Bang Bang Galore!
A Filmmaker’s BLOGELLA
Written by Steve Rosenberg
Blog 5 (Satish and Rats)
Today, I went with Satish to have his prosthetic leg refitted at a local clinic. He’s been have uncomfortable knee pains lately. Satish is a polite fourteen- year old lost his leg after being bitten by a rabid dog. I first learned about this boy on my last trip to India from a former child circus performer named Nagaraj. I met Nagaraj at APSA, an agency devoted to rescuing street children.
Nagaraj and Satish, both working children fled from their families and met on the streets of Bangalore. In the mornings, the boys would wrap up the prosthetic leg; leave it in the care of a nearby fruit vendor and head down to the Hindu temples to beg. Posing as brothers and partners in crime, they earned enough rupees to eat, drink, and purchase cigarettes and street drugs.
Like so many other street children, these boys found ways to survive by outsmarting adults almost three times his age. They had all sorts of tricks to pump people for money and if they had a slow day begging, they often delved into petty thievery. They engaged in pet theft, eventually earning enough money to travel to other cities on trains.
I loved hearing boys’ lurid street life adventures, but I am still sad for the Satish. . A handsome young boy with long eyelashes, he could easily be a lady killer when he matures, but now as I watch him hobbling along with one leg, I wonder about his confidence.
Here it is easy to see dogs as part of the wolf family rather than the docile pets we invite into our homes for companionship. One pointy nosed, mocha brown mutt is indistinguishable from the next. In a recent Bangalore newspaper article, they estimated the number of stray dogs to be as high as twenty- five lakhs, which translates to two hundred and fifty thousands dogs, some of whom are rabid.
Satish’s dog accident has spooked me. The other night, upon retuning home from a late night internet café, I found myself alone with a pack of ten howling street dogs. Not wanting to engage in a turf war with these hungry animals on an empty dark street, I promptly changed directions and headed back in the opposite direction. Thankfully, they left me alone.
During the day, the dogs blend in with the cacophony of other street noise, but at night, I feel their presence. It is an uneasy relationship. I am told that if dogs were left to breed on their own, they would all resemble these mutts. I am aware that certain rich people here own dogs as pets, but I haven’t seen them out in public. Dogs are part of the urban landscape here and that is just a fact of life. Am I encroaching on their turf or are they encroaching on me. It is an uneasy relationship.
There are hundreds of opinions floating around on how to effectively resolve the problem of dog overpopulation. Some people believe euthanization of rabid dogs is immoral while others suggest a massive sterilization program. The dog problem is just another urban problem that will eventually be resolved with time and money. Bangalore is not for the faint hearted. If it wasn’t for my film project, I don’t imagine I would last very long in Bangalore.
Satish is a wonderful child and I shouldn’t feel sorry for him; what is so amazing about this kid can barely string a sentence together without smiling. Like so many of the kids I’ve met here, he has managed to put his past troubles behind him.