Stray dogs are a common sight in many parts of the world. One of my lasting memories and the subject of the occasional nightmare is seeing loping Alsatians on the streets of Athens. In Indian cities and towns, they are not of any pedigree but invariably mongrels that are ubiquitous. These dogs can also be rabid, but they are now accepted as part of the fabric of the urban jungle.
So why does the sight of stray cats somehow seem much more disturbing? In Istanbul, I saw cats and kittens along the rocks by the beach. As for Chennai, my former hometown, the place is now teeming with them. These delicate feline refugees somehow are out of place living on the streets. They appear as if deprived of their birth right – which would obviously be a life of comfort and elegance.
Yesterday’s email from my mother had news of a major stray cat invasion in their house in Chennai. A mother cat had delivered a litter of four under the cupboard of my old room and two others have encroached into their bedroom and left their mark! The mother is resting but her kittens were taken away and left on the street. One can only hope that they survive and don’t meet a bloody end under some automobile.
All this made me think about the pressures of our daily existence – people, like cats are being displaced everywhere. Refugees smuggled across land and sea in search of asylum in the west, or EU migrants coming (in dribbles perhaps, not droves) for a better life in the UK, for example. The vocal and violent protests by the disenfranchised in Brazil all through the run up to the World Cup have made a huge impact, highlighting just how unequal a society it really is. And more worrying – the radical extremists wreaking havoc in the Middle East are now beating on the gates of Baghdad. As the oil fields bubble away below, the conflagrations above go on with no end in sight. The fight for daily survival is a stark reality in so many parts of the world and a harmonious modern world looks an impossible fantasy.