Rani and Bagheera

Rani is a brown dog who lives outside my house. She is about 7 years old.

I made friends with Rani when I moved to this neighbourhood three years ago. She was scared at first, watching me warily as I made ‘tch tch tch’ sounds at her, but we were friends soon.

It is not difficult to make friends with a dog. Smile at the dog, make some inviting sounds, hold out your hand to her, offering it to be sniffed, and licked if the dog so wishes. The dog will sniff your hand, and your energy and intentions. She will understand the lack of fear and fearful aggression in you, and the presence of affection for her. If required, repeat a few more times. That should be enough to make the two of you friends.

When it rains, Rani comes to the door of my first floor house to take shelter from the rain. At times, she sleeps at night outside my door. A kind neighbour, a young man who we can call A, feeds her while I keep a bowl of water for her and other birds and animals outside my door. Another neighbour, a young woman, M, is friends with her. Rani goes scampering to M whenever she sees her.

These days, A is not in town, so M is taking care of Rani’s meals. Rani has a skin condition for which M and me are give her homeopathic medicine everyday, mixed in her food.

The reason I know Rani is about 7 years old is that A told me she came to our neighbourhood about 6 years ago, when I was not living here. Rani was a small dog at that time, not a puppy but not an adult either. She would play with a golden retriever who was the pet of A’s neighbours. Like many dogs who go large distances just for a piece of bread and a safe space where they will not be attacked, Rani had come wandering in, scared. A’s neighbours took a liking to her and started to give her food. She became friends with them and their dog.

A year later, those humans and their pet dog left this neighbourhood. At that time, A decided to feed Rani, and continues to do so now, five years later.

Rani comes across as smart and courageous. When I walk from my house to my car, which is parked about a minute’s walk away, and Rani is around, she walks with me, or rather, scampers with me. When I open the door of the car, she looks in and sniffs, as if to check if everything is alright.

She is happiest when I lift her front legs with my hands and move them left and right, as if dancing with her. Her tail moves rapidly from left to right and back as we do this. Sometimes, when I am walking, she comes scampering from behind and quickly licks my finger, or touches it with her moist nose, which is when I turn back and see it’s her. It’s a gentle kiss, a surprise.

There are people in the neighbourhood who don’t like dogs, and there have been times when dogs have been forcibly removed from this area.

I worry about Rani. She has had a traumatic past. After dark, she feels scared of strangers and barks at them. A few people complain about her. I worry that she may be removed like other dogs in the past and dropped away in a new area, where she will have to fend off other dogs and find a new source of food. Perhaps it is after one such trauma that she, separated from her mother and siblings, first came to our neighbourhood.

Every time I meet Rani, I pet her head, her back, and I ruffle her fur. As I do this, I tell her three things –

  • Never bark at any humans, whether residents or outsiders.
  • Never bite any humans, residents or outsiders.
  • Communicate to other doggies far away through your barking, but not when humans are standing around.

    This is how you will remain safe, and continue to spread your love and gifts.

Those who like dogs are few in number. We are able to take care of these dogs’ needs for food and water, at times reflective collars so that they can be seen by car drivers in the night, at times jackets for the winter.

We aren’t however, able to ensure that these dogs will spend the rest of their lives without being hurt by others who are far more in number. The dogs and their carers, therefore, have to accept the insecurity of these creatures’ lives.


Bagheera is a small black dog who lives about 30 feet away from my house, in the same lane. Rani and Bagheera are friends. Bagheera is about 2/3rds the size of Rani.

He is also about 7 years old, neighbours say, but to me he always looks like a child dog. His body is small, his tail is always curved and pointing upwards. His body is small and cute, but the look in his eyes is always very serious.

When I go close to him, he comes very seriously to me, wanting to be petted, and says an elongated, “aow waowwww”, very intently wanting to tell me just this. Sometimes I feel I am the first human who has petted him or played with him. He always scampers to me when I am walking on the street, but when I pet him for beyond a few seconds he looks at me suspiciously and steps back. Then he comes forward again, his body wiggling, his upturned tail moving playfully like a curvy antenna behind him.

He was probably a cat in his previous life. He is small, solitary, serious, curious, and confident, like a cat.

Bagheera doesn’t have one feeder like Rani. People in a few different houses leave scraps for him, and that is enough for him to get by. Unfortunately, not everyone in the buildings around which Bagheera lives is friendly to animals.


Who are Rani and Bagheera?

Rani and Bagheera are part of a living web of energy that we call the earth. This earth, our earth, is a part of a larger living web of energy that is the cosmos.

