Every time I come across a video on the internet where a cow is playing with humans on a farm it's an odd experience for me because I didn't think they could do that; jump around like a dog who's happy to see you. And then I realized, I had never seen a happy cow before. In a country that claims to worship these animals, I have never once seen one of them jump around like that. A few times a year I do see them decked with garlands but they don't seem too thrilled about it either. All I see is them struggling to find a place to sit on the roads and being honked at and pushed around by people going about their day.
That's true for most of the wildlife that live in cities. The poor urban design in most of the cities in India doesn't even meet the needs of humans to function effectively and it's worse for animals. With the increase in urbanization not only are natural, safe spaces for wildlife are shrinking continuously but animals such as dogs, cats and cows frequently become victims of road accidents. And sure, there are a few people who care for street animals but there are also those who actively abuse and poison them and face almos no punishment.
And if the pollution wasn't bad enough, extreme weather conditions are particularly harsh on these animals. Only a few months of relief and then they have to deal with rains, biting cold and the unrelenting summer without food and shelter. To provide them a respite from this difficult day-to-day life, The Initiative Life, a design-centric NGO, created multifunctional miniature homes for dogs and cats, aiming to bring wildlife inclusivity to urban design.
The design-forward pieces are made for harsh exterior environments and imagine more sustainable and inclusive future cities. The pods were built using scrap marble pieces and 3D-printed concrete in collaboration with Tvasta Construction, an IIT-Madras Alumni startup that also built India's first 3D-printed house. The work envisions the use of design and art within Sassoon Docks, to incorporate the needs of stray animals and improve their lives and habitats. These animal pods invite animals to rest in them, and also encourage human-animal interaction.
If you were to ask me why I think we haven't and probably will not be contacted by extraterrestrial life yet, I'd say it's because they probably saw what we did to beings of species other than our own and turned their ship around. The way we're going, we won't just leave this place inhabitable for us but for those who never harmed it in the first place. There's a dire need for the whole world but especially India to put our money where our mouth is and show the animals some respect by acknowledging their existence in urban planning.