Intel is a microcosm of the world, peopled by dynamic, multi-dimensional individuals who are not only the best at their jobs but also some of the most inspiring personalities to work alongside. Explorers, creatives, performers and gamers — in this blog series, some of our incredible colleagues share insights into their inner lives, unveiling a never-before-seen portrait of them — and the passion projects that drive them daily.
The Spark: The Animal Activist
Sometimes, in one ordinary moment, life changes. In that one moment, you gain new perspectives that override decades of conditioning and cause you to question your beliefs. Such is the miracle of profound empathy. For Beas Mukherjee, that special moment set her on a path of compassion and service to transform numerous lives and inspire several more to follow her example. Recently, we spoke with her about her fascinating journey.
Welcome to this special interview series, Beas, and congratulations on completing your first year at Intel as a full-time employee! How has it been so far?
Thank you! I’m Operations Manager for the NCNG (Nex Cloud Networking Group) SW India team, so I take care of several aspects — such as budgeting, hiring, lab infrastructure related issues, employee engagement, training, events, etc. It’s been great… I’m thankful for the opportunity to get to work on such varied events at Intel. The last few events we held were very successful, and it’s nice to see people enjoy themselves.
We hear that you’re the go-to person when anyone needs help with anything. We also hear that your desire to help goes well beyond work.
Do you mean my work with animals? Yes, I’m passionate about that. Back in 2012, I started campaigning with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an American animal rights non-profit organization. Since then, I’ve participated in campaigns and protests across Calcutta, Bangalore, Kochi and Hyderabad, trying to raise awareness and foster compassion. But apart from that, one of the most important activities for me is feeding the stray animals in my neighbourhood. I’m part of a network of volunteers who attend to emergency cases of injured or sick animals, or animals in need of rescue. It’s a very big part of my life.
How did this begin for you?
It was in 2011. I remember coming across a video of a cow being injected to artificially stimulate milk production. It made such a deep impression on me, to imagine the helplessness of the animal who was being subjected to such abuse on a regular basis.
From that point on, when I realized that animals were being needlessly tortured just to feed humans, I couldn’t go back to eating meat and dairy. I decided to adopt a plant-based diet and go vegan. At the time, my family was quite shocked. We’re Bengali, you know, and fish is synonymous with our cuisine. So, they just couldn’t believe that I’d give up seafood but I was very clear about it. I stuck to my guns.
It must have been quite an uphill climb, at least initially, to give up some of these things that are so deeply rooted in your culture and upbringing.
Definitely. It took conviction and discipline. But veganism extends beyond diet. I make sure not to use leather or consume anything that comes from animals, like milk or paneer. But sometimes, it’s not really in your hands. Like when you’re ill and you have to take medicines that may have been tested on animals. It’s against my principles but I haven’t been able to find a solution yet.
Meanwhile, I just try to do the best I can. Steering away from meat, as well as any animal by-product, was not a decision that I made lightly. But now, it’s become my way of life. And I’m happy to help anyone else adopt this path and make the transition.
Do you have pets of your own?
Not at the moment but, yes, I did once — Tofu, my pet dog. She passed away during the pandemic, June 10, 2022. She was unwell and desperately needed oxygen. You recall how hard it was to locate oxygen cylinders around that time? There were severe shortages. Well, we tried our best and managed to find one but by the time we brought it home, it was too late.
I miss her every day. She was like my shadow, my companion for 13 long years. Sometimes at night, I still feel like she’s sleeping next to me. The grief comes in waves, and I can only take comfort in the fact that someday, we will meet again.
We’re deeply sorry for your loss. Especially as a pet parent, some of these cases of injury or abuse must have been even more heart-breaking for you. But at the end of the day, what is the most satisfying aspect of what you do?
Well… there have been instances where, despite our best efforts, we were unable to save an injured or ailing animal. Those moments are heart-breaking and painful. But in some way, we can take comfort in knowing that we made sure they had someone to care for them and ease their suffering in their final hours.
When you’re the recipient of the unconditional love that only animals are capable of, there’s nothing else in the world to compare with that feeling. Unlike humans, animals rarely act out of malicious intent. They show us that love, when given, should be given without expectation. And theirs is pure. This is the important lesson I’ve learnt from them. Now, when I see anyone in distress, I always try to reach out and help them… without any expectation of reciprocity.
Do you think more people today are aware of the importance of wildlife conservation and caring for urban animal life?
Fortunately, yes! A new generation of vegetarians and vegans is emerging, people who are exhibiting more interest about the philosophy behind it. You see a lot of animal lovers now — celebrities using their platforms, engaging with communities, driving fundraising and more. There are more vegan restaurants popping up as well.
I have a friend who approached me one day and confided that she had never given animals much thought, until she saw what we were campaigning for. She is now a vegetarian and currently contemplating going vegan. Little steps make big differences! I was moved to hear that my efforts had influenced someone else to think deeply about animal issues and strive to do good. It’s also one of the reasons I continue to do what I do.
While you provide support to animals in need, how do you find the support that you need to do what you do?
To be honest, my parents took some time to accept what I was doing. Then, in 2013, I received an award for Outstanding Activist from PETA. When they realized how serious I was about animal activism, my parents grew to become my strongest supporters.
We also have a robust local community that comes together to raise funds on a monthly basis. Everyone chips in with whatever they can, and all the funds go towards feeding the stray dogs in the area. So, we do have a good network of committed and passionate folk.
But sometimes there are emergencies and I’ll receive an urgent text asking for someone to go out and locate a sick or injured animal. It happened again just a few days ago. In such cases, my team and manager have given me that flexibility to take a break and go out and do what’s necessary. Of course, I make sure to come back and deliver my work on time, too, but that flexibility is so important. And that’s not all. When my story was published on Intel’s internal platform, I received so much appreciation. My manager even said, “Please keep doing the good work!” Because, at the end of the day, we’re not a “clock-in, clock-out” kind of organization. We’re encouraged to balance work with our personal commitments and all that matters is being a team player. I am thankful for that trust.
What’s your plan for the future?
My aim is to save up enough to build a shelter where I can care for aged, abandoned or stray animals — rehabilitate them, nurse them back to health and give them a loving home.
What’s one inspiring thing that you have learned on this journey and the message that you’d like to send out into the world?
“Live and let live.” This world doesn’t only belong to us… it belongs to every living creature. If you can, please do feed strays, offer them shelter from the rain or give them a blanket in the winter. And if you cannot do any of these things, then at least try not to harm them. Try to protect them from harm. Do something good for the living beings who share this planet and this life with us.
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