Category: art and culture of India


Just as they did during the lockdown a year ago, Blue Cross has been giving thousands of meals every day to the street dogs in Chennai, in the south of India.

During normal times, many street dogs hang out around tea shops and restaurants where customers give them handouts. During the lockdown these businesses have all been closed, and the dogs have been left with no source of food, so the feeding by the Blue Cross volunteers has saved their lives.

Chefs to the rescue

This has been a huge undertaking. Blue Cross has coordinated cooking the food – dog food in India is cooked and is a healthy mixture of rice and other nutritional ingredients and supplements. They have worked with chefs in restaurants and hotels who have volunteered to cook the food. When the restaurants were closed, the chefs came in every day especially to do this, while Blue Cross provided the ingredients. This has been a very large expense for them – around $600 every day, and this is in addition to feeding the one thousand or so animals who they care for, at any given time, at their main shelter.

Blue Cross has organized many dozens of volunteers to distribute the food to the dogs; some of these kind people also feed the dogs during normal times, but now it’s risen to a whole new level. They also bring along food for cows and other animals out on the street. Last year Blue Cross was able to arrange an understanding with the police for the dog feeders to be out on the street during the lockdown, and this has continued this year. In some cases the police themselves have helped with the feeding.

A native breed

Most of the street dogs in India are a native breed of “All-India” dogs that arose naturally and was not “bred.” They are of medium height, with short fur and ears pointing up. For thousands of years they have existed in Indian cities. They tend to be shy, quiet, and very adept at crossing the street while avoiding traffic. They are quite used to being out on the street. The five thousand or so humane shelters in India do not and have never rounded up the street dogs to kill them in shelters. It would not have occurred to them to do so. They simply help those animals who are injured or in distress.

In 1964, Blue Cross of India began the first, continuously running, spay/neuter program in the entire world. This program has been going ever since and has never stopped; it paused only briefly during the two lockdowns for the pandemic. It is efficient and effective and is known as the ABC program because, as Blue Cross’s co-founder and chairman emeritus, Dr Chinny Krishna, says, “It is as simple as ABC.”

A long history of helping street dogs

The ABC program has always included rabies vaccinations, which have brought rabies under control throughout the city of Chennai (and eliminated it entirely during several years), saving the lives of both animals and people.

The ongoing, dedicated work of Blue Cross caring for the street dogs of Chennai has had a powerful influence on the care of dogs and other animals in cities all over India – although India has traditionally, true to their culture and philosophy – been a land which values kindness towards all animals. The ABC program maintains a steady, stable population of the dogs, who are calm and well habituated to their neighborhoods, where they can live peacefully for many years.

In addition, Blue Cross runs a very active ambulance rescue service for animals in distress, helping many thousands of dogs and other animals each year. Dogs found on the street who have formerly been pets are taken to the Blue Cross shelter and placed in the adoption program to find loving homes.

Please help Blue Cross, if you can. They have undertaken the monumental task of feeding the street dogs during this time when they have had no regular source of food. A little goes a long way. Bless you and thank you.

Photos: Velu, Blue Cross of India

In normal years, to attend the Asia for Animals Conference – which is always lively and dynamic – you’ll need to spend several thousand dollars and around 15 hours flying across the Pacific.

This year however, due to the pandemic, you can stay in your armchair and pay $20 to be part of the virtual two-day AfA Conference – which is a good deal.

Well, it’s really a two-night conference, from the U.S., due to the time differences.

Speakers

Jane Goodall will give the keynote address. Other speakers will be well-known animal activists from China, Nepal, India, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, and other Asian countries. The conference will be in English.

The 2021 Conference will be put on jointly by Blue Cross of India and FIAPO (the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations). Dr. Chinny Krishna, one of the founders of these two organizations will give the opening address.

Around twenty sessions and panel discussions will take up highly relevant topics.

One session will focus on building an Asian movement to end live animal markets and the wildlife trade.

