As heavy rains inundated large parts of Chennai earlier this fortnight, thousands were faced with the choice between being rescued by boat or staying put in their homes. For most, the decision was easy to make. But not for those with pets.
“Many of the boatmen refused to take cats and dogs on board,” said Aditi Madusudhan, part of the core team of People For Cattle in India, an animal welfare organisation. “Some families were forced to abandon their pets, while others refused to get on the boats and stayed behind with their pets.”
Madusudhan and her team of 20 volunteers were able to help out in two cases, taking out boats of their own to rescue pets and reunite them with their owners. While the country’s disaster relief agencies did their best to rescue people, People For Cattle in India was one of the many groups that led efforts to rescue animals during the floods.
Dr Amit Chaudhari, a senior programme manager with Humane Society International (India), arrived from Ahmedabad to help out. “A team of about 20 volunteers, we set out on inflatable boats and ventured into areas where there was 4-5 feet deep water,” said Chaudhari. “Panicked, starved and scared, many animals were roaming on the streets after being abandoned. On the first day, we conducted nearly a hundred rescues, mainly cats and dogs. We distributed food and biscuits to people as well.”
The rescued animals were taken to shelters. But treating them also proved difficult. “Treating the animals was a big challenge because of the trauma they had suffered,” said Madhusudhan, whose team rescued around 500 animals. “The animals were afraid of humans.”
As the floodgates opened, bigger animals were also left stranded. “In many cases, heavy animals like cows and buffaloes somehow made their way onto the roof,” said Dawn William, general manager of Blue Cross of India, an animal welfare organisation. “They were relatively safe there but without food. We brought them down using ropes and harnesses."
While the first days of December marked the worst of the deluge, William said the rescue work began after heavy rain in the city in the middle of November. William estimated that his team of 33 volunteers have rescued more than a thousand animals over the past month.
With many volunteers stranded in their homes, William said they had to seek to external help. “After rescue, we needed help treating the animals,” he said. “Veterinarians came from places like Bangalore. We even had three veterinarians from Romania.”
The benevolence of the volunteers endeared to them to locals. “When we first arrived in the city, we could not find any accommodation,” said Dr Chaudhari of HSI (India). “We looked everywhere. But once people saw us helping the animals, they opened their homes to us.”
German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.
The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.
It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.
Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”
Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.
While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.
Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.
Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.
Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.
Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.