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BY MANILAL VALLIYATE
Today, society is identifying racist, sexist, homophobic, and certain other types of discriminatory phrases and eliminating them from our language. But what about words that are disrespectful of animals or even promote violence toward them? I know firsthand the influence words have and how they can be used either for good or for bad.
When I started my veterinary career nearly 20 years ago in Delhi, I served poor communities who used “tongas”, or horse-drawn carriages, for work. Most people warned me to be careful because the horse was a “shaitan” (devil) and would bite or kick me. Initially, I bought into that misguided belief, so I administered their injections and examinations using force. After all, that is how I was taught to handle animals at veterinary college.
I continued operating like this until a new mentor suggested that the term “devil” suits us humans better than it suits horses. She said, “When these animals are hitched to a cart, fitted with a painful spiked bit in their mouth, and unable to move their head to drive away the flies who are biting them and when you poke a thick needle into their butt, which is obviously very painful, what do you expect? Of course they’ll react.”
The word “devil” had predisposed me to believe that horses naturally didn’t like humans, rendering me blind to the constant abuse they endured. But, as I reflected on the power of that word, I began to realise that horses are aggressive only when they’re acting in self-defence, such as when they sense that a “human devil” (in their eyes) intends to harm them.
In English, animals are often referred to as “it”, as if they were inanimate objects. The day that I began seeing things from a horse’s perspective, I stopped calling them “it” and started calling them “he” or “she” instead. Horses and all animals are living beings who have thoughts and feelings; they are not “its” like tables and chairs, nor do they exist for human gain. I also started calling the humans using these animals their “caretakers” instead of their “owners” and asking them what their horses’ names were so as to establish respectful relationships between them. We all know that naming an animal can be an act of love and compassion, and it was delightful meeting “Shah Rukh Khan”, “Hema Malini”, “Dharmendra”, and others. I came to realise the extent to which my words influenced my views, my approach, and my actions.
The use of respectful language transformed me from an insensitive veterinarian who performed painful procedures without addressing my patients’ fear and agony into an animal welfare advocate who now advises fellow veterinarians to adopt animal-friendly practices. I became vegan and stopped consuming cows’ milk, eggs, meat, and anything else stolen from animals, and I ceased using leather, wool, and grooming and household products tested on animals. I committed myself to helping animals through the power of words, advocacy, and legislation and joined PETA India, the country’s best-known animal rights organisation.
Animals taught me that what matters is not just what we call them but also how we speak about them. For example, scientists who conduct painful experiments on monkeys and other animals only refer to them as numbers, like the prisoners they are. This is intentional because naming encourages caring, bonding, and relating. Can you imagine calling your dog “2667”? Using numbers is impersonal and makes it easier to abuse animals, which is why PETA India promotes compassionate word choice. For example, saying “animal companions” instead of “pets” reflects the true value of animals’ friendship rather than trivialising it. We also refer to dogs and cats who live on the streets and in our areas as “community animals”, not “strays” (or worse, “pariahs”), because they’re our neighbours and “community” evokes the constitutional obligation of every Indian citizen to treat animals with compassion.
Even some idioms we grew up with — like “mujhe bali ka bakra bana diya”, “kutte ki dum kabhi sidhi nahi hoti”, and “jiski laathi uski bhains” — normalise disrespect for and violence against animals. They also perpetuate speciesism, which, like sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination, is an oppressive belief system used to justify treating animals like objects, such as research tools, food, fabric, or toys, even though they share our capacity for pain, hunger, fear, thirst, love, joy, and loneliness and value their freedom and lives as we do. PETA India’s “End Speciesism” campaign encourages everyone to use peaceful, inclusive terms, such as, “mujhe gali ka kachra bana diya”, “sooraj kabhi paschim mein nahi ugta”, and “jiski chabi uski gaadi” instead.
Mahatma Gandhiji opposed speciesism and said, “To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being…. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” I invite you to use words that protect, not disrespect, animals.
(Dr Manilal Valliyate is a certified veterinarian and CEO of PETA India) (IANS)
GENEVA — The battle to stem climate change may be lost as new information indicates the Amazon rain forest is turning from a carbon sink – or area that absorbs CO2 – into a source of carbon dioxide, the World Meteorological Organization warns.
The latest edition of the WMO's Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide once again broke all records last year.
The U.N. agency's report warns the concentrations of these greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere are driving climate change. It says carbon dioxide, the single most important greenhouse gas, accounts for approximately 66 percent of the warming effect on the climate.
The secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, Petteri Taalas, says about half of CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere for centuries. He says the other half is taken up by oceans and land ecosystems.
He says it is not clear for how much longer forested areas, often referred to as the lungs of the Earth, will continue to act as effective carbon sinks.
"We have already seen some alarming indications that, for example, Amazonian rain forest ecosystem, which used to be a major sink of carbon, has become now a source of carbon, which is alarming," Taalas said. "And this is related to deforestation in the area and also changes in local climate because of this deforestation."
Oksana Tarasova, who heads the WMO's Atmospheric and Environment Research Division, says the WMO only now is revealing this new finding because it has taken nine years of observation to gather the measurement data set needed to understand the changes taking place. She says not all of the Amazon forests are turning from a carbon sink to a net producer of carbon.
"So, the Western part of the Amazonia still continues to work as a carbon sink at this point. But we do not know for how long that will continue this way," Tarasova said. "We are making the measurements there and keeping our track of what is happening there. … I would take the whole Amazonia as a whole that is seen that it is a sink, but its capacity is substantially reduced."
Meteorologists say climate change negotiators at an upcoming conference in Scotland must take concrete action and make concrete pledges to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
They say setting carbon-neutral targets will not work in stemming climate change. They also warn the world is heading toward a temperature rise of 2.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. This, they say, is far more than the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Climate change, amazon rain forest, UN Agency Warns, World Meteorological Organization, greenhouse gas emissions.
