbish as the water rushed through. A teenager, Chinny Krishna, who was 14, was holding onto his father so that he didn’t slip, as his father leaned way over, at some risk to his own life, to rescue the puppies. His dad managed to pull them out of the drain, and they brought them into the house.

Chinny’s mother wiped them dry and bottle fed them baby formula. They stayed and lived to be around 14 or 15. His mother, sometimes with his sister Viji’s help, did all the work of looking after their animals.

The rescue of the puppies from the storm drain was, in some ways, the beginning point of Blue Cross of India – now known throughout India and internationally, as the earliest, the largest, and the most effective of the modern-day animal shelters in India.

Today the name Blue Cross of India is more or less synonymous with animal welfare in India. Known throughout India, Blue Cross is based in Chennai, where it officially began in 1964.

Founded by Captain Sundaram, Usha Sundaram, and their son, the young Chinny Krishna (now Dr. Chinny Krishna, Chairman Emeritus of Blue Cross), over the past sixty years, the organization has grown from small beginnings to a huge animal welfare group that spays/neuters and vaccinates against rabies 10,000 animals each year, while sending out its ambulances on rescue missions all over the city of Chennai to save injured animals on the street, running an excellent veterinary service for the public, taking in street animals in distress – dogs, cats, cows, and others and finding loving homes for them – just to touch on a few of their primary activities. The leadership of Blue Cross has been instrumental in ensuring that India has some of the most enlightened animal welfare laws in the world.

In the future, we will write much more about all the current work of Blue Cross, but here for the moment, are just a few stories about the beginning days of Blue Cross – one of the most beloved animal organizations in India. These are told from the perspective of Dr. Krishna, who was then the young Chinny Krishna.

Though his dad was a highly effective voice for animals and one of the first of the modern animal advocates, it was Chinny’s mother, Usha Sundaram, who spent endless hours from early morning until late at night feeding and caring for the first rescued animals. She was also – amazingly – the first woman pilot in India and flew alongside her husband (who was a pilot who often flew various dignitaries) on flights when he served as the pilot for Prime Minister Nehru. With her duties to care for the animals at home, she did not fly a lot, but was sometimes indispensable to help with flying the Prime Minister or his guests.

Rescuing animals – big and small

Another of the early rescues was a small brown Indian squirrel, one of those with three stripes down his back, as a baby, had fallen from a tree, so they brought him in and took care of him. The squirrel became quite fond of Chinny’s dad and liked to rest in his necktie. He used to run around freely in a room. After a while, they began taking the squirrel out to try to get it wild, which eventually succeeded. After five or six months, he spent most of his time outside and then moved out back into the trees, where he lived his life in freedom. Now, of course, care of wildlife is well regulated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, but in those days kind people simply did their best to help.

A great idea

By 1959, the future Blue Cross already had quite a few animals and had some volunteers coming in to help.

Mr. D. Devasigamoli who was the vice president of the SPCA, was a frequent visitor to their house. He was a former football (soccer) player and was the national president of the football society of Madras.

One evening, early in 1960, he dropped by their house and they began to talk about what more could be done to help animals. The SPCA at the time was not as actively engaged as it might have been with animal rescue, and they felt that something more was needed to help animals. They formed an organization which, for the first couple of years, was called the Animal Aid Association. After that, they called it Blue Cross.

Soon, his dad had converted his car into an ambulance. One of the early animals that they rescued was a small calf.

Dawn Williams, Resident Manager of Blue Cross with a calf

A bull finds a home

The delivery men who delivered milk to people’s houses used to bring along an actual cow with them. At each house the man would milk the cow, then leave the milk in a container. When Chinny was 15, someone called their family to say that a small male calf had been abandoned, probably by one of the milkmen. Chinny went on his bicycle to check. In a neighborhood of fairly large single houses, there was a young calf, about three weeks old, lying down outside one of the homes.

Chinny cycled back home, reported this to his parents, and his mom and dad drove back in the car to pick up the calf. The calf was not looking good and was very dehydrated. A veterinarian friend of theirs, Dr. Narahari came by to attend to the calf and treated him – after which he perked up quite a bit. In their house there was a big bathing room with a boiler, about fifteen feet by fifteen feet. The calf spent most of his time there until he got bigger and graduated to going outside to roam in the yard and the garden. They didn’t give him a name because, by now they were realizing that it wasn’t good to become too attached to each animal. Some of them they were able to find homes for. Two years later they found a good home for the bull with a family who had a large house on an acre of land in an area of Madras called Adyar.

