Long time visitors to this site have no doubt noticed very different content here lately. In the past decade my website has existed in a variety of forms but always has been a repository for my research, my interests, and things that I’m working on. For the past six months I've not been working as a technician in the Film & TV business and instead have been photographing the cultures and peoples of Asia. This was a long gestating personal project having far more to do with my own curiosity and desire to explore the world than any work related ambition I may have. Needless to say, it was a rewarding experience on many different levels and I’d now like to take the time to share my stories and images with anyone interested. I'm still researching and writing about digital imaging technology but for now, I'm somewhat consumed with getting through the 10,000 images I brought home from my trip. Once this work is done I can move on to some other topics but for the time being, count on a few more photo essays and similar projects from me.
With at least 1.25 billion, most people today are aware that India has an absolutely massive human population. Prior to coming here I was expecting visual evidence of this but the one thing I hadn’t considered was the seemingly equal amount of domesticated animals choking the streets. Monkeys, cows, goats, pigs, chickens, donkeys, horses, maybe an elephant or two, and of course the staggering number of stray dogs. With no less than 30 million, there are more semi-feral canines here than anywhere else in the world. They're in any city or village and found wandering in packs in remote rural areas. Because of the sheer volume of the dog population, 36% of the world’s rabies deaths are in India; 20,000 per year out of 35,000 documented infection cases. These numbers suggest that if you do acquire this very treatable virus in India it's likely that you will die. This is a public health problem of massive proportions.
Prior to British colonization and the arrival of other breeds, the most commonly found canine on the subcontinent was the ancient, indigenous Pariah Dog, also known as the Pye Dog or India Native Dog. While generations have left the breed mostly mixed today, this dog I saw in Delhi exhibits many of the associated physical traits.
While it refers to an indigenous Indian breed, the name "Pariah Dog" has come to encompass all street dogs here. This name also suggests a scavenger species largely regarded as a threat or nuisance and living on the fringes of society. Their connection to people is ancient though, one of the oldest in the world, and many are put to work as guards in overpopulated slums in exchange for meager offerings of food. Because of the ancient and socially accepted relationship between people and dogs in this part of the world, this problems of their modern co-existence have proven difficult. The colonial solution was to round them up and kill them. As of 2001 this is illegal but without a real national policy in place, the problem of stray dogs biting and infecting peoples remains largely status quo.
For a scavenger species, large amounts of exposed garbage found all over India provide an abundant food source. Innumerable slums here are the biggest refuse producer and as long as human beings are living in these conditions without access to proper sanitation or waste disposal, there will always be strays and killing programs have been deemed an ineffective measure.
As two dogs can multiply into three hundred within three years, sterilization is a far more humane approach. Cities such as Jaipur and Mumbai have been successful in their programs to neuter, vaccinate, and then return animals to their territorial areas. This keeps other dogs from coming in and breeding and they will eventually die naturally, reducing their overall numbers. Implementing measures such as these on the national level has not happened and proposals have been made by politicians like rounding them up and sending them to China where they’re likely to encounter a grisly fate.
Exactly as is found among the growing middle and upper classes across developing Asia, it's becoming rather posh to keep thorough-bred dogs in India. However the average visitor is far more likely to see evidence of the wretched state of street dogs rather than well cared for and loved animals.
As a nonfiction writer, I endeavor to be as objective as possible but on a personal blog such as this I can be pretty liberal with my own conclusions. As difficult and occasionally overwhelming as it is, I love India. Two months was only enough time to scratch the surface and I found myself leaving more perplexed by the place than before coming. The strays dogs here are indeed a real menace and on several occasions I felt genuinely threatened by packs of roving animals. Generally, if you leave them alone they’ll leave you alone but but if they feel at risk or emboldened, they can be extremely aggressive and deadly even. Really any solo traveler in India should never let their guard down for a second. Parts of the country are safer than others but India loves dishing out surprises so one needs to keep their wits about them and hope for the best. It may sound nuts but I honestly can’t wait to get back. I found the chaos of it, the filth, the contradictions, the horror and beauty everywhere to be endlessly fascinating and inspiring.