A Touch of Humanity, photo essay by Saikat Chakraborty
Strolling around the allies of Jamia Nagar in search of stories made me think about the preconceived notion I had of the over-stereotyped South Delhi people. Though I managed to get involved in some interesting conversations, I was not getting to know the “Dilwale” (Good hearted) reputation of the capital city. I was making my way to the end of a colorful street named Gaffar Manzil while keeping my eye on the viewfinder as enormous dump yard turned crashed emerged in front.
A husky voice came from behind saying, “Iska photo lo nahh!” (Hey! take his picture). I turned behind to see a thin, short man in his late forties wearing a bright pink t-shirt calling me to take picture of his puppy. His young boy came out of the house with premium excitement, followed by his daughter. The children also urged me to take the picture of the puppy. As the man hold the puppy to assist me in taking a decent picture. They stood there with their father and their beloved puppy in the picture only when I requested them.
The name of the man is Jamil, who now does some odd jobs to make the living for the family after he lost his job as a laborer in a factory near Noida.He said, “I have more dogs. Should I call them? Will you take their picture?”
It seemed a bit skeptical at first then he started to whistle and started to shout “Aao” and within a minute 5-6 street dogs came rushing towards him. At that time some locals started gathering around and started talking. Jamil takes care of all the street dogs in Gaffar Manzil. He currently has 35 dogs. Jamil said that from his childhood he was always felt a connection with these innocent animals.
His dogs were not pleased like their master to see a camera pointing towards them and started to bark. Jamil bhai assured me that his dogs won’t bite me in his presence. He said, “Don’t worry, they all passed 8th grade and won’t bite anyone in my presence.”
As our conversation went on Jamil bhai started to open up about his life and his lifelong struggle to keep these dogs safe. For him these dogs are like his children. Living in one of the most crowed metropolitans of the country is no doubt costly and that too with six children. He said, “I have six children, one of them is marraied and the rest of them will eventually find work to survive this cruel world but what about my other children who can’t even speak? Who will take care of them after my death?”
The man kept his voice straight and said, “I’m thief, I steal things from people. I have arrested for my crimes but I don’t consider them crimes. The first time I stole was for one of my dogs someone poisoned it and the doctor said it needs an operation to survive. I didn’t have money at that point so I stole. I don’t regret it at all.” Seven among his 35 dogs needed major operation to survive their illness and to make sure that they get their due medical attention Jamil bhai stole and got arrested several times.
Jamil bhai asked me to do something that the government would arrange some kind of settlement for these innocent animals. I want them to get fed and taken care of. Dogs are the best friend a man could have.
Nowadays, we are witnessing an increased number of animal cruelties in the society and a big portion of that involves the educated section. Here is a man, a downtrodden, an underprivileged, a self proclaim thief who is carrying the burden of humanity in his shoulders in the face of savagery called world.
Many of his neighbors think he is a madman but he always had the support of his family and these street dogs are loved by his children. His wife cooks everyday for her children and for the dogs and she also likes to feed them. Jamil bhai may be not a formally educated man but his understanding of life is bigger than us who are only concerned with profit and loss in our lives.
(by Saikat Chakraborty)