Walking down towards the PVR cinema in Saket, New Delhi, I was naive that I will soon be welcomed by Laila, Gabbar, and all other possible god damn Bollywood names with that gleam in their eyes. Their master, a 62-year- old rag picker, Pratima Devi, shooed them away to make the way for us-my friend and I. While even after that the cine stars didn’t stop sniffing us and rising up to reach up to our waists.

This hidden corner of the PVR Saket would have been crossed across by many as its just next to the parking lot, but what people might have overlooked is this brave lady who claims herself to be the foster mother of 300+ dogs, rather stray dogs in a lay man’s term which she prefers to call her family. Her adopted family is no less than a battalion who she feeds every day. Well, when you have 300 mouths to feed you do need to work day in and day out to. But the best part is that her this family doesn’t complain or demand more than what she can deliver, which wasn’t the case with the her known ones with a genetic connection. Chided away from her own house, determined, she never returned again to that place, instead made a home with new family members who could understand her. She has been here for the last thirty years but has been noticed by few.

When you have such a big extended family, and you have to name them all, then where do you search for the names? She found Bollywood characters the best to christen her pets and thus Laila, Gabbar, and the likewise. Unfortunately Basanti has left for her final abode, leaving behind her two kids Jai and Veeru. The generous lady told us that the oldest one amongst her darlings is the one who takes care of all
the younger ones, just like a granddad, and why not, he is good 20 years old! To catch a glimpse of him we had to move into the rickety house rather a basic structure with tin and other such material where our old man was relaxing under the wooden bed while one of the kids was wolfing down from his bowl.

Her daily family food requirements include litres of milk, a significant amount of rice, loafs of bread and a few kilograms of meat. How does she make for it? She picks up rags, collects garbage and earns her living. Fortunately she is not alone in this mission, an auto rickshaw driver and a young lady pay their visits once in a day if she needs anything or any help. We could not meet the noble rickshaw man as he was already on his service for the day, he had gone to the vet because some street dog at a place had got himself injured in an accident.

Accidently, some policemen crossed by with lathis in their hands, and the dozens security guards of this cottage were already barking and shouting to just scare away the policemen. They might have had some bad experience prior to this, else they had been such calm souls till then. And the policemen too moved away, obviously who would dare to enter uninvited to this den with a Z+ security.

She feeds them, caresses them, makes them sleep, makes their beds, has kept chairs and has other amenities for them ready. Who knew that the lady who didn’t get the affection she deserved from her home would have so much love to give to others. She began it all alone, has carried it all for so long single handedly and I’m sure she can do the same in future too, but why not lend her a helping hand, in kind, for her unique family? We were glad that she shared with us a candid talk and let us explore her amazing place which made our day, rather for a whole week to come we were all chatty about the same experience.

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