The canines on the campus of Jadavpur University have a Facebook page and 260 likes.
Bhondu is bhondu, a lovable idiot. Scarface is shier than touch-me-nots. Shaare-teen is a complete mess-with-me-not kind. Milo a perpetual outrider and Bagha’s the understanding one. You are likely to bump into them in the canteens, corridors and even classrooms of Jadavpur University (JU) in Kolkata. They may follow you around when they are in the mood to make friends, or enemies. They are spoilt on home-cooked food and some, the teachers bet, are more regular at lectures than students.
Meet the campus residents who even have a Facebook page, JUDogs, dedicated to them. The page has seen a steady rise in the number of “likes” (260 now) since its formation in January 2011. Bhondu is the mascot of the canine group, a job he earned as much for his good looks as his “special qualities”.
Sample some comments made by Dr. Rimi B. Chatterjee, author, scriptwriter and English teacher at JU, on the JUDogs page: Bhondu is an “avid fan of editing and publishing”, has an “insatiable thirst for learning” and also enjoys “teaching classes and occupying professors’ chairs”. For students and teachers, especially from the Department of English, dogs are an integral part of campus life. Of the over 100 street-dogs that populate the campus in south Calcutta, about 20 linger in the Arts Faculty. “Some of these have been abandoned by owners when they shifted home,” said Dr. Chatterjee as she tried to free her hand from the grip of Bhondu’s jaws.
“The so called pet-dog lovers only care for the ‘foreign dogs’, the purebred ones. Street dogs are left to fend for themselves.” JUDogs members not only feed the dogs — some teachers and students come to the campus even on holidays, be it raining cats and dogs or a dog day afternoon — but also help them with medicines. “Krypto is undergoing treatment for cancer,” Dr. Chatterjee said. Neutering the dogs is one major activity of the group, as is raising funds. The most difficult task, however, is finding homes for abandoned puppies and getting people to love street-dogs.
“They are street dogs; how does it matter what ‘breed’ they are?,” Dr. Abhijit Gupta, English teacher at JU and a JUDogs member, replied to a comment asking the breed of dogs in a picture uploaded by him. “Dogs, as well as human beings, have only one ‘breed’: they are either dogs, or humans.”
JUDogs members have been quick to react to violence against dogs elsewhere too. Last year, when a dog died after being reportedly thrown out of the second-floor balcony of a hostel at the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad, Dr. Chatterjee launched the Pawprints Campaign. “We got the paw prints of dogs on paper and wrote our messages to the vice-chancellor of EFLU voicing our protest against cruelty to dogs,” she said.
Love for street dogs
“It was here in JU that I first got to see how much the street-dogs were loved,” said Lav Kanoi, who recently completed his MA from the Department of English. “This completely changed my attitude towards them.”
The love for literature and dogs came together when Jocasta was named after a character from Greek play Oedipus Rex for being both the mother and wife to Bagha.
Their love for air-conditioning has resulted in some dogs being locked in staff-rooms and classrooms. One much-circulated story is of how Bhondu wrecked Dr. Gupta’s room, shredding files, telephone wires and curtains and leaving a pool of pee on the table “as a mark of protest” after he was locked in overnight. Little wonder then that those indulging the dogs are often viewed with scorn by those in favour of “healthy work environment”. Sometimes, students are asked not to encourage dogs inside classrooms.
But JUDogs members have their answer ready: Love me, love my dog