Check back for future stories about Blue Cross and the kind and compassionate animal welfare practices in India.

Photos:

First photo: Sharon St Joan
Second photo: Blue Cross of India
Third Photo: Blue Cross of India
Fourth photo: Sharon St Joan

Young women sit on the floor, deeply engaged with the task in front of them. Learning how to shape and polish coconut shells into wonderful animal and other shapes – they are also taught how to use machines that will help them in their work.

Dr. Pellur Sudhakar, the Director of CPREEC (the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre), has traveled to Gudalur, a city in the Nilgiris Hills in south India, to conduct classes in making traditional handicrafts.

Handcrafted products made from coconut shells can be wonderfully imaginative.

Coconut trees grow abundantly in India, and many products are made from them, for example, coconut oil. After the oil is extracted, the shells are left, and this extremely abundant material, which would otherwise go to waste, can be turned into delightful works of art.

CPREEC teaches groups of students or teachers, or both, how to do these crafts. By teaching the teachers, who pass on what they have learned, they reach a great many students.

The Nilgiris hills of Tamil Nadu, where the town Gudalur is located, are one of the most beautiful places on earth. Unbelievably green hills are enveloped in mist that drifts among the hills. It is a magical landscape. Gudalur is the farthest point west in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

In the town of Gudalur, thirty young women, from a low-income background, were identified as trainees to take part in the two-month training program to learn how to make coconut shell products. CPREEC came up with the products that would have the greatest marketing potential: “angry birds,” spoons, bowls, cups, key chains, soap stands, incense stands, flower vases, wall hangers, and doorbells. The young women were taught how to make these.

An expansive program

In 2020, Dr. Sudhakar and his team traveled to 24 locations in four different states to teach teachers and students. The course in how to make handicrafts from coconut shells was just one of several programs that were offered to the students. As well as the town of Gudalur, the training programs also traveled to twenty-six other locations.

In the Tumakuru district of Karnataka, the state just west of Tamil Nadu, another hill district, a range of hills 4,000 feet high, running north to south, creates spectacular vistas, as one looks down over the valleys below. It is a wonderland of green hills.

In the state of Odisha, to the north, they traveled to the Khorda District, a land of coastal plains and startingly beautiful, ancient temples.

The long history of Indian folk art

Handicrafts in India are not something that one just does as a hobby. They are part of a long, much respected culture and tradition – an art form that has been passed down from generation to generation. Indian handicrafts are extraordinarily beautiful and creative.
CPREEC taught the trainees how to use machines safely — grinding wheels, polishing tools, cutters, and drills to make and polish the finished products. The young women were also trained to use natural colors to decorate the products. The training would enable each of them to make a good living as an entrepreneur, and also a professional artisan.

Producing this beautiful and very popular form of folk art will give them a livelihood based on creativity and inspiration, which engages their inner spirit and natural joy in producing works of beauty. It is an art form that is filled with life and charm – that will bring delight both to themselves and their customers.

Helping the earth

As well as artistic creativity, the coconut shell products are friendly to the environment. They make use of a by-product – the coconut shell – left over from the production of coconut oil or coconut milk. The process destroys nothing and creates great beauty.

During the year 2020, in 27 programs, reaching 1,215 students and teachers, which took place in 24 towns – from the Nilgiris hills to Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, further north along the coast, Dr. Sudhakar and his team have brought out the natural creativity of these young people, giving them a very practical – as well as delightful and environmentally friendly — future. They will now be equipped to make their way in the world with confidence and pride in their own talents and abilities.

Photos:

Photo of Gudalur. Needle Rock View Point
Raj, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

All other photos: CPREEC

© Text copyright, Forest Voices of India, 2021

“This is what happens when you instill in the children the values of life, love, respect, kindness and compassion for animals. Mamai and her two cute dogs are so friendly as a result of her participation in LAWCS’ humane education program. The dogs are relaxing because they have trust and confidence in Mamai.”

