“Dealing with animals has helped me to become even more human. I have compassion for people, and I do help people too, but I believe having compassion for animals helps you become an even better person.”
By Sharmain Grainger
There are many animal lovers around the world who have demonstrated their benevolence to these voiceless creatures through sustained advocacy for their protection or by simply caring or ensuring that those abused are cared for. But there are others who, without pomp and fanfare, have over the years been taking their kind-hearted ways to new and incredible heights that perhaps only another animal lover of this calibre, or the animals themselves, can understand.
Among this group of typical beings is Kumar Singh.
His passion for animals is not one that emerged overnight; rather, he has lived his entire life accepting this as the norm, since his parents, Kissoon and Jean Singh, instilled this trait in him and his five siblings while they were still very young.
Though somewhat reluctant at first to talk about his animal-loving ways, Singh decided to indulge an interview with this publication recently which only served to augment the fact that his passion is not in any way feigned.
You see, Singh has not only been loving and care for animals he has adopted, but rather he reaches deep down into his pockets to ensure that strays, or hurting animals, wherever he goes, are fed and given medical attention. His target animals are usually dogs, cats and pigeons. He never leaves home without food and medical supplies aboard his van, to cater to the needs of these vulnerable animals.
But what might be most outstanding about Singh is that he is isn’t a wealthy man with a huge bank account, he is an electrician, who depends exclusively on the jobs he gets to cater to his family’s needs as well as those of the animals. He has never seen money as a deterrent to extending his heart and home to animals.
“Somehow God does always provides,” said a soft-spoken Singh, when asked how he is able to sustain his benevolent ways. He and his wife Shalini have opened their home to five dogs and 18 cats, many of which were disposed of and left to die.
Singh wedded his wife in 1989 and, according to him she naturally embraced the passion for caring for animals, so much so that she has helped to nurture many that were abandoned, back to health.
“When people throw away kittens she got these small bottles and she would hold them like babies nurturing them until they could fend for themselves, and then we put ads in the newspaper looking for homes for them. We do the same for dogs when people throw them away. In fact, because people know that we are doing this for animals, sometimes we wake up hearing kittens crying, only to find that somebody throw them in our yard,” said Singh.
Unsurprisingly, for their unwavering efforts to protect animals, in 2010, the duo was presented with an award from the Guyana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [GSPCA].
Their daughter, 29-year-old Varsha, has also long adopted the ingrained family trait, and has even added a new twist, by using social media to help find homes for some rescued animals.
Born on July 23, 1968, Kumar Singh, the third of six children born to his parents, grew up in the West Bank Demerara village of Goed Fortuin. He attended Goed Fortuin Primary and then moved on to Richard Ishmael School where he completed his secondary education. He recalled that from a young age, among the chores he and his siblings were required to do, was care for the many animals their family had.
“We had sheep, ducks and fowls, and at that time, too, our pets were cats and dogs, and we even had a pet turkey and parrot. These pets were like part of the family, some of them even used to sleep in our beds,” he gleefully recalled.
Many of the pets his family had back then were in fact abandoned by their owners.
“We would take in any animal we found,” Singh disclosed, even as he recounted that since his parents were not aware that these animals could be neutered, and of course they would easily multiply. In fact, at one time his family had in excess of 20 dogs alone to care for.
“I remember getting home in the afternoons from school and when I approach the gate there would be a train of dogs running to the gate,” shared a smiling Singh. His siblings also share a similar inclination for animals to this day.
“Each one of my sisters and brothers, they have pets – dogs and cats too.”
But being an animal lover was certainly not going to pay the bills. As such, by 1984, Singh had become an apprentice at the then Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation at La Penitence, Georgetown. His apprenticeship tenure continued when the company moved to Farm on the East Bank of Demerara. When his period of training came to an end in 1988, a very focused Singh was presented with the coveted ‘Best Apprentice’ award.
Simultaneous to his apprenticeship, Singh was pursuing studies in Craft and Advanced Craft at the Government Technical Institute. When his studies ended there, again he made a notable mark by securing a distinction in Advanced Craft, an area that no one had excelled in for more than a decade.
