Author Manjiri Prabhu believes that the way to inner peace lies in our hearts and in the company of dogs.
Labelled as the 'Desi Agatha Christie' because of her mystery fiction novels, Prabhu digresses from her writings to pen 'The DOGtrine of Peace'.
An animal welfare activist herself, Prabhu in an exclusive interview with The Free Press Journal says that 'The DOGtrine of Peace' is not only for dog lovers but for all humans. “The book is a novel blueprint for spiritual awakening and enlightenment," says the Pune-based author.
Can you talk about 'The DOGtrine of Peace' and the people you interviewed for the book?
This book is about my philosophy that if you want peace in life, if you want to find an alternative path to spirituality, there is an answer and that is dogs. To endorse my theory, I needed people from different walks of life who would put in their theories too. And that is why I interviewed Bharatiya Janata Party MP and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi, actor and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Dia Mirza, Dr Stanley Coren—he has done research with dogs, dog behaviour and bonding, Penelope Smith--she is one of the first animal communicators from the United States, Bharat Dhabolkar--he is an adman, producer and was one of the first people to have animals in his office to make the atmosphere lively. It has been an interesting journey.
How did you come across this philosophy?
Dogs have been a part of my life since childhood. While growing up, I never understood their importance until a point when I formed a solid bond with one of my dogs. She opened the floodgates for me and then I started interacting with community dogs and taking care of them. I realised dogs are being treated like any other animal. They should be treated with utmost care. They have been a part of our lives for over 15,000 years, and we have taken them for granted. Cats and cattle can live independently and have a role in the environment but dogs are the only animals that are so domesticated that they can't live without human beings. I realised I've to look at this differently, and that is when this philosophy came into my mind.
What was the inspiration behind this book?
The idea for the book came in the 90s. I started writing in 2007. A tremendous amount of research has gone into the book. I have had some strange experiences with dogs; I call them my gurus. They have come in many roles in my life – children, friends, teachers, parents, grandparents, spiritual guides. I am where I am because of dogs and because of what I have learned from them. There was like a voice from within which said I have to write this book.
We have read reports about owners leaving their dogs on the streets during the pandemic fearing that they might contract the virus. Dogs are used as props for Youtube videos and Instagram reels. What would tell these people?
Believing in rumours and abandoning your pets, I think is the biggest crime under the sun. Would you go and drop off your mother or your children because they have COVID-19? Dogs are a part of your family. They have feelings, emotions, they love you unconditionally, they are very sensitive beings. Even if you abandon dogs and then take them back, they will forgive you. There is so much to learn from them. As far as Youtube videos are concerned, it is a serious offence. Also, you shouldn't treat community dogs as some sort of menace. Instead, they are your perfect watchdogs. Maneka Gandhi has said there is a ratio of one dog to 150 people in our country. Even if one building adopts one, there will be no dogs left on the streets.
People spend huge amount of money to bring foreign breeds of dogs to India. What is your take on this?
I think we must adopt and not shop. Why do you want to pay Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh for a breed you are only going to keep it tied at your home as a status symbol? It shows that you aren't an animal lover. These dogs aren't suited for the Indian climate. Some breeds need air-conditioned rooms. If you are getting these dogs, you are being cruel and it needs to be stopped.
What is your writing process? What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Ideally, I would like to sit by a lake in a beautiful forest with somebody serving me tea and pakodas. I do this when I write fiction, but for this particular book, I had to interact with a lot of people. When I get down to write, I do it like a 9 to 5 job. Otherwise, I am a very moody writer; I like to travel and go to secluded spots to write. However, this isn't always possible. Getting an idea and starting to write is fine, but completing it and reaching the finishing line is the real thing. If you want to write a book, write it from your heart and then you won't have to struggle to complete it; it will just happen.
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