Raghu Aditya’s devotion to bettering the lives of animals

4 min read
01 Nov 2017
4 min read
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From the Archive (May, 2016): “The path I am on is one I chose to tread on, and I want to dedicate my life to animal welfare,” says Raghu Aditya
Raghu Aditya has devoted his life to bettering the lives of animals, so much so that he is willing to put his life on hold for the sake of theirs

The trailer serves a bigger purpose than just being Chimpu’s personal wagon; Aditya calls it an ‘animal ambulance’. It seems boxy from the outside, but it’s spacious enough that Aditya often carries three or four diseased dogs—their skin shedding because of scabies, their eyes inflamed and their joints stiff because of Ehrlichiosis, their foreleg held in an odd angle because it’s broken. Whenever Aditya finds such dogs on the streets of Lalitpur, he ferries them over to the nearby vets for treatment. Often, he cycles all the way to Animal Nepal, Chobhar, to spay and neuter the street dogs he finds. Once every week, he turns his trailer into a hawking cart filled with handmade greeting cards, Rs 50 each, with photos of his pets and other animals, at Patan Durbar Square or at Basantapur.

At places like Durbar Square, to which young people throng, Aditya aims to raise a little money that goes into treating the sick dogs he finds and to spread awareness about animal cruelty. The onlookers offering him words of support gives him hope. And he feels reassured in knowing that he is at least reaching out to some people.

While the sterilisation and vaccination programmes help decrease the number of street dogs and manage them, the dogs that are already roaming the streets need to be taken care of too

So focused is he on taking care of the animals and spreading awareness about animal abuse that Aditya, now 30, has put everything else in his life on hold. He isn’t thinking about getting married anytime soon. He doesn’t hold down a regular 9-5 job—although he does take on freelance translation-editing work every now and then. He has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, but he might not pursue a master’s in the subject. Taking care of the street dogs and other animals is Aditya’s sole passion.

“The path I am on is one I chose to tread on, and I want to dedicate my life to animal welfare,” he says. Aditya understands the importance of what he is doing. And so do others. “There is a need for middlemen such as him,” says Chadani Lama, Communications Officer at Animal Nepal. “One of the major problems that animal welfare organisations have to deal with is the lack of resources and manpower. It makes things easier for them when people working independently function as a bridge between the street dogs and the organisations running programmes designed to control the street dog population.”

According to the Street Dog Population Survey Kathmandu 2012 (the last such survey conducted in Kathmandu), done by KAT Centre and supported by the World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA), there are around 22,500 street dogs just inside Ring Road. The Kathmandu Municipal Authority and organisations such as KAT Centre have been actively involved in neutering street dogs since 2004—as evidenced by the dip in the the dogs’ population over the years. And recently, Kathmandu Metropolitan City, with support from Humane Society International and the Jane Goodall Institute, have started the Manumitra campaign, which is the first ever anti-rabies vaccination initiative for street dogs in Kathmandu. But while the sterilisation and vaccination programmes help decrease the number of street dogs and manage them, the dogs that are already roaming the streets need to be taken care of too.

By people like Aditya. For him, there have been occasions where what started out as a short-term intervention has turned into his adopting the animal he was caring for. When Aditya first found Chimpu, some seven months ago, he requested a few of his acquaintances to adopt her because he already had other pets, and not enough space in his house. “But once they found out she was a stray, they were reluctant to take her in,” he says. “So I decided to adopt her. Today, if someone enquires about Chimpu’s breed, I just tell them that she is a rescued stray,” says Aditya.

“Everyone has a choice to not inflict pain on someone else, and not just humans but animals too”

“Rescued’ is my favourite kind of breed,” he says. During the earthquakes last year, Aditya found a cat whimpering in pain under the debris of a wall around his home, in Imadol. He later took the cat home and named him Tofu. Sanumaya, a pigeon he adopted but whom he has lost now, was rescued in December 2014 from Gadhimai, where it was going to be sacrificed. Aditya had gone to Gadhimai that year to protest the festival.

When Aditya got to Gadhimai, he found himself in a field that was more red than green. “I witnessed such cruelty that I kept thinking that I would go numb, that no amount of violence would affect me anymore. But I also understand that people like me are trying to sensitise a society that has long been desensitised, and such things cannot happen overnight.” While he stood amid the bloodied animal carcasses—of buffaloes, goats, pigs, chickens—for days, and while some people made cynical comments about his passion and work, he did meet others who offered him support.

“Everyone has a choice to not inflict pain on someone else, and not just humans but animals too,” he says. When he was eight years old, Aditya made the choice to turn vegetarian, and a few years ago he decided to become a vegan. When Aditya turned 16, he started going to different schools, delivering PowerPoint presentations on animal cruelty. For the last 14 years he has been adding more details to these PowerPoint slides, and sharing his personal stories, hoping that doing so will have a lasting impact on people— and make them more considerate towards animals.

But focusing almost completely on animals comes at a cost. “I know that finding a stable job would give me a source of steady income. But that’s not what I want,” he says. “I realise that I have responsibilities towards my family and being involved with animal welfare is obviously not a profit or career-oriented endeavour,” he says.

Setting up an organisation, on the basis of donations, would make things easier, but Aditya has a different take on this. “I like being able to work freely, without being bogged down with the obligations of running an organisation,” he says.

There might be a way for him to have a larger impact, though. In the near future, Aditya wants to scale up his greeting card business so that he can mass produce the cards and hopefully make more money. “Then maybe I can afford and sustain a bigger place for my rescued animals,” he says. He also wants to install banners in various parts of the city to raise awareness about fair treatment to animals.

But he knows that it might take years for many of his dreams to come true even if he were to print boxes upon boxes of cards. For now, he will continue to do what he is doing.

“I know I or anyone else cannot be there for all the animals on the streets that need care. But if we can help just one suffering animal that we encounter, it does make a huge difference to that one soul. And sometimes that’s enough.”