Having a cold corner for humans, the girl spends most of the time with her campus dogs.
Having a bitter experience of feeding dogs in public, where people called her ‘mad’, she went towards the other side of Naseem Bagh.
The place, behind the food court, was serene. With very few people around, she settled under a majestic Chinar. Tailed by a black dog, the gentle breeze touched her face and hair.
In the meantime, the black dog was joined by other dogs as well. When she opened the packet of biscuit, all of them came near her, some eating from her hand.
Throwing the bits of biscuits in air, her hand movements resembled like dancing on some silent musical notes.
Before her arrival on the scene, the University of Kashmir’s food court was as usual abuzz with students from various courses immersing in discussions.
In between all usual happenings, some dogs stood up sniffing the air, as if sensing something.
Suddenly, a girl in her 20’s, sporting a black jacket, twirling her curly hair, walked through the lanes of Naseem Bagh.
Shabana Qazi, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, is known for her activities rather than by her name.
“Girl with curly hair who sits with dogs” is how other students know her.
The mighty Chinars, decorated with newly grown buds, were dancing in the spring sun when all the dogs started running towards that her.
Wagging their tails in excitement, they started swinging around her.
Shabana was brought up in a typical Kashmiri family where fear of dogs is induced in the children from their childhood.
Just like any other child, she was also scared of dogs. But after a thought-provoking incident, she changed her mind and the fear diversified into care.
During her third standard, while deboarding her school bus, she came across around ‘20’ stray dogs.
While she was walking scared, all the dogs ran after her. Running away from them, her bag fell on ground. But surprisingly, when she bent down to get her backpack, all the dogs overtook her only to run away from her.
This made her realize that what she was taught was just a myth.
“Actually, dogs attack you when they feel danger, or when they fear for the safety of their children,” said Shabana, standing outside the food court.
While this incident changed her thought process, time reshaped her thoughts into belief. She now identifies herself as an ‘introvert’ who likes to stay away from human company.
“I think if I give my best in any sort of relation, it gets ruined in the end. No matter how much I try to make it work,” she voiced her bitter experience with humans while standing up from the table.
Meanwhile, with a cellphone in her hand, she started scrolling her Instagram profile.
In the highlights section of her profile, every moment spent with her stray friends has been immortalized. The connection between her and animals has been there since ‘childhood’.
However, it only got strong when she got a Persian feline friend after having a long discussion with her father. But, destiny had some other plans for her.
Recalling the incident of getting her cat and immediately losing her, she narrated, “Due to some reasons I had to give it back to the owner and it didn’t survive after that. That was the time I decided not to keep a pet.”
The loss of her cat has made her philosophical.
“Breed cats and dogs always find good home. However, same is not the case with stray dogs and cats,” said Shabana, with an unhappy face.
“Sometimes these animals don’t even get food. So, what is wrong if you can help a little bit?” she asked questioningly.
After watching her walking away from the food court stall, a black dog, running past many tables and students, came near her.
Gauging its mood, Shabana went to a nearby shop and brought a packet of KrackJack biscuit.
“Feeding the strays make me happy,” she summarized her attachment and affection in just one sentence.
After feeding the dogs, she narrated some of her moments with her friends. And not all her moments were happy ones.
Remembering one unhappy incident, Shabana went down the memory lane.
“Once,” she said, “I knew a dog in campus. It was having some skin infection, which was curable and could have been easily treated by using coconut oil. But, people from campus complained about the increasing number of dogs and on the next day dog catchers arrived and caught many dogs.”
Pausing in between the lines to a clear image from her mind, she continued, “For some days I didn’t see that dog and after searching for her, I found it dead.”
She stopped there, stressing on the word ‘dead’ with a hurtful look on her face.