A panel discussion on Spirituality and Animal Protection will include Dr. Nanditha Krishna, well-known author of many books on animals, the world of nature, and Hinduism – along with Manoj Gautam from Nepal, Wolf Gordon Clifton of the Animal People Forum, and others. The traditions of many Asian countries go back 5,000 years or longer – so there’s quite a lot to cover.

Jill Robinson, of the Animals Asia Foundation, who has led the struggle to free bears from bear bile farms, will speak about the cat and dog meat trade.

Other sessions will feature – fading out the use of animals in tourism, the role of a plant-based movement, and the role of children in animal rights advocacy. Sessions will also focus on farm animals, wild animals, and companion animals.

Asia for Animal Conferences have been held every year and a half since they began in 2001, twenty years ago, in the Philippines. Animal advocacy in Asia faces challenges – as is the case everywhere in the world. The animal movement in Asia is led by remarkable people, who set an amazing example, marked by a high level of energy, enthusiasm, courage, and perseverance.

You can view the Conference program here: https://www.asiaforanimals.com/conference-2021
Scroll down until you see the schedule. You can see the times in the left margin. “IST” is Indian time.

Time Differences

The time difference between U.S. Mountain time (Utah time) and IST (Indian Standard Time) is 11 and a half hours.

This means that, for U.S. attendees, the conference does not start on April 24, instead it starts this coming Friday – in the evening of April 23, at 10 pm, Utah time – or 12 midnight EST.

To convert Indian time (IST) to Utah time, subtract 11 and a half hours.

If you’re not much of a night owl, you may still want just to stay up for one or two events – or if you’re a morning songbird, you may want to wake up for two or three early morning events, starting at around 5 am. Or, you may be completely captivated and want to watch the entire conference – for all of both nights.

In any case, whatever you can watch, it will be fascinating. It will give you an insight into the dynamic work of Asian animal advocates, who stand up for the animals in Asia – and it will be a lot easier than flying across the Pacific for 15 hours!

How to sign up

Go to this link https://afa2021.eventuresindia.com/register

But first do this: Before registering, you are advised to call your credit card company and notify them that you are about to make a foreign purchase. These days, credit card companies may block your card for making an “unusual” (i.e. foreign) purchase. If you call them in advance, there will be no problem.

Registration for the two-day conference is $20.

Relevance to wild lands

All efforts to save the earth’s animals (both wild and domestic animals – and ourselves too) depend on the continued existence of wild habitat, which means wild lands – which means renewing the earth. We all live on the same earth – one earth.

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We look forward to seeing you at the AfA Conference this Friday evening!

Five miles south of the city Tiruvannamalai, which lies southwest of Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, can be found the forest grove of Pavupattu. An oasis of peace and beautiful trees, it was the first of 53 sacred forest groves restored by CPREEC (CPR Environmental Education Centre).
Thirty years ago, the grove came to the attention of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Director of CPREEC; she and one of CPREEC’S officers, Mr. Selvapandiyan, went to visit the grove and found it very rundown. Over the course of many months, Mr. Selvapandiyan, who was the manager of the restoration project, spent his time first interviewing local elders in the nearby village of Pavupattu, to determine which were the trees that had once grown naturally in the grove. Then he set about doing the work of restoration.

Mr. Selvapandiyan recalls that at the time, there was a severe drought in the area, which meant that there was no water available. They had to bring in water from outside in trucks, to use for planting all the trees and also as drinking water for the work crews. It was very hot work in the warm months of southern India.

All the trees that can be seen now planted on the acres of the grove, are green and wonderfully healthy. Just a few of the larger trees had existed earlier. In the thirty years since Pavupattu was restored, the people of the nearby village of the same name have faithfully taken care of the grove. It is clean and well-kept, with no trash or litter, a lovely, serene place, home to a few dozen resident monkeys – and to the huge votive statues that the people have had made to offer to the deities of the grove. There are small temple structures, and standing on platforms, or sometimes grinning from behind trees, are the remarkable folk statues, especially of huge white horses, and sometimes the figures of guardian spirits in human form – all constructed of painted terracotta, one of the unique folk arts of Tamil Nadu.

