As heavy rains lashed the city of Wardha one night, a shirtless boy rushed away on his bike with a female parakeet that was electrocuted by a high tension wire. People gathered around her but only one among them stepped forward to help the dying bird. As the boy tried to pick her up, she latched on to the boy’s hand and bit him hard. The crowd watched impassively. Wasting no time, the boy took off his shirt and wrapped the bird safely in it. Then he zoomed off on his bike to find some help.
Although his mother is a teacher in a Government school and his father owns a farm in Selu,Kaustubh Gawande has neither the inclination nor the ambition to follow in their footsteps. A naturally gifted musician, at age 5 ,he toyed around with various musical instruments and displayed a love for animals. While other boys played on the ground,Kaustubh would wile away his time with puppies,kittens,goats and animals of all kinds, driving his parents insane in the process. When he finally brought home a pig, it was the last straw and his father gifted him a German Sheppard to keep him company.
“I cannot bear to see an animal hurt”, he says and reminisces about the time he found a sick puppy that he couldn’t save. His tryst with the wild began at the tender age of 9 when he stood up against a hostile crowd to save a snake.
“A foolish risk”, he admits but one that someone had to take. An ardent follower of Austin Steven’s tricks and gimmicks,Kaustubh adapted the techniques to save the wretched snake. He gripped the snake with a stick and put it in a bottle that had tiny holes and then left it far away from the angry crowd. He had not known then whether the snake was venomous or non venomous. It was an act of reverence for an animal’s life without regard to his own. If Kaustubh had been kind that day, the universe had been kinder. It is no surprise that he is one of the finest sarpa mitras in Wardha District today.
A robust teenager ,Kaustubh is also learning classical guitar under the guidance of Mr Sagar Sangeet who is a professional musician. Among the many musical instruments that he plays, he has a passion for the tabla, flute, keyboard and guitar. He hones his talent daily with the dedication of a serious musician and spends 5 hours a day with Tuffy, his dog.
It was through a chance meeting with Ashish Goswami that Kaustubh entered into the world of animal activism. There was a meeting of sarpa mitras at People for Animals ,Wardha and at the end of the meeting,Kaustubh joined as a PFA member. He met many other dedicated animal activists there and was further inspired by them to actively engage in the field of animal welfare.
“I like working with these people “, he says.”It’s better than watching a movie. It’s more entertaining.”
Activism is a gut reaction to those who genuinely love animals and Kaustubh is no stranger to this instinct. He condemns the tamasha that people have made of snakes in a quest for heroism.
“I don’t like that snakes are used as toys for photo ops”,he says angrily. “Such people cannot call themselves serious sarpa mitras.It can cause harm to the reptile.”
Having been in situations where no help has come from such sarpa mitras,Kaustubh committed himself to becoming a serious and dedicated one who attends rescue calls at any time of the day and night. In PFA Wardha,he holds various important portfolios and has been declared a STAR volunteer.
“Unsung hero” aptly describes this youngster who is neither in a hurry nor on a mission. He is driven by a simple need...the need to help .At first glance, he comes across as an unassuming and reserved teenager with nothing much going on in life but underneath the dull exterior lies a CHAMPION. There’s none of the confused restlessness one often sees in guys his age. For Kaustubh life’s beauty lies in going with the flow. One often learns the choicest lessons from the guy next door and Kaustubh is that guy next door one thinks of when seeking the answer to what makes life tick? Doing as you will, doing as you wish, following your bliss on every day. Never asking for an advantage but simply letting the cards fall where they may.
-Manisha Hariharan Manisha Hariharan is a businesswoman, trainer, image consultant and animal activist..most importantly vegan