Having just watched the film Network on our long haul flight to Bangalore I have come to realise that I am mad! I am mad of all this! And I want to stop this madness!
But enough of my madness… You are reading this because you are a devoted fan of Luke Gamble and his fun family adventures. I am really looking forward to seeing India for the first time – being part Indian I find it fascinating to learn about my heritage and see where my relatives where born. I’m also hoping we get the Armenia episode in at some point!
The trip has already got off to a great start as for breakfast on the flight I got a nice vegetarian omlette whereas my flying buddy Luke got a lovely Indian curry. Yum! He looked like he was really enjoying it… or maybe he was mad…
by Luke, in India
1st June, 2009
The last few days have been fairly duck focused. Last night we had a stray duckling arrive in our garden; Little Charlie – our cat – was extremely pleased about this, as was Leuven – our ridgeback – so we all chased it about in a fruitless attempt to catch it. Despite our best efforts, it thankfully found it’s way into Nick’s pond next door where its mother came down to find it – great news. There is nothing like a family duck reunion to get you in a good mood before a long trip. Lulu (my head nurse) also informed just as I was about to leave for the airport that the duck we operated on last Friday not only made it through the weekend but is happily quacking at home with her other rescue duck ‘Deefa’. It’s been given the name ’Polo’ due to the fact it had a huge hole in its beak which we repaired. All great news – since things come in threes, I’m currently waiting for the third duck to appear as I write this blog.
I have a sneaky suspicion that I’ll be in for a long wait. I don’t think Southern India is famed for them, but I could be wrong. No idea what to expect other than plenty of variety and a buffalo with a broken horn. The last few weeks have, once again, gone with a blur. Noah is racing about at home now and causing joyous mayhem everywhere he goes and I can’t believe I’m once again seating on the aisle of a middle row at the back of a fully packed 747 to Bangalore. Seems to have been a mix up with the breakfast – Bruce is sitting a couple of seats to my right has just been given an omelette, I’ve been given a scorching curry. The air hostesses are literally racing up and down dishing out food trays at a million miles an hour, I don’t think there is much chance of me swapping this one. Guess it’s a good a time as any to start easing myself into local cuisine.
One other thing I didn’t know is that Bruce is also a comic writer. I’ve just read one on the flight – wow.
by Marc the Producer, in India
1st June, 2009
I am really looking forward to the India shoot. I am not worried at all as I am sure we will come across great stories in this enchanting, chaotic and beautiful country with it’s eccentric and engaging people. Adam gave me a book last year called Shantaram and it’s still top of my favourites list. For me, it’s a must-read and the author, Gregory David Roberts, sums up the character of India’s people perfectly for me when he wrote:
“… There is so much Italian in Indians, and so much Indian in Italians. They are both people of the Madonna – they demand a Goddess, even if the religion does not provide one. Every man in both countries is a singer when he is happy; and every woman is a dancer when she walks to the shop corner .For them food is music inside the body and music is food inside the heart. The language of India and the language Italy , they make every man a poet and make something beautiful from every banality. These are nations where love –amore, pyaar- makes a cavalier of a Borsalino on a street corner, and makes a princess of a peasant girl , if only for the second that her eyes meet yours.”
Brilliant, love it!
On top of that, my wife, Julia, is half Indian, half English. Well, she is very much English as she grew up in the UK and went to India for the first time when she was 24. But nevertheless, I have a somewhat special connection to the country now and admire how there is somehow an invisible, unwritten and unspoken structure to what looks to the foreign eye like utter chaos.
by Luke, in India
2nd June, 2009
Touch tired, about two hours kip in the last 24 and it’s been an epic getting here. Lots of plane/baggage delays but we’re here and all is looking like a winner. We’re in Puttarparthi in Andrha Pradesh, it’s the home of Sai Baba who is one of the most famous gurus in India and there are pilgrims, all dressed in white robes, everywhere you look. Widely believed to be a reincarnate of a Hindu deity, he has a worldwide following in their millions and has done a lot of good things around here. There is a free hospital, innumerate water supplies, many free schools built, provided for and funded by him and that is just the start. His picture is everywhere and everyone here is an ardent follower.
