Sadly, I did not capture a photo of the puppy that is the focal point of this remembrance I am about to share. These are dogs living on the street; living the life he would've lived had he survived.
There are times when we are wholly involved and in tune with our own misery, and as she so cleverly does, life has a way of reminding us how to be compassionate of others. She forces us to look outside our self-absorbed notions and SEE others. This is a story about one of those powerful moments I experienced thousands of miles from home.
Prior to my arrival in India, I had some tumultuous experiences over the last year including breaking off with a lover and continuous work strife. Mainly, I didn't seem to be able to fit in. Relationships and career paths were somewhat of a cluster you know what. With all of that going on, nothing kept me from traveling back to my own version of heaven. It is ironic to call this town heaven as you are surrounded by poverty and sickness while staying in this place called Tiruvannamalai. Luckily, the town is growing due to a great influx of spiritual seekers searching for what is missing or maybe suffering from some personal crisis. The trip takes around 24 hours or more to land on the continent itself from the United States, followed by a 4-hour drive to Tiru.
I arrived alone in the airport exhausted and nervous, as always. Security is very serious there. My previous trip ended up with me in their office as I did not have proper contact information for my lodging. So, now I was afraid to make eye contact or act in any way suspicious, and yet I could still feel their suspicious stares. There is no discrimination. They disdain all foreigners, regardless of the revenue we bring or how we look. To my surprise, I made it through without a scream or a scratch and made my way outside for yet another frightful step in the process to get back to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi and continue my search for answers. Once there, many men with taxis tried to take my bags and coax me to their cars. I was squeezing the handles of my bags, tensing my aching back with a heavy backpack wrapped around, while keeping a straight face devoid of the fear and pain I felt throughout my whole body. Was I overreacting? Maybe, but traveling alone in international lands is not my forte. Many men were badgering and trying to take my bags, shouting in their native tongue. Finally, an angel of a woman stepped in and scolded a man that would not leave me alone.
My driver was very late due to traffic. My Uncle Steve, with his loving kindness, always helps me arrange lodging and transportation. He is actually the reason for my travels to India. That story shall have a place all its own, in due time. Powerful as it is; it needs to be shining and independent of this one. Now, my driver was sweet and apologetic as he could be without speaking English. We were on our way! It was such a relief to feel safe and relaxed, for now. About two hours into the trip, we stopped for the inevitable, frustrating stop for Chai. All taxis and pedal drivers feel that is a necessary part of the journey which can be frustrating to Americans who are always in a hurry to get to our destinations. Grumbling angrily to myself, I stayed in the car. I noticed there seemed to baby crying, and I rolled my eyes that the parent would leave the baby in the car alone. When it didn't stop, something told me to look out the window to which I saw a puppy crying on the sidewalk. Nobody was paying him any mind which I found horrifying. My heart hurts typing this even now. In an environment such as this, many animals get lost in the fray. It is, at times, every man for himself which means many wild dogs and other strays end up on the streets. Living on the streets means many hit and runs. People become desensitized to what they see all the time. From my overtired, overly sensitive perspective, I was beside myself. One fine gentleman tried giving the puppy some white powder which I could only assume was a pain reliever. He seemed to care as much as I did. When the driver returned to the car, I tried to show him my phone to call for help. He was not understanding what to do, so I pulled up the animal sanctuary website and phone number in Tiru. Thankfully, I had been made aware of this safe haven for animals called "Arunachala Animal Sanctuary" by my uncle many years before. The driver finally called them, and they happily received our request even at the early hour of 3am. With this good news, I carefully picked up the screaming pup and placed him in my lap for the 2-hour drive to his final resting place. I spoke loving words and stroked him lightly the whole way. He was found to have internal bleeding and passed the next day close to Bhagavan. It was so sad to hear the news, but my uncle mentioned that my deed was good, even beautiful. I brought the puppy home to Bhagavan. There is no greater place to pass on then near the great Saint Ramana Maharshi and his temple only a few blocks away. How small my worries seemed at the matter of life and death set before me. Maybe I shall live on and see happy days ahead.