BOOKS: Chutki’s Experiences

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2011:

Chutki’s Experiences
by A. Shamalatha Rao
22 pages, paperback. $4.49,
P.O. Box 5145, Pleasanton, CA 94566
or c/o <>

Shamalatha Rao writes in the voice of Chutki, an Indian
street dog, to teach children about pet overpopulation and cruelty
to animals. Stray dogs compete for scraps with impoverished people
in the teeming slums of Mumbai and the surrounding countryside.

As Chutki observes to another stray dog, “We sleep in
gutters, run from stick throwers, and are always hungry.” Chutki
also observes and comments on the plight of wildlife struggling to
survive in diminishing habitat, a chained monkey who is forced to
perform silly acts for a street vendor, and an overloaded
cart-pulling bullock who is beaten by his driver.
Structured to be performed as a classroom drama, to help
educate audiences including parents as well as the actors and their
classmates, Chutki’s Experiences was within a few weeks of
publication already in widespread use by Indian humane education
programs, which have lacked literature that young readers could
recognize as describing their own time and place.
Indian street dogs, like Chutki, share with Indian human
citizens a rapidly changing environment where bullock carts compete
with ever less success against mechanized transport, forests are
disappearing, television is replacing live animal acts, which are
mostly now illegal, and cyberspace millionaires pass displaced
country people living on sidewalks who have even fewer possessions
than forebears who farmed small plots with digging sticks. Dogs
whose forebears were relatively prosperous scavengers in the villages
of the old India often have no place at all in the urban India of
concrete, glass, and steel.
Chutki’s Experiences can be criticized for shoving too much
information into too little space. Technical discussion of laws such
as the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animal Rules of
1965, offered in footnotes on many pages, is probably beyond the
grasp of young readers–though the audience may not be just young
readers. Some may be older children, or even adults, who are just
learning to read later in life than most people in the developed
–Debra J. White

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