We are here to help the Karuna Society, run by Dutch expat Clementein, who is overwhelmed with cases at the shelter. I’m going to have my work cut out – huge amount to do and a lot that needs help. First case was a rabid dog that was quite out of control, snapping and biting – bit of a drama. It had to be put down and thanks to the skilful handling of Clementien and her team no one was hurt. This one will be a challenge.
A long tiring day, but one full of events and great stories: India looks like it is going to be an interesting episode. We are looking at the big question of euthanasia in animals and at what stage it is deemed correct to put an animal “to sleep”. The debate on human-euthanasia is massive and often appears in the papers every couple of years as an article on the positives and negatives. But I think that it is pretty much a given in the UK that if a pet is terminally ill or has an expensive problem the animal will be put down without any hesitation, and I can’t recall ever seeing this issue ever being debated in national newspapers. Now I understand the argument that they are animals and we have some higher level of consciousness, but I do find it funny that it is accepted as the norm. However, at the Karuna Sanctuary we were presented with animals that looked in dire conditions – a dog dragging himself around with his two front legs – and yet they are cared for by the owners of the sanctuary, who feel that they do still have a good quality of life. They argue that having spent much time with these animals they can monitor and observe to ensure that their quality of life is never negated. And if it is then the creature will eventually be put down. I can see their point of view and admire their courage and tenacity, although I can’t believe that some of the dogs are comfortable dragging their hind-quarters behind them. Having said that I do hope that we portray the society in good light as they are truly doing a great job for many other animals.
On a completely different note I think the crew and myself might go on a bit of a detox on this trip as beer seems to be banned. You never know we might actually look like kung-fu stars by the end!
by Luke, in India
3rd June, 2009
Karuna does a huge amount of things and has a lot of projects on the go. Dogs, cats and monkeys are in abundance, most injured, paralysed or with broken limbs in various states of repair. Out the back of the main clinic are cows, buffaloes, a couple of donkeys missing a leg and a huge camel that has been rescued. There is an organic vegetable garden that supplies a local shop to raise funds for the shelter, complete with a cheese making station and mango orchard – the milk of which comes from yet more cows that have been rescued from illegal cattle trucks transporting the beasts to slaughter (bad death if you are a cow in India). That’s not all – there is also a wildlife enclosure that contains some rescued moon bears that have been saved from a dancing troop. The two adults are quite temperamental but the two cubs that they rescued a couple of months ago are absolutely adorable. I shouldn’t say this but if I could rescue a dancing bear cub and keep it as a pet – I probably would. They are great, they climb up on the sides of their pen, turn on the tap in the sink (many of the pens have sinks) and are both little characters that are very easy to fall in love with.
All of this is thanks to Clementein and her team. She is a force. Predictably she is also amazingly humble, very strong willed and incredibly determined. What she has done/is doing is amazing and very inspiring. The only one aspect that worries me is that she has such a challenge and has taken on so much, that it is very hard for her to say goodbye to some of the animals. I don’t feel I have any right to come in here, volunteer for effectively five minutes and then say that some of the animals should be put down.
I want to support and help this amazing woman and the shelter so I’m going to try to be a sounding board and we’ll see how it goes. Very difficult. Find myself questioning what the long term benefits are of this but I think it does give people hope and certainly she has a lot of support in the village. It would be very wrong to knock Clementine – she has made a real difference here – nearest vet is over four hours away so without her, cows wouldn’t be treated, people would suffer, and all the other animals would be stuck for help.
Big cases – dog in a coma – horrendous pyo, few flank bitch spays which is a new technique for me to get the hang of (one was pregnant which was a challenge), cystotomy on a cat missing two front legs. Cat seems very happy so worth trying to sort.
But must stop now; 12 hour day, 45 degree heat, one piece of toast and a sip of water. All of us are shot. Would love to go into more detail but need a beer and some kip. More tomorrow.