***

“The results of our humane education are real and physical. The connection between the kids and the animals is so fascinating. This is Cecelia and her lovely pet dog “CHAMPION ”. According to Cecelia, her participation in LAWCS humane education program has greatly cemented her love and affection for animals.”

***

For more information, or if you’d like to donate to the Liberia Animal Welfare and Conservation Society, please visit their Facebook page or their website at https://liberiaanimalwelfaresociety.org

Photos and text in quotes: Liberia Animaal Welfare and Conservation
Society

Recently, in Bangalore, in south India, the police rescued an Indian chameleon who was being kept as a pet. Like other wild animals, Indian chameleons are protected by the Wildlife Protection Act of India, and it’s illegal to keep them as pets. They are meant to lead their natural lives free in the wild.

The chameleon was brought to the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC), where Dr. Roopa Satish, the licensed wildlife rehabilitator there, examined her. She weighed 60 grams. She was rehydrated, placed under observation, and given insects to eat, which are her natural diet. Often, in captivity, chameleons are fed inappropriate food which can cause digestive upsets.

Very shy creatures, chameleons belong in the wild where they can live among wild plants and rocks and find plenty of places to hide so that they feel comfortable and secure.
Being around people and having little cover causes them great stress and, sadly, they often don’t survive being in captivity. People who don’t really intend to harm them, often don’t understand their natural shyness and their need for a quiet life in the wild.

Fascinating reptiles, chameleons have many distinct features like a flattened body shape, and a prehensile tail, which means that they can grasp and hold objects with their tail. Like other lizards, they have a long tongue that can dart out to catch insects from a distance. They walk with a swaying movement. Some of their toes point forwards and some backwards so they can hold on to tree branches. Each of their eyes can move independently, giving them depth of vision, which comes in handy when catching insects. And, of course, the color of their skin changes, sometimes to match their background, sometimes to reflect other circumstances or to send a signal.

Thanks to the expert care and dedication of Dr. Roopa and the caregivers at WRRC, the chameleon did very well.

Dr. Roopa writes, “After 48 hours of observation, the chameleon was active and ate the insects so she was released inside a protected forest on a tree branch where she slowly but surely held the branch and moved into the foliage and disappeared from our vision due to excellent camouflage.”

Our best wishes to the chameleon for a long and happy life, roaming freely in the forest.

The more we can all respect nature and appreciate and value the lives of wild animals, the happier and healthier life on our planet will be.

Photo: the WRRC

Most of us cannot speak Tamil; however, if you take a moment or two to look at this beautiful video – somewhere in the middle, you will be able to get an idea of the peaceful, graceful surroundings of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation….

Mrs. Tamima

Mrs. Tamima’s business is called “101 Strawberries”

She makes a great many different varieties of jam: strawberry, kiwi, fig, plum, apple – 22 varieties in all. Also, some chutneys, south Indian pickles, and brownies. Her customers call her and place their orders on the phone.

Around twenty years ago, she went to a class to learn to make jam. Then she gave some jam to her friends to taste. “They liked it a lot!” she says. That’s how her business got its start.

In one day, she can make five to ten jars.

She has to wash the fruit, then chop, cook, and boil them all. It’s a lot of work, but she explains “It’s very satisfying to get to the end of the day and see that it is done.”

She calls her business “101 Strawberries” because when she asked her niece to suggest a name, her niece replied that she had just been watching 101 Dalmatians, so why not call it, “101 Strawberries?” – which she did.

For the past fifteen years, she’s been coming to the C.P. Art Centre to take part in the Women’s Bazaar when it is held once a year. The C.P. Art. Centre is run by the CPRA Foundation in Chennai, in south India.

Mrs. Tamima’s lovely smile indicates clearly how much she enjoys what she does!

It would be hard to underestimate the transformative power that running their own business has meant for these women. On a practical level, it’s a huge help to the family income and on an emotional level, it’s a great blessing!

Mrs. Rukmani Jayaraman

Mrs. Rukmani Jayaraman sells Tanjore paintings and temple jewelry.

