“No,” my friend said reassuringly, “He has designed food to open up from a basket at home that’s monitored through a remote in his office. To ensure Gizmo doesn’t overeat the food stops falling at a certain time- that’s the sign it’s enough for the cat; he won’t fall sick then. Besides, if the cat’s bored, the television would be switched on. Every minute of his entire seven hours work in the office he is conscious of his cat’s needs. He even instructs him and affirms his love loudly; and Gizmo- Oh boy, he is Hank’s life and soul!”
“Do you see that scarf?” he pointed to a flashy cloth that covered the tummy and the back of the cat. “That’s his special birthday gift to him- it cost five hundred fifty Euros.”
I gulped. That was around 37,000 Indian rupees, a monthly salary for many Indians.
“Hank loves his cat- he means everything to him. They both make such a lovely pair, isn’t it?” my friend winked at me.
I wasn’t sure how to respond. Even as the culture shock took time to set in, I saw nearby a well-sized lady take her two dogs on a stroll.
“And that’s Sue,” my friend told me about her. “She hates to go out of the house but is forced to, because the dogs need to walk a minimum one hour daily. The government officials would check on her dogs’ stress levels every week, and if they discover the dogs haven’t got enough fresh air, the owner would be lashed a hefty fine. Last week Sue had passports made for both her German Shepherds. She plans to take them on holiday to the U.S.A. You know she has named them in her inheritance.”
“Hmm,” I said reflectively. I was now enlightened on the Western culture of love for dogs and cats. Maybe my friend is right; soon we’d hear about human-animal marriages. But before that, I was desperate to rush back to India. Although I knew to protect my own culture, I needn’t disrespect other cultures; here I found my values challenged. I knew prejudice is not what we are born with- it’s a trait we pick up as we grow in this world. I had to unlearn it fast. I then remembered with gratitude, Srila Prabhupada, who taught us the principle of Vasudeva kutumbhakam- this universe is one family!
To be continued….