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Receiving compliments is something that a majority of us enjoy. Compliments, after all, make us feel good about ourselves. Sometimes compliments intended to be flattering turn out to be a tremendous turn-off, and in some cases, they are insulting. 'Beauty with brains is one of those compliments. So, is 'beauty with brains' a compliment? Without further ado, I would confidently say- NO! It doesn't matter what your gender, colour, or identity is. The answer is clearly a no.
Beauty with a brain suggests that you can only have one of these qualities and that you are an 'exception' if you possess both. "Oh, Wow! You are a beauty with brains" is a phrase that women often hear. This statement is used when a female exhibits characteristics that indicate she is intelligent. People are taken aback if they see a wise and beautiful woman because women are stereotyped to be either beautiful or brainy. The concern with this is that it is naturally assumed that men are intelligent. Women, on the other hand, are supposed to have a natural beauty. If she isn't attractive according to the norms laid down by society, it is expected that she would at the very least be intelligent. When someone manages to be both, it is regarded as a significant accomplishment.
People are taken aback if they see a wise and beautiful woman because women are stereotyped to be either beautiful or brainy. | Photo by Unsplash
Women are being stereotyped into two attributes: being attractive and being intelligent, and they are being conditioned to think that these characteristics cannot exist together. When you tell someone that they are not beautiful, you are implicitly attempting to fit them into the so-called "beauty standards" that today's era is so preoccupied with maintaining. And that is a significant issue. We are not required to fit in; we should take the risk of being unusual.
Many movies, television series, and even advertisements depict the female lead as someone who is the attractive one, well-dressed, with a face full of makeup and lovely hair. On the other hand, the intelligent girl is usually the one with unkempt hair, strange fashion sense, and little to no makeup.
While our generation has been the target of insulting and sexist slurs that have caused us to question our abilities on several occasions, let us work together to reverse the trend. Let us educate each other that beauty and intelligence can coexist and that we are all beautiful in our way and don't need to fit in the so-called standards set by our draconian society.
Keywords: women mental health, beauty, brains, men, intelligence society
Malgudi, a small fictional town in South India has been part of the childhood of most Indians. It is an old, shabby, and peaceful town that is unruffled by politics. The stories set in this small town ring the sense of belongingness in the hearts of its readers. The familiar feeling that feels like home resonates with their soul. And teaches important life lessons to the readers through simple tales. Malgudi Days is one of the books that every Indian child should read. The book is a compilation of 32 short stories that paint a beautiful picture of small-town in India around the '60s and '70s
R. K. Narayan, one of the most well-known and popular writers within India and outside India is the creator of this town and the occurrences of this town. The stories follow the characters Swami and his friends through their everyday lives. Be it the story of fake astrologers who scam and loot the people by his cleverness, or the story of a blind beggar and his dog where the money blinded the man with greed; each story has a lesson to learn, morals and values hidden in it. As the stories are simple, easy to understand yet heart-touching it makes it easy for the kids to connect with each character and imagine the story as if the reader themselves were the protagonist of the story. In simple words, we can say that R.K. Narayan simply told stories of ordinary people trying to live their simple lives in a changing world.
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As written during the Indian Independence movements and finally published in 1943. The stories in the Malgudi days beautifully encapsulated the transitioning milieu of the British era to post-Independence India. Each of the stories portrays a facet of life in Malgudi and simultaneously a life in an Indian town. R.K. Narayan was one of the first writers who pioneered Indian writings in the English language and the book was later republished outside India in 1982 by Penguin Classics. Thus, the book enjoyed a worldwide audience. The New York Times even described the virtue of the book as "everyone in the book seems to have a capacity for responding to the quality of his particular hour. It's an art we need to study and revive."
The beautiful storytelling of the book was assisted by beautiful illustrations allowing the children to let their imagination teleport them to the world of Malgudi. All the illustrations in the book were illustrated by the world-renowned cartoonist, R.K. Laxman who is also R.K. Narayan's younger brother. The illustrations complimented the scenes from the stories and excited the children, keeping them engaged in reading the book for hours.
The illustrations complimented the scenes from the stories.Pixabay
The short stories from Malgudi Days were later adapted into a television adaptation in 1986. This show was directed by actor and director Shankar Nag. It was filmed both in Hindi and English, containing 54 episodes and the first 13 episodes respectively. Later the series was revived for additional 15 episodes. The show featured several popular celebrities from the Kannada film industry of those days – Girish Karnad, Vishnuvardhan, Ananth Nag, Arundhati Nag and Vaishali Kasaravalli, to name a few. The series was premiered on the Doordarshan channel and became the window into the town Malgudi for many. The show did not only excel in its storyline the TV adaptation elevated the storytelling as the show was technically very sound and stood out in its fantastic detailing in terms of locations and sets. With the cinematography being creative The Malgudi days- TV series once again warmed the hearts of both young ones and adults.
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Malgudi- our childhood home
Malgudi days hold a special place in the hearts of whoever has read the book as a child. With the detailed descriptions of the town and stories one almost gets a feeling that they've visited the place themselves. The characters, Swami and his friends feel like they were all readers' childhood friends. The surreal feeling of being home in the world of Malgudi. The world of Malgudi is intimate, warm, lifelike, and engaging. The setting is modern, and the life portrayed in these stories is contemporary. Still, there is an old-time air about It. R K Narayan once described Malgudi as "Malgudi is where we all belong, and where we wish we lived."
Keywords: Malgudi days, Malgudi, R K Narayan, R K Laxman, storytelling, our childhood home Malgudi