Tanjore paintings are a classical art form, which began centuries ago during the time of the Chola Empire. Its popularity continues today. Mrs. Rukmani Jayaraman sells these paintings which are done by artists in Tanjore, a city known for its artistic expression, around 200 miles (340 kilometers) to the south of Chennai, in south India.

Income means a lot

Running their own business helps the women, whatever their circumstances may be. For some, their income has been really essential, and it has enabled them to feed their families and send their children to school (which is not free in India). For others, it has simply made the family’s life easier, and enabled them to have some extra money to spend.

Their prosperity brings happiness. The sense of community, of getting together with the other women, is a joyful occasion. They take breaks together and catch up with each other’s news. They feel a sense of gratitude to the CPRA Foundation for making all this possible, and especially to Mrs. Shantha, Manager of the C. P. Art Centre, who organizes the entire bazaar and encourages each of them.

Mrs. Sajida

Mrs. Sajida has been selling textiles for sarees for more than twenty-five years.

The Women’s Bazaar has helped these women to get a start and has taught them how to run their own businesses.

These are all traditional Indian enterprises. With their businesses these women are also doing their part to preserve the art and culture of India, including folk art, which always has a meaning and a cultural value.

The women do not pay any of the overhead expenses of running the Women’s Bazaar so that they can keep all of the income they make, so if you’d like to help with a donation, that will go toward the costs of running the Women’s Bazaar and benefitting the women.

***

Update – Covid precautions. These photos were taken during a previous visit to India before the pandemic. Since then, during the pandemic, all covid precautions have been taken, with mask being worn, social distancing, and limits to the number of visitors.
The exhibition held from March 4-9, 2020, was inaugurated by Mrs. Suhassini Maniratnam, film actor and director.
The exhibition held from March 9-14, 2021, was inaugurated by Mrs. Akhila Shrinivasan, woman entrepreneur.

***

As the breadwinner for her family, Mrs. Vijayalakshmi makes pickles and Indian tortillas called papads.

Sunlight streams across the entranceway as the women set up their products on tables.

Nearby is a busy street, not too wide, but busy enough. Trees grow in the outside area, casting friendly shadows over the tables. There is an outside area and then several inside shops, all buzzing with activity at the Women’s Bazaar which is about to begin.

Many of these women have been participating in the Women’s Bazaar at the C. P. Art Centre every year for 25 years since it first began, and others have been there fifteen or twenty years.

These determined women have overcome hurdles and obstacles to create successful sources of income for their families and themselves. Earlier in their lives, few of them had envisioned a career as entrepreneurs.

They have been mothers and housewives who rose to the occasion when their circumstances required it.

Stepping up to help women become creative

The CPRA Foundation stepped up to fill a need and to empower these women who had never been involved in the world of business, showing them how to make use of their own gifts and talents.

Most of the products they sell are handmade. They may be food made from recipes passed down from generation to generation or may be textiles either bought or created by hand. All the products are environmentally and animal-friendly – for example the beautiful jute handbags that otherwise might have been made of leather. Mrs. Niraimathi runs a very successful business now and also provides all the jute bags that the C.P. Art Centre uses for conferences and other events.

Mrs. Niraimathi

Having learned how to market their wares at the CPRA Foundation, these entrepreneurs are now able to expand their reach by selling products at other venues too, creating a steady income.

The income from their enterprise may cover food and the family’s basic needs, as well as their children’s education from elementary school on through high school and university. In some cases, they are the sole breadwinner. In other cases, their income supplements that of their husband.

Mrs. Shanthi with her pickles, powders, sweets, and savories

Self-reliance brings freedom

As well as providing for the needs of the family, having their own income brings a whole new sense of freedom and well-being into their lives.

With their children provided for, they may be able to expand their businesses to open their own boutiques or shops. No longer feeling trapped inside the house, they are out and about, leading active lives.

The entire day at the Women’s Bazaar is not all spent working – there is time for taking a break together, renewing friendships, and catching up with each other’s news.

Mrs. Shakila displays her cloth garlands for pooja (devotional services) and door decorations.


A community of friends

They value the time spent with each other highly, and they form a community of those who have – over the course of 15-25 years — returned again and again to take part in the Women’s Bazaar – which is always there for them as a steady presence in their lives. They appreciate the warmth and friendship of other women in the community as well as the guidance provided by the C.P. Art Centre – and the ever-present encouragement extended by Mrs. K. Shantha, the Manager of the Centre – who is always a dynamic, lively, and inspiring presence.