This energy presents itself to us as a harmony. Early in the morning, as the darkness of night subsides, Rani wakes up from her sleep and scampers down the stairs, her ears flopping as she goes. She gets out on the street and looks around, looking up at the sky, absorbing the new day that is beginning.

Bagheera is already awake, his serious eyes inspecting the light of dawn as it falls on the street and the on cars on it. Bagheera sniffs Rani and gives her a kiss under her ear. Rani moves on, continuing to scamper around her part of the neighbourhood, while Bagheera quietly watches dawn.

As the sun rises higher in the sky, they find beams of sunlight and lie down in them, taking in the life, warmth and light that the sun gives to us. They look so deeply content in this sunbath, as if the sun is giving them the love that they couldn’t get in this world of humans in the middle of which they have to live.

At the end of the day, when it is dark, they sit silently on the ground, sometimes lie down, simply being with themselves, in their bodies, taking in the silence of the night.

We imagine that Rani and Bageera are isolated beings like us, but they are not.

When they roll in the grass, when they simply sit in the moonlight, when they sniff every nook and corner, when they chase the squirrels, when they curl into themselves, shut their eyes and sleep like they have totally forgotten the world and its struggles – in all this, they are part of the living web of energy that the cosmos is. They live in tune with its elements, and in pulsate by its rhythms, if not perfectly, then far more than us humans.

The same can be said of their companions in this cosmos – the squirrels and the pigeons that come to my balcony, the trees in the park and the koels that sit on their branches.

The only isolated beings are human beings. They are the ones who usually drop out of this web, of which these dogs are only the form that comes closest to us, to sniff us, lick us, bark at us.

Our responses to these animals are thus not at all responses to dogs, they are responses to that entire web of energy that emanates through them. We can take a position of isolation and fear towards the cosmos as it meets us in these creatures, or we can take a position of connection and compassion.


Possibly the most significant event in the 300,000 year old history of humans on the earth is taking place in front of our eyes, even if we do not register it. The following is a partial description of the structure of this event.

The upturning of the earth’s surface layer and the burning away of matter dug out to construct our industrial civilisation; the destruction of forests and green areas to replace them with concrete structures in which you and I live; the consequent heating up of the earth; the melting of ice on the north and south poles leading to a gradual submerging of coastal cities and countries; the changes in temperature affecting the speed and directions of the wind, causing cyclones and tornados; the same changes in temperature causing excess rainfall as the oceans heat up and evaporate; as also forest fires when forests become a hot box; as also melting glaciers and subsequent floods.

These, to scientists, seem to be inevitable events that will occur with increasing frequency by the middle of the 21st century. These will lead to inevitable shortages of food, drinkable water and livable space, thus causing illness and violent competition for resources.

As this unfolds over the coming decades, by the end of it, we may not have a human species left at all, or if we do, the civilisation it inhabits will not look anything like the industrial, urban civilisation which put into motion the above chain of events, and which houses, or seeks to house, 8 billion people today. When a few thousand humans decided to move out of Africa, 60,000 years ago, they didn’t know that one day they will be 8 billion in number, and would have colonised the earth, having destroyed natural habitats wherever they went, and with exceeding speed in the last three hundred years.

Yet, in what Amitav Ghosh calls the ‘The Great Derangement’, a very, very small proportion of the human population is concerned about any of this. None of this is the topic of elections, which determine our collective policies in the technological, economic and social spheres. Very few of us experience this as a daily concern in our everyday, ordinary lives. If there are human beings in the 22nd century, says Ghosh, they will look back at us – inhabitants of the 21st, pre-occupied with war, nationalism, religion, ‘development’, or just trying to secure an income for our future – and consider us deranged.


What do Rani and Bagheera have to do with all this?

Think of the experience of commuting in a city. You enter a car, and drive it on the roads of the city, with several other such cars around you. There are horns. There are traffic jams where you restlessly wait for the cars to move so you can reach home and step out of this little box of steel and glass. Around you are concrete roads, concrete buildings. You play music to feel less suffocated and constricted in this experience. Or worse, your taxi driver plays music which grates on your ears.

Somewhere in the human journey, something has gone deeply wrong.

In this commute, there is an absence of any intimate relationship with the earth on which we travel, with the trees that grow around us, with the sky and its changing colours.

That web of energy that is the whole cosmos, and which presents itself to us as nature, as the sky, the trees, and as Rani, Bagheera and their friends, finds little place here.

The capacity to take a deep breath, to feel an aching longing for the vast expanses of the silent dark night sky, to soak in the stillness of the moon, to playfully tune into the restless joy of a puppy who waits at home for you – these give way to a focus on getting to one’s destination as quickly as possible, to putting one’s energies into sitting on a desk eight hours a day for forty years, to earn enough money to survive when one is too old to earn, and when back home, to scrolling on social media until something can grab one’s attention.

