Saptarshi Roy: The savior of Stray Dogs
On a lazy afternoon, after dodging the extremely frustrating traffic jam, for 45 minutes, which is a common phenomenon in Delhi, I reached The Central Block Part of Greater Kailash II. I met Saptarshi Roy at the District Park where he feeds and plays with the dogs at the park. Over tea and bread rolls, we started discussing the journey of the man, who feeds around 200 dogs every day.
It all started in 2008, when he first took his first Dog, Piku, who was a Labrador. “He was a dog who loved to roam around in the complex.” Said Saptarshi, who used to take him for strolls and he also used to feed the stray dogs near his locality. There was a dog, who used to live near the locality, Saptarshi had named him Tommy. He, as Saptarshi, recounts, was a “Non- Hungama (non-nuisance) dog”. He started eventually befriending Piku and used to come till the gate of the building to bid both Piku and Saptarshi “Goodbye” for the day. Early in the morning, he used to come and eat and then leave, without any fuss.
But then there were a series of things that changed everything. The housing society members and Saptarshi’s neighbours started having problem with Tommy, “A Stray”, coming to their locality. They started beating the dog. Their excuse for beating him up was: “The dog is a stray. If he is encouraged, he will never leave the locality, and would create a ruckus and will bite people.”
Saptarshi further tells me, “He had a designated place. Dogs have specific places where they sleep and dwell, most of the time. He never harmed anyone.”
“But when I refused to leave him, things got ugly. They would come to my place, when I was away and threaten my wife”
“It was then, I wrote a letter to Mrs. Maneka Gandhi. She was really helpful, and assured me that she would look in to this matter personally. After a week or so, a lawyer contacted me, to know the details. Within days, the society got a legal notice, regarding the cruelty to animals.” Eventually more dogs came. And at one point there were 20 dogs at my apartment. All Dogs were vaccinated.
But was there a sudden point in your life, that made you decide, to go for it, or did it come gradually?
Saptarshi: “I was in my car, on my way to Gurgaon, I think. I saw that a dog was run-over by a car. Since it was a one way road, hence, I couldn’t have turned my car to go and check, though I SO wished that I had. After a couple of hours, I came back to that spot and started asking people about the dog. The cigarette-seller told me that he had died, on the spot. They have thrown him somewhere. I was very disturbed. Just to be sure, I asked the rickshaw pullers at the stand. They said that the dog is alive, and they had taken him to the hospital. That didn’t help. I would never be able to know the truth. That was the day; I decided that it should never happen again. “
It was then, he thought of getting a place where he can keep the dogs. He leased a farmhouse and got some people to look after the dogs,
He says, “It is not an NGO. I did it, only because, my dogs have become a part of my life. I can’t live without them.”
At Present, he has around 60 dogs at his farm in Faridabad. Some have Tick fever. Some of them have their limbs broken. Some of them have their whole rib cage injured. Some are just abandoned and some have got illnesses like the tick fever which has known to take lives of the dogs
“The farm is the home of these dogs. And they will stay with me for the whole of their life. In the process, I lost half of my friend circle, because I wasn’t social. If they called me to watch a movie, I’d have to politely refuse, as the dog/dogs who is/are ill is more important for me than watching the movie. I used to love watches. But now I just have an old watch. The only thing that comes in my mind is that, if I spend the money on their food, rather than on the watch, they will have a portion of their food for the day. But there are many who have stood by my side. I have to thank my friend Anando who has been my partner in this. Ayeesha and Dr. Kunal Dev Sharma, who have helped me at any point of time when I needed help either with the treatment of the dogs, or otherwise.”
“What we need is to create awareness for the people. 90% of the camps never vaccinate the puppies. I also need to ask people to stop taking dogs from breeders. These breeders operate from Punjab and it helps the people in financing things from injections to drugs. Also, the Indian breed is much stronger than the foreign dogs.”
What are your plans in the future?
Within three months, I have a plan to get an ultrasound machine in Faridabad. As for my long term plans, I have four things in my mind.
1) I need to make a clinic for the dogs, with an ultrasound and an X-ray machine and emergency ambulance service.
2) I also need to make a shelter for donkeys. Donkeys are, perhaps the most ill-treated animals after dogs in India.
3) School for children, in places where there are no schools, especially hills, where the kids can’t go to schools because, either they don’t have a school there, or it is far off from their home.
4) I also want to make a hospital with 20 beds which have doctors living in the periphery.
How do you manage the finances and how much is the cost incurred every day?
I am into Education. I help Universities to set up their foothold in India. So I ask these universities, to finance some amount of the contract’s money on supplies. We never accept cash. We ask people to provide us with commodities, like dog-food, the cheap rice, for dogs, medicines, syringes etc. But mostly it is incurred by me. At times I had to break open my Fixed Deposits, to meet the costs.
Every day we need 25 KGs of chicken which costs us about 1600 rupees. 30 KGs of cheap rice, which costs us 800 rupees and 10 KGs of dog food every day. So in a month, around, Rs. 1,70,000 are spent just on food, to say the least, then there are maintenance costs, stipends for the caretakers and travelling and medical expenses. You can come and see, how we take care of them.
Tell me more about the farm in Faridabad.
I have six people who are at the farm, as caretakers, for the dogs. Sudhanshu is the head care taker. You have to meet the dogs. They are adorable. You should come and meet them.
So I went to the farm house to meet them. It was some 10 minutes form Badkhal Chowk. It was a big farm house, with so many dogs! Dogs of all ages! It just took me 5 minutes to get friendly with them. There were dogs from All over Delhi and NCR. There were dogs, who had lost one or two legs, spines, some, their eyes. But all of them were adorable. All they wanted was petting and some love, whether it was the active little pup, “Maruti”, or the stud “Telephone”.
After some playing with the dogs, Sudhanshu told me that when Saptarshi comes to the farm and sleeps in the farm, at least 6-7 dogs blanket over him.
Being with them made me realize, that people have the wrong perception about love. Love and care is what everyone is hungry for, and everything good that they do is driven by that Love.