Animal Instinct

A volunteer with some of the dogs
From the way we treat them, dogs would never have guessed that they're supposed to be man's best friends. Everyday stray dogs are poisoned or blasted with thousands of volts of electricity simply because they have the temerity to share our breathing space. Other species fare no better; living, breathing souls are killed just to provide variety to someone's taste buds. As long as we humans are Top Dog, other species simply dont matter.

Meet Lila Parulekar, who's been fighting a lone crusade against such megalomania for the past 35 years through her project Jeev Raksha. Her sprawling bungalow at Queen's Garden, behind Residency Club, houses a veritable menagerie of animals ranging from dogs to donkeys to even an eagle. A volley of barks greets you on arrival, as scores of dogs defend the turf they are finally able to call home. But living at Jeev Raksha has restored their faith in the human race, and aggressive behaviour is restricted to jumping up and licking your face, at the most. Brown eyes look trustfully at the woman who's dedicated her life to rescuing them from neglect, cruelty and abandonment. Says Lila Parulekar, "it makes my blood boil when I see old animals abandoned because their faculties no longer function or because they shed fur. Can you even imagine the pathos when you are betrayed by the person you love the most, when you need them the most? And the saddest part is, these people don't realise that their children will only reflect this behaviour some day--the message the kids are receiving is that it'll be okay to throw the parents out too, once they get old and useless."

Jeev Raksha does not restrict itself to animals that have been abandoned or crippled, but any stray animal needing a home is welcome--"I find it impossible to resist those eyes", admits Ms Parulekar. She's lost count of the animals that abound the house, although she acknowledges that caring for such numbers isn't easy. Funds, of course, pose the greatest problem. Since it isn't a registered trust, Jeev Raksha does not enjoy governmental support, but relies on private donations for its functioning. While some of the city's animal lovers do contribute regularly, it is hardly enough to defray the expenses of feeding the animals, providing medical care--including expensive X-rays and operations--to sick or wounded animals, and maintaining an army of staff. Besides funds, Ms Parulekar also looks to the local community for old clothes, sheets, food and newspapers. But the greatest help would be, she says, if every family decided to adopt just one stray animal each as that would definitely solve the entire stray animal problem to a large extent. Ms Parulekar never leaves an animal even once it regains health and vitality since letting it back on the street would only bewilder and traumatise the animal; however, all her animals are up for free adoption. Like their mistress, all the animals except the eagle are staunch vegetarians-"why kill an animal to feed an animal?"

The animals have pervaded every inch of her life, so much so that even her bedroom is filled with dogs who have open wounds and cannot be kept in the garden. At night and in the rains, all the dogs and cats are painstakingly accommodated in the house. Although she lives alone, Ms Parulekat doesn't even allow herself the luxury of a television set for company--she kissed her TV fund goodbye when a fractured cow needed an operation. Does it ever, well, overwhelm her when her entire life revolves around one cause? Does she sometimes have to force herself to carry on? She shrugs and says simply, "they need me and I need them. We're kindred spirits." Afterall, as Shakespeare once pointed out, the quality of mercy is not strained.

Contact Lila Parulekar at:
4 A Queen's Garden,
Behind Residency Club,
or call 842857

Ananya Lodaya

Click Here!