Well I don’t actually feel cold, but I do have a cold. I’m pretty certain the microphones today will have picked up my sniveling – I’ll blame any noise on radio interference…
At the sanctuary today I spotted the two-legged dog, who I had mentioned in my previous blog, only this time he was dragging faeces around in the bandage on his behind. I am told that the dog is actually incontinent and that he is like this much of the time. It was horrible to witness and although the bandage was eventually changed, after I pointed it out, this can’t be any sort of life for the poor creature. My own personal belief is that the dog should be put down.
by Luke, in India
4th June, 2009
We were all guns blazing today – baking hot and lots of cases. Adam, Marc and Nathan have been charging about filming endless cases – from their point of view it’s incredibly frustrating because its hard to know which cases will make the cut and none of us know what’s going to happen. Carrying all the gear around is no mean feat so they are pretty tired. For me, it’s brilliant to have so much to do but I’m finding it incredibly challenging. I put a cow down to day which was collapsed and toxic. It’s very difficult as although Clementien is incredibly caring and does agree with it in principle, the issue of euthanasia is fairly tricky here. I’m learning a huge amount and a lot of natural remedies which are fascinating. Clementien is self taught in all sorts of techniques and she has had huge experience with the volume of animals coming through the door. The nearest vet is 4 hours drive away so often she is the only port of call for many of the creatures that come to her door. She uses green clay, silver solutions and all sorts of herbs – really interesting.
We treated a bird today I would probably have put down in my clinic back home, it must have weighed about 50grams and would easily fit in the palm of your hand but we had a go and sure enough it has made it so far. It had a ruptured abdomen and huge tears, amazing it survived considering its injuries and I pray it makes a full recovery.
I also was called out by Susie, a visiting Australian and follower of Sai Baba. She came to the shelter to report an injured donkey that couldn’t walk. Once we got to it we had to squeeze it into the back of a motorised three wheeler taxi to get it back to the shelter for treatment!
Really good fun and the donkey seemed to enjoy the ride. Susie was great and it was good to meet her, very interesting life story and she is shortly off to Trinidad to work in an Ashram over there. Interesting the people you meet in these places.
The high point though has to be feeding the bear cubs that Karuna have rescued from a dancing bear troop. They are adorable. I saw them briefly the other day but had some quality time with them tonight, they are all fluff!
Tomorrow off to see some painted storks – one has a broken leg apparently so we will see how that goes. Have to brush up on my avian medicine! Exhausting trip but this is what it’s all about.
by Marc the Producer, in India
4th June, 2009
India doesn’t disappoint and Luke is in the zone. Today, Susie, an Aussie on a spiritual holiday, turned up at the shelter and told Luke about an injured donkey she saw at the other side of the town. It all went really quickly. Susie and Luke jumped in a tuk tuk while Adam grabbed another one to film them whizzing across town to find the donkey. Nathan and I scrambled the kit together, packed our car and tried to catch up with them. It took us quite a while to navigate through the traffic pandemonium of tuk tuks, cows and people, but eventually I saw Adam. He was hanging off the side of a tuk tuk with one hand, while in the other hand holding the huge Sony 700 HD camera pointing it at the other three-wheeler. The next minute he was hanging outside Susie and Luke’s tuk tuk filming them having a chat while weaving through the Indian traffic. Adam was in and out of tuk tuks, stopping and directing traffic while shooting at the same time. He was on fire and loving it! No doubt, the footage is going to be great.
Through evolution animal life has become diverse and a magnificent wonder of the world; the many millions of different species startle and amaze me. On this series so far I have been fondled by baboons in the African scrub, stroked a leopard, been scared witless by a hyena, and witnessed a leatherback turtle nesting in the middle of the night. And today we filmed painted storks nesting and feeding in a small Indian village, which was wonderful to behold. They are marvelous birds; so silky smooth in their flying style. Watching them soar high above I was also reminded of the theory of how birds have evolved from dinosaurs and how wonderful the whole process of life is.
However, then we went back to the clinic and I’m not going to dwell on the euthanasia issue as I’ve spoken of this at great length already, but another problem with the place became only too obvious: it’s full of dirty, disgusting, faeces loving flies. I hate the creatures. They’re horrid little things that buzz around polluting their soiled bodies on anything they touch. Just the thought of them makes me feel ill.
Oh and on another note Luke thinks that the painted storks are actually ducks. I think the word “stork” makes it pretty obvious that they’re not, but then I’m not a vet…