Of Donkeys and Kindness

January 04, 2020

I have been an animal lover ever since I remember. It has never taken much to melt my heart; the stray dog around the corner or the chattering bird at the window wins my love and sympathy in a moment. But what evokes an especially tender feeling in me is the sight of the adorable and incredibly gentle creature that is the donkey.

If you have lived in or travelled around India, you know we share (willingly or not) our public spaces, even buildings, staircases and homes, with animals. As a child I saw much of donkeys; they would be standing quietly on the streets, heads hanging low, something almost sad in those beautiful eyes. In most cases they'd be beasts of burden, and though the sight of them has reduced over the years, I have always thought they looked kind and gentle... and perhaps, tired.

My recent project with SPANA is a picture book called 'Looking for Nieba'. Set in Africa, it is a story about Dankoraba and Nieba, two donkeys who are the best of friends. They live together, work together, and know the best places to rest and roll around. They share their food and shelter, and are inseparable.

Until one day, Nieba is taken away to work elsewhere.

Dankoraba, alone and heartbroken without his friend, decides to set off in search of her.

The project allowed me a glimpse of life in Africa, especially Bamako, in Mali, where the story is set. It also showed me the sad reality of animals working in rubbish dumps in some parts of the world.

But the story ends on a happy note, owing to the compassion of the people caring for the two friends, and I hope that is true, atleast in some part, for the real Dankorabas and Niebas of this world.

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