West indian people

This Humans of Mumbai book project documents the unusual acts of ordinary people in India

I was sixteen when I fell in love. He was ready to wait for me while I pursued my dream of assembling a police officer.

But back then, you couldn’t just date someone – you had to get married. My dad pushed me to make a choice – him or the uniform. I chose love, and believe me, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. He pushed me to be more than just a housewife, to do exactly what I wanted to do.

Life was happy and I was really happy. I was studying criminology, which allowed me to interact with the police. It was like a balm for my ego, for I had managed to immerse my feet in both worlds; I was not only playing my role in maintaining law and order, but I was also becoming a mom.

I remember vividly, in January 1987, I was watching a parade on television with my baby in my lap, when the “all women” march appeared on the screen. It was a stinging reminder of my forgotten dreams – I couldn’t help but get emotional. Times had finally changed and women were now allowed in the paramilitaries – I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. With the support of my husband and family, I decided to apply.

I became the first and only female graduate from South India. One of the physical tests is still etched in my memory – I had already sprained my ankle before the last 100 meters. I chose to run with the guys, and despite my injury, I ran the race of my life! I have earned the respect of everyone in this field.

I was the first woman in the Special Protection Group. I had the honor of serving seven prime ministers of our country. Part of my job description was to be ready to take a bullet to protect the Prime Minister, but I never feared for my life because I knew my husband would take care of our sons. He was responsible for raising them while I was chasing my dreams.

We had finally settled into our lives – the work was good, the kids were doing well, but a piece of the puzzle was still missing. One morning my husband suddenly brought home a forty day old German Shepherd puppy!

We never really discussed having a pet, especially a dog, as I was more of a female cat. But soon enough, Sheeba became the girl I never had, and the moment Scooby entered our lives, I became a die-hard dog lover.

Unfortunately, around this time my husband started to get very sick. He went on a pilgrimage for a few days … but never came back to my house. He passed away suddenly, and for the first time in my life, I was completely alone; left with two beautiful children. I only cried when I was alone with my puppies – I tried to fill the void my husband had left behind.

I voluntarily retired from the military and instead accepted a job with a company. Because Sheeba and Scooby were instrumental in my own recovery, I decided to adopt more dogs – I wanted to do something for them. People started to realize that I was ready to rescue and welcome dogs, and started showing up at my doorstep with stray dogs – I couldn’t bring myself to refuse any of them.

By the time my children brought me back from Chennai to Delhi, we had thirty-five dogs in our care. In fact, the only way my sons managed to get me to move was to move the dogs first – they knew mom would follow her babies wherever they went.

Finding a suitable home to house our dogs was no easy task. After multiple refusals, we took a rental property from someone I had known from my days in the military.

People just leave the dogs they find on the streets at my house. In fact, the most recent addition was literally thrown over our door yesterday. In fact, we’ve run out of names for them now, and we’ve decided to give them numbers – Alien 1 and Alien 2 are pretty much inseparable now.

Each abandoned dog that is placed in our home is first medically examined and then sterilized. I have five employees and with them we cook over 300 rotis and 110 eggs every day, and each dog is on a bath schedule. One of my sons stays with me, while my other son saves his own dogs. Together we take care of our family.

Unfortunately we have made enemies of our neighbors and quite often the police come and try to pretend that we are running a breeding business. There is a lot of noise and the space is starting to get too small. The hospitals are too far away and we are losing so many of our dogs because there is no way to get them the medical care they need. While neither my son nor I care about luxury for ourselves, we cannot compromise on the quality of life we ​​provide for them.

So we took matters into our own hands. I just sold my last property and we have purchased 35,000 square feet of secluded, open land that we will be dedicating only to our dogs. We will have enough space to have a medical team on site, a clinic and whatever might be needed.

Some people think I’m crazy, but it really doesn’t matter to me – they can say whatever they want. My dogs have helped me through my grief, and now I thank my husband every day for bringing Sheeba home. He unwittingly put me on this path. I only had twenty-two years with him … and I couldn’t save him. But what I can do is save these dogs – from hunger, from cruelty, from death.

I’ve been a protector my whole life – that’s what I was born to do. It is almost second nature for me to help protect India, whether it is protecting our prime ministers, our citizens or those abandoned dogs. I have served this country all my life and will continue to do so until my last breath.

Extracted with permission from The Humans of Bombay: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories, Karishma Mehta, HarperCollins India.

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