Reflecting on how he opted to become an electrician, Singh recalled that “when I started as an apprentice, I started with the intention of being a mechanic, but the training officer was a lady name Miss Lyken, and she saw that I was excelling in electrical stuff, and so she advised me to do that. Also, I had an uncle who was an electrician, and I used to do part-time work with him, so it made sense.”
As he expanded his horizon as an electrician, Singh was, over the years, able to secure employment at several companies, including the then Guyana Electricity Corporation, Guyana Match Company, Guyana Sugar Corporation and even Caribbean Container Inc. He eventually settled into the idea of becoming an independent contractor, which he remains to date.
While earning a decent living may see some young men looking to spend a great deal on themselves, in Singh’s case, he saw this as an opportunity to be able to expand his ability to care for even more animals. From simply ensuring that the animals at home were well fed and cared for, he developed a desired to do the same for animals he would see during his daily journeying to and from work.
He was particularly inspired to do this one day when he left the capital city with his vehicle laden with food for the animals he had at home. However, when he arrived at the Demerara Harbour Bridge crossing it was closed to vehicular traffic, thus forcing him to park. There he saw a few dogs meandering through the spaces created by his and other parked vehicles.
While few people would even pay attention to these dogs, Singh immediately discerned that they were really in search of food and thus decided to feed them. This would become the start of a years-running, dog-feeding tradition.
Currently, there are about eight dogs on the eastern side of the Harbour Bridge that daily gather just in time for Singh’s crossing, so that they can be fed. He attends to another four on the western side of the bridge too. But these are in fact a mere fraction of the dogs and other animals, he feeds while out on various work assignments across the country.
Even if he does not return to an area for years, Singh disclosed that his animal friends always recognise him whenever he passes through. “Once they see my van, they come running, and when I get out of that vehicle they want to jump and hug me…they just want to be loving,” he explained.
Singh has also been feeding many pigeons that look forward to his regular attention too. While he has not benefited from much support to sustain his drive to care for animals, Singh disclosed that he has at least one dedicated supporter.
“I was working with this guy at IMEX [International Guyana] and he saw me feeding pigeons, and since then he has been calling me every month for a bag of peas to feed the pigeons.”
But to cater to the needs of the other animals, Singh, each month, procures thousands of dollars worth of cooked dog food, in addition to dog and cat chow. But his expense does not end there, since he also caters to their medical needs too.
“I always walk around with food and antibiotic spray. If I see a dog start getting worms too, I try to look after them. I always have worm tablets for them, because that is one thing that does be killing them a lot,” an informed Singh shared.
Added to this, he is required to procure an abundance of disinfectant, including Lysol and Febreze, to keep his home environment habitable for his family.
“I really don’t count how much money I spend…work keeps coming, so money does come and so I don’t even think about it,” he quietly confided.
Speaking of his family’s dedication to caring for animals, Singh said, “These animals are like children to us…we feel obligated to them. We have become so attached to them that we can relate to them, and people with pets can relate to how we feel”.
But sometimes there is a need to go the extra mile for the animals. Singh revealed that at times, simply feeding and attending to the medical needs of the animals is not always enough. He recalled how one of his nephews was recently able to rescue some kittens from certain death after they were tossed away in a secured bag. Situations like these, according to Singh, emphasises that there is a dire need to look out for the animals who, daily, are suffering at the hands of uncaring human beings.
For the recently rescued cats, homes were found within a week for them, but, according to Singh, it isn’t always a simple task to release rescued animals to just anyone desirous of having a pet. This is often due to his wife’s desire to ensure that the homes to which they are headed appear safe and secure.
“On at least two occasions people wanted to adopt animals we had, but after my wife checked out the places, she decided the homes weren’t good enough, and we ended up keeping them,” said Singh as a smile formed on his face.
However, these acts of kindness for the animals are not always praised when witnessed by some people.
“Some people say ‘oh, look how many people starving, why you don’t go and feed them?’ On the other hand, there are some people who are pleased with it. But I always say, people can go and ask for assistance, but these animals they don’t have a voice, and sometimes if they even come close to some people they kick them and pelt them and all kinds of things, so I will continue to fend for them,” Singh assured.
Singh vows to continue his mission to care for animals since, according to him, “dealing with animals has helped me to become even more human. I have compassion for people, and I do help people too, but I believe having compassion for animals helps you become an even better person.”
What a special person!
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