Abrar A. Mattoo
SRINAGAR : With the arrival of the second wave of the Coronavirus, experts in India noticed a 20 percent increase in the intake of antidepressants in the country.
In Kashmir, where mental health was already in crisis, the arrival of the pandemic further deteriorated the mental health scenario. But to combat that, and to kill the loneliness brought in by the pandemic, lots of people are turning to pets in the hitherto hostile Valley.
According to Moomin Bilal Khan, owner of the Breeders Hub, a popular pet shop in Srinagar’s Chatabal area, at least a 60 to 70 percent increase has been seen in sales of pets in Kashmir. According to Moomin, the Persian cat is the most favorable choice amongst the buyers. A Persian cub can cost anywhere between eight to thirty thousand, depending on the quality of the breed.
Dogs, typically, are kept at a distance by the people of Kashmir. The creatures are stereotyped for religious reasons. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions amongst the local youth who are finding themselves attracted to the creatures. One among them is Adham Itisadi, a youth in his early twenties from HMT Srinagar. He has imported a pure-bred German Shepherd from Siberia. He calls her Leeza and gives her special dog food that most youth at his age may not be able to afford.
While speaking with Kashmir Despatch, Adham Fayaz said, “I have brought her because a Dog is a best friend to humans. For ages, dogs have kept our company. Throughout history, no other creature has been as faithful to humans as dogs.”
“Leeza keeps me busy for most of the day. Playing with her gives me a thrill. She largely compensated for the human absence in my life during the times of the pandemic. In these past months, she has shielded me from a lot of mental anguish. Before the pandemic, I was an immensely sociable person, but when the pandemic changed that, I found a friend in my dog,” Adham adds further.
Though dogs from the German Shepherd breed are in demand in Srinagar, Brij Wandhawan from Srinagar’s Chanapora has brought a dog of Saint Bernard breed. His dog is one year old and eats special and very costly dog food five times a day. But despite that toil, Brij considers it a poor price for the comfort and peace that the dog brings to his life.
“In my opinion, a pet keeps us from lots of negative practices and helps us heal from mental anguishes. Also, to shower your love on a pet is a very strong expression of being a human,” Mr. Wandhawan added further while conversing with Kashmir Despatch.
While attributing to Mr. Wandhawan’s views, Moomin says that since the pandemic began, he has been getting lots of positive reviews from customers, especially the parents who found success in ridding their children from mobile phones or PUBG game addiction by bringing pets into their lives.
Pertinently, the culture of keeping a dog as a pet is rather new to Kashmir, but the practice is catching a fast pace, largely due to the social alienation caused by the pandemic. Previously, the practice of keeping dogs was common amongst the Bakerwal Shepehred community in Kashmir only. They kept the dogs for guarding their livestock against wildlife predators. But the arrival of new times has changed lots of things in that area.
New shops, selling dog grooming products and feeds are coming up at many places in Srinagar. Breeding hubs and pet-sellers are also mushrooming. In the minds of the new generation, the old perceptions are found sitting in the back seat. Nevertheless, it may still take a long time for the dogs to find a place in Kashmir like the one that they enjoy in western societies. The theologians of Islam, consider it a sin to keep a dog.
From an Islamic point of view, to keep a dog as a pet is Haram (strictly prohibited). The only exceptions to keeping a dog are when needed for hunting or guarding purposes.
“Those who bring a dog as a pet to their home are indulging in Gunah and Israaf (sin and excess) according to Islam,” says Mufti Adnan from Jamia Siraj Ul Uloom, Srinagar.
Though Adham is aware of this Islamic precept, for the sake of a friend, he has chosen to overlook it. He says that God is beyond the trivialities of human perception.
“I have kept the dog for many purposes, one of them is also guarding. I don’t think that Islam mentions it anywhere that touching a dog is a sin or feeding, or loving it for that matter. We have developed many misconceptions that don’t have any justification in Islam,” Adham says while defending his right to keep a dog.
With more youngsters tending to keep dogs as pets, and religious standpoint advising against it, in the coming time, the debate on the issue may develop heat. But until then, there is a long time, and many dogs are yet to arrive in the lives of more Kashmiris.