The Urban Animal Project: One Lucky Chicken (or the effect of superstition on Mumbai's animals)
Director: Nisha Vasudevan
Duration: 00:03:03; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 28.307; Saturation: 0.058; Lightness: 0.334; Volume: 0.348; Cuts per Minute: 39.458
Summary: Cities are not “natural habitats”. However, over the years cities have become the spaces in which many animals have evolved; they are now the homes on which they have imprinted. The Urban Animal Project aims to document these species against the backdrop of a cityscape.
This is a work-in-progress which will be conducted in many phases, the first of which looks at land mammals in the city of Mumbai. Phase I delves into the reasons these animals are present in such a physical environment as opposed to existing in the wild. At the same time, it investigates what provisions are available for them and whether or not they are implemented. These laws are looked into with reference and from the point of view of municipal bodies, non-profit organisations, veterinary practice and the current curriculum, the meat and dairy industries, beasts of burden, animal trade and the role of superstition, among others.
Over time, The Urban Animal Project is expected to expand into marine life, protected areas within cities, birds, monsoon ecosystems and hopefully many other areas.
This set of clips has been shot near a divider in Parel and then at the animal hospital. It is mobile phone footage of an unlikely victim of "black magic" - a rooster. Found in a plastic bag alongside two coconuts, it was smeared with crimson. Its wings were tied back and legs tied together, rendering it immobile. Not many people were willing to touch it.
Currently being worked on by Namaah Kumar, Reema Sengupta, Falak Mulchandani and Nisha Vasudevan. Each phase of The Urban Animal Project will be edited into short documentaries.
While heading out of the Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital, on our way to lunch, Sonam spied a plastic bag on the divider at a busy junction. We stopped to check its contents, which you see to your left.
"Black magic" is often used to "exorcise" people or houses and the belief is that the haunting spirit must be sent into another living being (often a chicken, many times other animals). The animal should then be left "where four roads meet" - in this case, the ITC junction.
We almost missed this at one of the busiest junctions in the city. Many didn't notice. To think how many cases such as these are taking place in lesser known roads and dark alleyways where no one treads!
Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals
ITC Junction, Parel
The rooster's legs had been tied together with plastic cords, which were cut open using scissors borrowed from a shopkeeper. A nearby panwallah provided some water for it to drink. Many people on the road stopped to see what the commotion was about - even the police. Still, no one seemed to want to touch the chicken.
The gentleman in the white shirt and black pants happened to work with animals - main animals main hi kaam karta hoon - and stopped to help out. The rooster would probably not have made its way out of the bag if not for him - suffice to say that it was one lucky chicken!
One wing had been overlapped against the other and tied behind it. When it was helped out of this situation we realised it had been tied up for so long that it couldn't walk or move its wings.
The frightened bird was palpitating, its head was hot from having been kept in a plastic bag under the hot afternoon sun. Some water helped refresh it.
It was nice that some on the road helped out, but many protested. We should have left the chicken alone, it was bad luck, they said.
We ran to the BSPCA for help, who sent someone to pick the bird up immediately.
The reason for this response at the BSCPA may be the same as mentioned in the Dog Ward section of our interview: many people employed at these organisations may have a neutral stance when it comes to animal welfare. Passion is no prerequisite when one's bread and butter is at stake.
The organisation has a conscience and stands for ideals and those running it are conscientious, passionate people. However, for many who work there, it is just another job. And they are not willing to lose their job or their "luck" by touching a "tainted" animal.
Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals
We followed up at the hospital the next day, and found our rooster rehabilitated. It had been cared for. It was not dehydrated and able to walk and move around.
There are many who aren't so lucky, however, and superstition is the reason for much slaughter and senseless cruelty against animals.
There are many packets with crimson, lemon and an animal in them ignored on crossroad. Those passing by mutter prayers under their breath while a rooster or a dog or a rat or a cat suffocates, immobile, scared for no rational reason.