Mrs. K. Shantha, Manager of the C.P. Art Centre

The value of economic freedom is hard to overstate. Some among us may take it for granted – but it is a lifeline that makes a big difference towards peace and well-being in the lives of all of us.

***

Update – Covid precautions. These photos were also taken during a previous visit to India before the pandemic. Since then, all covid precautions have been taken, with mask being worn, social distancing, and limits to the number of visitors.
The exhibition held from March 4-9, 2020, was inaugurated by Mrs. Suhassini Maniratnam, film actor and director.
The exhibition held from March 9-14, 2021, was inaugurated by Mrs. Akhila Shrinivasan, woman entrepreneur.

***

Kangaroo wouldn’t pose for a photo, so this is another bonnet macaque.
Shantanu Kuveskar, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

First, Kangaroo isn’t really a kangaroo (because this is India, not Australia). Actually, he is a bonnet macaque, a monkey, who weighs seven and a half pounds (3.39 kilos). On November 3 of last year, he had an accident. Some very kind people rescued him and he was transported from a southern suburb of Bangalore to the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. Monkeys, of course, climb to get from place to place, and he had been swinging along on the electric wires over the main road in order to get across it when he was electrocuted.

For any birds or animals, electrocutions tend to be really serious, and his prognosis for survival was indeed grave. For three months, he received lots of treatments and then had to have three of his limbs amputated. (The photo is of a different bonnet macaque, not Kangaroo.)

Amazingly, he was a cheerful monkey through everything. He recovered and nothing seemed to dampen his spirits.

When he was moved into the large monkey enclosure which had special platforms for easy movement, he was with other young, orphaned monkeys. Dr. Roopa writes that “Kangaroo immediately took charge of them all, in spite of his handicaps, and he could be seen, grooming them, playing, and enjoying their company.”

With just one leg, he used his tail to help him balance, and he hopped with great ease just like a kangaroo, hence his name. With his handicaps, he wouldn’t be able to be released and the plan was for him to live permanently at the center. Being a clever monkey, Kangaroo made his own plans. He watched and observed the routine at the center, and one day, while the keeper was in the enclosure doing cleaning, he managed to slip right past him and out the door.

Of course, he wasn’t going far. Now he still lives at the center, but he’s free to move anywhere and can be found hopping from tree to tree, having the time of his life, just as if he had all four limbs.

He gets a delicious dinner – a plate of his favorite food like shelled ground nuts, banana, cucumber, corn, sweet potato, pomegranate, carrots, and beans is placed up on the roof for him, which he polishes off. He has a good friend and companion now – another resident monkey, Taatha, which means grandfather, who is there for lifetime care and is also free to move about the center.

Thanks to Dr. Roopa’s expertise and the good efforts of his caregivers, Kangaroo is strong and feels well.

Despite all he has gone through, he is an amazing monkey, with an indomitable spirit. He’s made new friends and has done very well for himself – now living out his life in a great place – with no electric wires, no cars, or pollution – just an idyllic, beautiful green forest, with people to feed him.

Under the leadership of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, the CPREEC (C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Environmental Education Centre) in Chennai, India, has restored 53 sacred groves, over the past thirty years – bringing back the original flora and fauna and restoring these small forests with the same species of plants and animals which always lived there in the past, providing once again beautiful tranquil lands which the people living nearby had treasured in the past. Each village in India once had a sacred grove. Now, the village people themselves maintain and care for these restored sacred forests and the abundant wildlife that live there.

These ancient sacred groves represent one of the amazing traditions of India, which has traditionally valued and preserved the life and the beauty of the natural world.

Dr. Nanditha Krishna is an environmentalist, art historian and well-known author of over twenty-five books about the art, culture, and the natural world of India. Among these are Hinduism and Nature, Sacred Animals of India, and Sacred Plants of India.

Listening to this short video, you will be transported to the city of Chennai where you will be among the tall, peaceful trees of the CPREEC and CPRA Foundation centers, yet not far from the busy city life of nearby streets.