Throughout India, there are forest groves – in the hundreds of thousands, though sadly, the majority have fallen into disrepair over the centuries. Some have disappeared entirely, swallowed up into shopping malls or other developed land, or perhaps simply lying idle, as waste land, occasionally visited by a few devotees who worship the remnants of a sacred site. A few have been maintained over hundreds or thousands of years.

These are the original spiritual sites of the local people of India. They are groves of trees because the trees themselves are believed to be especially sacred, and the people see them as home to the guardian spirits and the deities who live on the sacred land among the trees. Wherever the groves have been preserved intact, it is entirely due to the devotion and tenacity of the local village people, who have protected their groves against all the onslaughts of modern development.

In the past, every Indian village had a forest grove, which was the heart of the spiritual life of the people. The trees could never be cut down, the animals and birds could not be disturbed. Sometimes it was even forbidden to gather dead fallen branches for firewood. The land was sacred and could not be used for mundane purposes. Where they still exist, the forest groves are wonderful repositories of the animals, birds, and plant life of the area. Some species can now only be found in the forest groves.

CPREEC, with each of the 53 groves they have restored, has taken great pains to study the area and to learn from the local people the exact species of trees that used to grow there so that they can be replanted, restoring the grove precisely to its original state. CPREEC provides the funding for the work and carries out the project, hiring local people to do the work. After three years of renovation and support by CPREEC, each grove is turned over to the village, and the local people undertake to preserve and maintain the forest grove which has traditionally always been theirs.

Preserving and restoring these beautiful and peaceful places of greenery and sacred trees, habitat for many kinds of birds and wildlife, is profoundly significant – first of all, for that grove and for the plants and animals who live within the grove and the people who live nearby. And, on another level, what could be more important than restoring and maintaining a small part of the planet earth? Each grove stands like a shining beacon, a reminder of the beauty, grace, and living nature of the earth and all her children.

© Forest Voices of India, 2020

 

Forest Voices of India
– conducts charitable fundraising services for environmental charities, especially in India.

How you can help

The CPR Environmental Education Centre
(CPREEC)
in Chennai, India

– Safeguards water

– Revives tribal arts

– Runs ecological study projects for students

– Restores forest groves – planting trees, improving water sources, and providing places of peace and joy for both wildlife and village people.

To help, click on Donate and choose CPR Environmental Education Centre.

Sending this link to a friend is another great way to help.

Bless you for caring!

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Forest Voices of India conducts charitable fundraising services that relate to promoting awareness of tree and environmental conservation and promoting research, education and other activities relating to the environment.

 

 

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Harini and Pavitra, dressed in their blue and white school uniforms, had come to school that morning with their parents – Harini with both her parents and Pavitra with her mother – so we could interview them to get a sense of what the EACH ONE TEACH ONE scholarship program meant to them.

 

“If you could say something to the whole world, what would it be?” I found myself asking Harini.

 

It wasn’t a question I had planned to ask her. She paused for thought, then replied,

 

“Trees are very important for humans. Trees breathe by photosynthesis, and that’s good for humans, because we need oxygen to live. They give us oxygen to breathe, and they each give life to a whole ecosystem. We need to love trees and protect them. I would say to everyone in the world that we must take care of trees.”

 

An uplifting message

 

What an uplifting message from a twelve-year old child.  If only the world’s politicians would speak with such clarity about the natural world.

 

In her office, where the principal, Mrs. Ruby Puthotta, greets visitors with a warm, engaging smile, every wall was lined with shelves and more shelves of trophies, won for athletic achievements over the years by the girls of Lady Sivaswami Ayyar Girls Higher Secondary School. The school is in Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal in South India.

