In love with innocence

Giving refuge to stray dogs is Radha Rajan’s passion. She also finds it appalling that people consider animals as a source of entertainment, writes Hema Vijay

WHEN they see Radha Rajan's car coming down their street in south Chennai, young Chitti and six others run forward joyously to meet her. She greets each of them personally, calling them by their names, and offers them a nutritious meal. Chennai-based Rajan, 54, has been bringing them bucket-loads of rice and boiled eggs — laced with milk and butter — for the past 14 years now. She does this twice a day.

This philanthropy may not seem so very outstanding until you come to know that Chitti and friends happen to be canine strays. This generous delivery is not limited to one street alone. Street by street, Rajan covers a good portion of south Chennai and, by the time the job is done, she has already been on the road for two hours.

Radha can solve most problems that animals encounter
Radha can solve most problems that animals
Photo: WFS

Rajan is passionate, empathetic and a busy woman. Feeding the strays aside, Rajan is also a political commentator, founder-editor of, joint secretary of Vigil Public Opinion Forum between 1995-2006, and author of the Eclipse of the Hindu Nation.

Leave alone the expense that she has been incurring on this venture, doesn't she ever think of outsourcing the service to someone, considering how much time she spends on it? "Tell me, don't you get tired of feeding or raising your kids, or do you? I believe that when somebody sets out to feed the needy, money will somehow come," she says. Over the last 14 years, Rajan has never left town for more than two days at a stretch, with the exception of a 40-day European tour she took some years back. But even then her daughter had stepped in to keep home and take care of the "kids."

"It started with Tody, who crawled in through a gap in our compound. Painfully thin and starving, she looked pathetic. I wanted to comfort and feed her, but I didn't have a clue on how to care for dogs. I didn't know what dogs liked to eat, or what the mark of sterilisation was like. I just knew that I couldn't let her die uncared for," she reminisces. "I initially fed her my rasam, rice and curry, which she would leave untouched. I learnt it all by trial and error," she adds. After this, Rajan picked up Kumbakarna from the streets. "She was so thin and weak that crows were turning her over," she recalls. Down the years, more dogs found a home with her.

Rajan's neighbours and others who encounter her on the streets when she delivers food to street dogs are mixed in their reactions to her unusual vocation. Some raise their eyebrows in displeasure, while others do so in awe. But Rajan couldn't care less either way.

Analysing the issue of animal abuse, she observes in her online forum: "The basis of all abuse and exploitation is in making objects of the abused. When I acknowledge the subjectivity of others besides my own, I consciously reject any subjective hierarchy in nature and creation... If before eating chicken flesh or flesh of the lamb or the cow or other cattle, humans would bring before their eyes the picture of the mother hen and the chicks pecking grain together, the mother hen herding her chicks protectively under her wing, if humans can bring before their eyes the innocent and tender eyes of goats and lambs, and if they made an attempt to visit slaughter houses that kill these animals, or the manner by which hens and chicks get their necks wrung to kill them and then plucked of all their feathers to get them ironically 'dressed' for human consumption, perhaps, just perhaps, they may begin to comprehend the abuse that we practice in our arrogance."

She also finds it appalling that some humans consider that animals are meant to be used for entertainment. She elaborates: "Breeding dogs and horses for races, breeding pedigree dogs for shows, using cocks in cock fights, the horrifying bull fights in which the bulls are subjected to slow and painful death by the matador, circuses which teach animals unnatural tricks and feats`85I find it as appalling as women being used for prostitution, as dancing girls, as strip-tease artistes."

Giving refuge to dogs has been a family decision, because Rajan's husband and daughter completely supported her in the venture. Her concern also extends to cats, crows and the like, and the lady wields enormous influence among animal welfare organisations in the city.

"Radha can get things done. She can solve most problems that animals encounter in the city," says Mallini Sridhar, another animal lover and a Blue Cross volunteer based in the city. But what are the problems that crop up? For instance, once there was a dog that gave birth to three pups on the pavement just outside the Theosophical Society premises in Chennai. Rajan tried asking the society to allow the dogs to remain on the grounds, but was refused. The pups stood the risk of being run over when they would be getting on to their feet in a few days and start wandering about. This prompted Radha to call up a host of people and arrange for an animal lover to shelter the canine family for a couple of days, until she found permanent homes for them. States Radha: "The thing is I didn't want the mother separated from the pups. That would be too cruel." — WFS