I am not sure if it is going to be a white Christmas or not. But, people are in a Christmassy mood. Just few weeks to Christmas, and then the New Year: people are scrambling to find last-minute gifts, and get ready for the celebrations.

For the street people in Toronto, mostly mentally challenged, life center around sleeping on the pavement on top of heating vents, panhandling, scrounging for food and drugs. For many of them, the street is the only place they feel safe, as they are scared of shelters, and hostels. Their life is an uphill battle, fighting inclement weather, poverty, hunger, and diseases.

I was outside one of the neighborhood food stores to do some last minute shopping for the Christmas get-together. Right in front of me, in front of the store, there was a nondescriptwhite van parked to unload stuff. I saw a man in a white overall carrying large object to the store. At a closer look, I saw his bloodstained clothes and realized he was carrying a goat or sheep carcass to the store. My thought wandered off to that farm where they were perhaps until a few hours ago lived a happy life.

The sight is very unusual in Toronto, where everything is discreet. Consumers are shielded and insulated from growers-butchers-slaughterhouses, and they see only the end product attractively packaged and displayed at the supermarkets. Thus, North American children do not know where bacon comes from.

A few years earlier, as my friend was giving me a tour of the city; we stopped at a shrine. Next, to it, there were many goats in a pen. The animals were all looked well fed and under good care. They looked happy. Later, when he explained the fate of the animals I felt pain. They were the proverbial sacrificial lambs.

Flashback to 1993. We were keeping vigil at my father’s bedside at the hospital. It was the Monsoon season; it rained heavily on many days and nights. Nearby the hospital there was an old building, I could see the vicinity through the trees and shrubs. During late nights and in the wee morning hours, I heard, in spite of the rain, cries of animals coming from that building. I thought it was some sort of animal shelter. One morning, as I was getting coffee from the thattukada next door, I noticed auto rickshaws, one after another, shipping out meat and animal parts from there. The cries I heard all the time during the nights were their desperate cries for help. Their cries still resonate in my ears and pains even now.

Then I remember seeing a TV story of a distraught dog keeping vigil at the gravesite of its owner who was killed by the floods in Brazil. A sad sight indeed. We take them for granted without realizing their unconditional love and loyalty.

It is Christmas and New Year time; people celebrate with much hoopla, and merriments, over-indulge in food and drinks, and rejoice during many parties. Here in North America, people love to eat meats. When it comes to food habits we still are selfishly carnivorous, and unfortunately, many animals are part of that food chain.

We take many things for granted and pretend like we own this universe. We may even entertain the notion that the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars, revolve around us, and for us alone. Thus, we abuse the natural resources and consume living breathing things for our pleasure. It feels like ‘peace on earth goodwill to all' ideologies somehow discount the living things that we hunt for our pleasure, and kill for our food. Hopefully, perhaps, one day we come to our senses and do the right things to protect the environment, and other cohabitants of this wonderful world.

My thoughts were interrupted by John Lennon ‘Imagine” song as it played on the local radio station. The song ‘Imagine all the people living life in peace” is one of my favorites that aptly encompasses the meaning of humility and empathy towards all. Follow the link (https://youtu.be/hTYbrFxDXJs) and enjoy the haunting voice of John Lennon that will melt away your worries (momentarily at least) and transport you to a Utopian world.

Wishing you all a ‘loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu - peace on earth goodwill to all’ Christmas and New Year.

Postscript

That dreaded one week in 1993 was the most difficult and agonizing time of my life. It took me a long time to find the strength to talk about it. I went through moments of powerlessness, made me understand my vulnerabilities as a human, put me through uncontrollable grief, and sorrow, and taught me compassion and empathy. That one-week with my father was worth a lifetime; those memories are precious and everlasting.

(The author, a technology professional, resides in Toronto, Canada with his family)