As one first enters this house in Green Park Extension, a posh south Delhi locality, it appears like a warehouse. The almost-bare two-storey house belongs to Rajesh Mittal, and is mostly used as a kitchen to prepare large quantities of animal food. Mittal, 58, single handedly takes care of all the stray animals in and around the neighbourhood.
Beginning his day, Mittal steps out armed with a whistle, a hair brush and tubs full of food. He feeds around 350-400 stray dogs in the area including those in nearby Deer Park. Many a times he has drawn the ire of locals who complained about dog bite incidents.
But these complaints do not deter Mittal. Every day, he buys 30 litres of milk and 50-55 loaves of bread, and takes a sack of leftover vegetables from local vendors to prepare healthy food for these homeless canines. “I try to make the food as healthy and tasty as possible. Animals too need good healthcare. I make sure that there is less oil in the khichdi, and I add jaggery and turmeric to their food. I prepare five litres of curd daily to mix it with milk and bread crumbs for their breakfast,” he said, as he carried two buckets of food and milk to fill the dishes in the park.
Mittal routinely takes ailing strays for vaccinations. “Once one of the older dogs, Julie, was sick for days because of a stomachache. I took her to a veterinarian, who told me she needed treatment for ulcers. After that incident I started taking many of them for routine check-ups,” he said.
He carries two buckets of food and milk at scheduled hours to fill the countless bowls spread across Deer Park for the dogs there. While we accompanied him to the park, a whole army of dogs came running to his whistle.
“There are times when people call me mad. But it does not bother me,” he said, excusing himself to fix the dogs’ lunch. He has employed two domestic helps for assisting him with the work.
It all started after Mittal lost his father after a prolonged illness. In his words, he finds a divine solace in serving these creatures.
“I believe it is one soul that renders in all living beings and I just work to serve him. When my father passed away, I realised that human life is of no worth if not put to service,” said Mittal, who used to own a property business and is a commerce graduate from Delhi University’s Shaheed Bhagat Singh College.
However, he wound up his business in 1999, so that he could work full-time feeding these animals. “Besides, I grow plants and donate saplings to DDA nurseries,” said Mittal.
Mittal, who lives alone and just owns a bed and a TV, says, “I do not have any steady income. I donated the property that I used to own to various religious trusts. These trusts, in turn, fund me now so that the work I do does not stop. Since I work for God, he helps me make a living.”