 

Harini and her schoolmate, Pavitra, who is thirteen, are two of the 300 children at the school who are able to attend school thanks to the EACH ONE TEACH ONE scholarship program, run by the C.P. Foundation, Chennai.

 

Harini and her parents live in Tharamani, outskirts of Chennai, twelve miles away from Mylapore. The three of them had caught a train early that morning to travel to meet us.

 

When Harini is not at school, she spends her time painting natural scenery and, especially — you guessed it – trees. She tells us that there are lots of trees and bushes around her house.  She loves animals too; there are community dogs that live in her neighborhood. When she finishes school, she wants to join the Indian Administration Service to become a civil servant.

 

Her mother, K. Jayanthi, takes care of the home, and her father, Mr. Kaliraj owns and runs a sidewalk shop that sells ice cream and snacks. He says it’s fairly busy, and he enjoys his work, which he’s been doing for around twenty years.

 

A future scientist

 

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Harini’s schoolmate, Pavitra, who is thirteen, rides her bike to school every day. She lives closer to the school than Harini does – only about a mile and a half away, and she’s fascinated by science. She loves to read books about nature – especially about the stars and the planets. She’s fond of animals too, particularly dogs and horses.

 

Pavitra intends to be a scientist one day and is especially intrigued by chemistry. When she’s not at school, she spends her time doing handicrafts, especially making pink paper flowers to decorate her room.

 

Harini’s mother, Jayanthi, works in the home, has a talent for sewing, and makes clothes for her family. Married for 25 years, she and her husband have three children. She tells us, “When I’m making lunch for my children in the morning, I’m just really happy and grateful that they’re able to go to school.”

 

She wants her children to have good lives, and she is focused on that. Pavitra’s sisters are eleven and nine years old. Harini’s eleven-year old sister also studies at this school and has a scholarship.

 

Giving young people a chance to learn

 

Under the guidance of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, President, C.P. Foundation, the project has been coordinated by Mrs. Malathy Narasimhan, of the C.P. Foundation, after the passing away of Mrs. Shakunthala Jagannathan, Founder Member of EACH ONE TEACH ONE, in the year 2000.

 

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The principal, Mrs. Ruby Puthotta, gives us some background on what this program means to the students being sponsored. 90% of the students at this school are very poor, while 10% are middle class. Over half of the students are able to attend school only because of the scholarships that they receive – from the C.P. Foundation and other charities that also offer scholarships.

 

She explains, “We have a lot of children from very poor backgrounds.  Some of the girls do domestic work early in the morning, and then again after school to help support their families. We’ve identified 45 children who work before and after school, and we’ve set up a special coaching program to help them. The All India Domestic Workers Association helps by paying for the teacher that does the coaching.”

 

Legally, children can start to work in India at age 14, so without a scholarship to be able to stay in school, these girls would have only a dreary future ahead of them.

 

Thanks to generous sponsors though, there are now no limits on what they may accomplish. Their sponsorships will take them through the twelfth grade, and the chances are good that they will qualify for scholarships to go on to university.

 

A wider reach

 

It also means something really important for the rest of us — that the world will not lose all that these gifted young people have to offer.

 

The world is in need of their talents and energy – and very much in need of the deep understanding that “trees are very important” – and are vital to our future.  What could be a more meaningful message?

 

A promising future for these youngsters will make a big difference – not just for them, but for us and our world as well.

 

 

 

By Sharon St Joan

President

Forest Voices of India

 

How you can help

The CPR Foundation
(the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation)
Chennai, India

The CPR Foundation

– empowers women to start their own businesses.

_ runs schools and sponsors the education of children from low-income families in South India.

– instills the concept of ahimsa (“do no harm”) through the art and culture of India.

You can help by clicking on the Donate button, and choosing the CPR Foundation. Another great way to help is to send this link to a friend.

Bless you for your kindness!