Pet pals

Vandana Gopikumar, who founded The Banyan, an NGO for the welfare of homeless women with mental health issues, has a lesser known side to her — a passion for animal welfare. She’s undertaken many adoptions, including those of crippled and blind animals. If not for The Banyan’s staff, these dogs would’ve died miserable deaths.

She recounts her rescues matter-of-factly. “Once in Valasarawakkam, we found a dog tied with barbed wire. We took her with us and it’s been four years now. Waffles is the most alert, intelligent dog we’ve ever seen. You can’t enter our Mogappair centre without her clearance. Waffles is a survivor — an inspiration to the women at The Banyan,” she says, referring to the handicapped dog that showers her with boisterous affection. She mentions an elderly woman, Bindu — a former patient and now a staff member. “Four months ago, a vehicle in Thiruvanmiyur knocked over Waffles. Though our vet said it was a very difficult case, Bindu healed the dog until she was well.” Vandana reveals that the dog’s affection for her healer was life-altering. “Bindu’s existence had gained meaning”, she says.

While several happy endings come about when Vandana lends a hand, she’s deeply distressed by the apathy of hit-and-run drivers. “There are no prerequisites for a relationship with an animal, no negotiations, no barriers, no artificiality. It’s an unconditional interaction that happens on an evolved plane. You could be throwing a ball with a dog and experience serenity: a sense of just being”.


Hero of the week

Shanti tells us about her brother Ramesh who saved the life of a stray puppy. “One night we heard the painful howling of a puppy that was beaten very badly by someone. Everyday, my brother massaged its hind legs till it regained strength. Slowly the puppy became a member of our family and stayed with us till its last breath. When it grew up, it was so faithful and didn’t allow any strangers to enter the house when we were alone”.

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