Saturday, January 28, 2006

Into the world of animals

AMITA MALIKWhen one watches the turbulent world of humankind on TV, one is thankful that humans who are killing, slandering and fighting each other sometimes have the time and the kindness to care for animals. It did my heart good to watch two real animal stories on TV.

One was on the frantic efforts made to steer back a whale to its habitat in the ocean. The poor sea animal had lost its way and was located in the Thames in the heart of London. The rescuers tried their best, but the whale had already lost a lot of blood. It was difficult to steer it without hurting it, so the poor animal died in the end.

ANIMAL CARE: Rescuers tried to save the whale that had lost its way in the Thames river.
ANIMAL CARE: Rescuers tried to save the whale that had lost its way in the Thames river. — AFP photo

The second story concerned a tortoise. When we were little children, our parents gave us two treats whenever we went to Calcutta from Assam. One was a visit to the museum, referred to as the jadughar (what a lovely name for a building housing antiquities) and the other was a trip to the chiriyaghar, which was the Calcutta zoo and a bit of a misnomer, because it has much more than just birds.

The second animal story on TV showed the tortoise, so beloved of Calcuttans, which started its life in the zoo in 1875, during British times. It lay dangerously ill and unlikely to survive. People visiting the zoo were watching it with anxiety and in silence, which is unusual considering what a noise humans make when they visit the zoo. So we Indians do love non-humans too. And I hope by the time this column appears, the tortoise would have pulled through, although that seemed unlikely.

From this world of cooperation to the bizarre world of politics. If one wanted to be entertained by politicians (and there are not many Lalu Yadavs around), one had to watch the hilarious sight of the BJP supporters of the breakaway son of "The Humble Farmer" being spirited away to luxury hotels in Mahabalipuram, Chennai and wherever, and breakaway members of the JD (S) led by H D Kumaraswamy flying by a special plane to luxury hotels and beaches of Goa. On TV, the MLAs looked as if they were off to a picnic. It seemed like it and by the time this column appears, they would probably be fighting over ministerships.

Then for entertainment, there is always the world of cricket, with its attendant politics and the trio of Greg, Dravid and Sourav adding to the masala. Which is why I must congratulate Sonali Chander and her programme Cricket Controversies for winning the Apsara award for the Best Sports Programme. As for the two awards for pioneering and lifetime achievement, what better achievers than Prannoy Roy of NDTV and Aroon Purie of Aaj Tak and India Today. Remember how Prannoy and his wife Radhika Roy (who does the management and was paid a rich and loving tribute by Prannoy when receiving the award at the hands of Javed Akhtar on stage) rescued us from the monopoly of Ye Olde Doordarshan with its bureaucratic hang-ups and gave us the first independent news on Indian TV. But while Aaj Tak is the most successful Hindi news channel, professionals like us who lived through the Emergency will remember the breath of fresh air Aroon Purie introduced into the hitherto neglected scene of weekly journalism by starting India Today.

This column has to go to press before Republic Day and I must confess that I am looking forward to Beating Retreat, performed at sunset against the magnificent backdrop of Rashtrapati Bhavan and North and South Blocks and that intensely moving moment when Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn Abide with me is played in hushed silence with camels silhouetted against the ramparts of South Block. An unforgettable moment which brings a lump to the throat and makes one proud to be an Indian. And thanks to Doordarshan, which has been covering this event since it began and whose cameramen and producers do full justice to this magnificent occasion.