The construction of a civilisation that rests on such an experience is the result of a particular consciousness.

The deconstruction of it, which is what is required to avert climate collapse, if at all averting it is possible anymore, will require a change in consciousness.

The new consciousness would be one that experiences an intimate relationship with nature. It will be one that has stepped away from this place of isolation, faced the pain that made it harden up into isolation in the first place, and experience the cosmos as a living web of energy.

Only then can we see that the earth is not a resource to be dug out, but a sacred expression of a sacred cosmos, to be lived in harmony with. Trees are not resources to be cut and turned into buildings and paper, and the land cleared for new apartment complexes. They are an expression of the earth, and they form a living network which is home to pigeons, squirrels, ants and thousands of other creatures whose consent we do not have to deface the earth. The sparrow and the squirrel have as much right to this earth as we do.

The new consciousness is not about an emotional attachment to a particular dog or a particular park or beach. It means experiencing oneself in the innocence, curiosity, love that that dog experiences; of feeling the green gentleness of the trees in the park and the evening light that falls on them, softly caressing them in its golden hues; of experiencing in oneself, un-separated, the vastness of the ocean, its deep silence, and yet, its rhythmic sounds.

 Rani and Bagheera have not lost this. We have.


The conditions on earth do not allow for all 8 billion human beings to live as healthy, soulful, connected persons. The struggle for resources is too strong, the fight for survival too traumatic. Populated by struggling and traumatised people, the institutions of traditional society, once sacred acts renewed every moment, are falling apart – marriage, parenthood, community, school. Most of us, through these institutions, have experienced trauma, often having repressed and forgotten it in order to continue living.

We thus experience a mental health epidemic that is only a sign that the old consciousness is crashing, and a new one hatching out. Our symptoms may have a personal story, being linked to our childhood, our adolescence, our parents and teachers. But they are also only sub-plots that deepen a larger, epic story, which is that of an old consciousness having created decaying institutions, and now collapsing.

As the symbol of Noah’s Ark tells us, only a few will try to live with a new consciousness, in a way that is loving, harmonious, and in surrender to the immensity of sacred cosmos as it meets us in every animal and every plant.

How will this pan out in our lifetime, and the lifetime of our children? Will the new consciousness create a new civilisation, or will it be wiped away in this destruction, so that the earth can start from scratch again? No human being knows. Even the most far-sighted of us are humbled by this mystery.  

What we do know is that this is the story of humanity.

Like the Mahabharata, which is also the story of humanity. At the end of that story, the earth is scorched and destroyed from the violence wrecked upon it and on each other by human beings. The trees are burnt, the waters poisoned, the earth rendered dry and infertile. The air is all smoke. Only a few humans are left. The five brothers who are the story’s central protagonists walk to the peak of the highest mountains, hoping to be able to leave the earth for a better place, heaven. On the way, one by one, four of them fall and die, leaving only one – Yudhishthira.

Through the journey, a black dog has faithfully accompanied Yudhishthira. As man and dog reach the highest peak, the deities ask Yudhishthira to leave the dog behind so that Yudhishthira can enter heaven. Yudhishthira says he wants to enter heaven with his dog. The gods do not allow this, saying that the dog is a lowly animal, dirty and wild. Yudhishthira says, “I will not leave my dog friend behind, he has been my loving companion through this long journey.” While the dog looks on anxiously at the conversation that is deciding his fate, Yudhishthira refuses to enter heaven and leave his friend alone on this destroyed, brutalised earth, where he may not survive.

There is a twist in the tale. The gods are impressed. They tell Yudhishthira that the they were testing him to see if, after all the pain he has seen, he still has an alive heart beating in his chest. They welcome both Yudhishthira and his dog friend into heaven.

Yudhishthira chooses compassion over personal security and ambition. The opposite choice is what has led to the creation of industrial civilisation.

Yudhishthira, war-worn, tired, wounded, but having experienced remorse and learnt his lessons, is new consciousness.

In such ways, the sacred traditions of humanity have long told us of the event that is unfolding today in front of our eyes.

Rani, Bagheera and their friends are witnesses to it, and we are protagonists. Rani and Bagheera, to use another ancient symbol, from a parable by Jesus, never walked away from home like the prodigal son who forgets his roots, never lost their way and fell into bad times and bad habits, and thus, they will never need to return. They suffer our civilisation, which makes their lives so precarious, but their hearts are pure, their conscience clear, their souls loving and connected – something all of us have to gradually work towards.

They are thus, both our teachers, and also our comrades, in our transition to new consciousness.

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