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In defence of the four-legged

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COMMITTED Amala Akkineni, playing a real life role to protect animals
COMMITTED Amala Akkineni, playing a real life role to protect animals

Amala Akkineni was in the city last week. She tells DIPTI DESAI how much both the animal and owner can benefit by adopting a homeless animal

And then there was this little girl who went around on her bicycle, picking up all the little homeless creatures that she came across on the streets of Chennai. This little girl, with a compassionate heart, and determination to bring about a change in the lives of the homeless animals, didn't really think she would grow up and have a sprawling two-acre property with eight projects running simultaneously, all dedicated to the welfare of abused, sick and homeless animals. Yes, we are talking about none other than Amala Akkineni, our very own `Sooryaputhri', who took up a nobler mission in life leaving behind a high flying acting career. Kochi was privileged to have her addressing a public meeting on animal welfare issues, Sunday last, got up by the SPCA, Animal Husbandry Department and Kochi Corporation, highlighting animal birth control measures. The overwhelming response generated by her two big hits on the Malayalam screen, `Ente Sooryaputhrikku' and `Ulladakkam', leaves her hoping for similar fervour towards her present mission.Seated with so much poise and grace, talking about her childhood, she says , "I was in charge of all the cats and dogs in our hostel. When I studied in Kalakshetra, I used to visit the Blue Cross so often, which was very close to where I lived, in Adyar.'' She took to vegetarianism and influenced, if not convinced most of her friends to give up meat. Sure it was not easy as a child to give up on many favourite dishes but a quick trip to the neighbourhood butcher's, strengthened her convictions about vegetarianism. Born to an Irish mother, who instilled in her all the love and compassion for animals and a Bengali father, Amala moved to Kalakshetra, in Chennai to pursue her studies, and became a very prominent Bharatnatyam danseuse.

Starting afresh

Later she took to films and basked in the glory of stardom till one day she walked into the world where she felt she was needed a lot more, a world of the sick and homeless creatures of Hyderabad.She says, "When I got married and moved to Hyderabad, I was very disappointed to see that there was no shelter or home for the sick and abused animalsI began picking up all these animals and bringing them home. In no time our yard was full, the garage was full, there were birds of all kinds, squirrels, monkeys and even mules. My husband had no place to park his car and everyone who came home was welcomed with the birds flying all over,'' she adds with a chuckle.She was by then actively participating with Hyderabad's first animal welfare organisation, where she happened to come across a few like-minded people who showed equal amount of enthusiasm and determination. And then there was no looking back.

Supportive Nagarjuna

With all the support her husband Nagarjuna Akkineni and Dr Chinni Prakash, founder of Blue Cross, Chennai, she started Hyderabad's very own Blue Cross .Blue Cross Hyderabad, today is 15. Well wishers, volunteers, supporters, considerate and responsible citizens and young people from Hyderabad have all made it possible for Blue Cross to be the safe haven for all the poor speechless abused creatures in town.Everybody loves his or her pets. But there are few to love the stray dogs that belong to the street. "They are seen as a mere nuisance and at times even as a threat to the society. It's time we did something instead of folding our arms and watch them being beaten and stoned. All it requires of citizens is to be aware of the programmes that animal welfare associations are bringing in and to spread the word among others. If you happen to live in a locality with stray animals, informing the concerned, would lead to necessary actions like sterilization and vaccination of the animals, thus creating a society free of threat from stray animals.''She believes that the younger generation is the key to this project. And that their participation would bring in a significant contribution. "Early next academic year, we will launch a CD with all the information as to why and how a child can participate and bring about a change in the situation of animal welfare.'' She also added that she is willing to train young people to help spread the word to bring in justice and cruelty-free lives that the animals rightly deserve. She stresses on adoption of homeless animals, since once they are treated, they are resistant to diseases and sterile. Also, they come absolutely free with guaranteed lifetime security and love, to anyone who cares to give them a home. Found on the Blue Cross website, this quote from Mark Twain sums it up best: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will never bite you, this is the principal difference between a man and a dog''.Those who are keen on knowing more can check out www.bluecrosshyd.org

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