Nadir Khan devotes his time and money to feeding, vaccinating and sterilizing the stray dogs of Gurgaon
Ground hero: At Sushant Lok 3
“Aao, aao,” bellows Nadir Khan as we stand in an open ground in Sushant Lok III and immediately, about 15 stray dogs, tails wagging furiously and faces plastered with happy grins, rush towards his red Maruti van. Sudhir, one of Khan’s two assistants, opens the back of the vehicle that contains a first aid kit and a huge heavy-guage vessel -- the sort used by caterers to make biryani -- full of a porridge made of dalia and meat. The dogs can barely contain their joy and leap about excitedly as Sudhir slops generous portions into bowls. A few shy females observe the action from the fringes, waiting patiently for the riff-raff to finish before they come forward for their share.
“I think she might have been stolen and brought here because someone thought she’d have cute puppies,” says Khan pointing to a gentle-eyed brown dog watching the action from afar. Apparently, the boys at the local car garage once took Khan to task because they believed their friendly neighbourhood dog wasn’t having pups because he had mixed birth control pills in her porridge!
“Whoever took her didn’t know she had already been sterilized,” says Khan who feeds about 150 stray dogs in Gurgaon every morning and is “in touch with about 1800 dogs here.” The resident of Sector 57 ensures that all his canine friends are sterilized and vaccinated against rabies and distemper, and that those suffering from a variety of ailments like mange, fever and broken bones are treated. Even as we speak, Sudhir prises open the mouth of a mange-afflicted pooch and stuffs a pill down its throat.
Yum yum free: The Hong Kong Market family
Khan seems to know every tyke in the area and points out the family who were rescued by the security guards at Hong Kong Market when their mother was run over, and their buddy Tintin, who once was a scrawny abandoned pup but is now a magnificent white hound. “I’ve named many dogs after my friends,” laughs his wife ecologist Pia Sethi adding “they aren’t too happy about it!”
Buddy system: Pia and friends
“This one is Puran,” Khan says affectionately patting the head of a friendly mongrel who, flouting all territorial rules revered by pack dogs, regularly follows the van unhindered as it travels through various sectors. Puran actually ‘belongs’ to a human with the same name. “I used to say ‘Arre where is Puran’s kutta?’ when he didn’t show up, and eventually I started calling the dog by the owner’s name,” Khan laughs.
Talk to the hand: Puran
But doesn’t Puran’s owner look after him? “Many of these people are poor and they think giving a dog a few rotis a day means looking after him,” says Khan who is often approached by impoverished dog lovers for advice and medicines. At one stop, a young workman shows Khan his black pup rather absurdly named ‘Sandy’. “Keep her warm and when she’s a little older bring her to me for vaccinations and medicines,” says Khan as he advises the boy on the right diet for the pup. Pia reveals that Sandy is a replacement for another much beloved black dog, also called Sandy, who was snatched off the street by “some men who came in a car”.
“Can you imagine a desi stray dog being kidnapped?” says Pia shaking her head, “but in Haryana they consider black dogs lucky, especially ones with a single white marking on their bodies, so that’s probably why they took her.”
Sandy spot: Nadir and Sudhir in Sector 57
Since organisations like Friendicoes-SECA and PFA (People for Animals) Sadrana have been sterilizing dogs in Gurgaon with the assistance of individuals like Nadir Khan, very few pups are now born here, which is why the original Sandy’s grieving owner had to trudge to Delhi to find a new companion. “Most of the dogs here are old,” says Khan. A few very senior individuals now live in the couple’s home, which serves as a kind of doggy sanatorium. Many who benefitted from their treatment - like the dog who broke his forelegs when he was thrown off the first floor of a building by construction workers -- now live in the barren land outside, keeping a constant watch on their saviour’s residence.
“Dr Anuj Synghal, who is a qualified vet, helps us with many cases,” says Nadir who isn’t a vet himself but has learnt to treat particular canine ailments in the years since 1998 when he began feeding strays. “I had two German Shepherds and I started feeding street dogs with their leftover food,” Khan reminisces. One thing led to the other and soon he was setting aside a large amount of his time and resources -- Rs 40,000 per month -- towards feeding and treating the loveable and very intelligent desi stray. “I’ve given up opportunities to work abroad. When my wife was in the US for eight years, I never went there because then who would look after and feed these dogs,” says Khan who is a senior executive with a logistics firm in Delhi.
Besides good karma, his work for stray dogs has brought him many friends within the community as everyone from pujaris at local temples to beat constables and humble workmen approach him for assistance with their animals. “I help out those who don’t have the money to look after their desi pets but I tell the richer folk with their German Shepherds and Labs to get things done themselves,” Khan laughs recounting the tale of someone with a fleet of cars asking him for a jacket for his dog!
As Pia and Nadir leave for the rest of their morning 15-stop round, you realise you’re as happy as a cheerful Gurgaon stray to have met them.
All pictures shot by Manjula Narayan on her much used and abused Samsung cellphone
This article appeared in an edited form in a local newspaper called Friday Gurgaon