By Sanjay Pinto

The two faces of Chennai. The ‘I, Me, Myself’ serpentine queues of anxious folks stocking up rations to fend for themselves. And individuals stirring out of their comfort zones to care for the voiceless.
Feeding stray animals in the neighbourhood may be a common sight. But Abhinaya Devaraj takes compassion to an all new level. Criss crossing the city to feed more than 200 dogs and cats every single day during the lockdown, this young mother has been a godsend to community pets and abandoned animals.
(Pic: Abhinaya Devaraj – Animal Rights Activist)
A hotel management graduate and bakery franchisee in Chennai, Abhinaya has been able to rustle up sponsors for her mission. “Green Park hotel in Vadapalani gives me 20 kgs of chicken rice and Arun (voice of street dogs) parts with half that quantity. I source another 8 kgs from my cook.” Armed with buckets of lip smacking food, this ‘one woman army’ keeps her date with her furry friends in 5 areas – Shenoy Nagar, Koyambedu, Poonamallee High Road, Vepery bus depot and Central Station.
Not all are quite furry. Many dogs are injured and in pathetic shape. Abhinaya’s job does not end with feeding them. It only begins here.Taking it upon herself to have them treated by vets, dewormed and vaccinated, her holistic care includes finding homes for them. So unlike many facebook timelines replete with pictures of lockdown delicacies whipped up or tik tok videos shared, Abhinaya’s posts are all about pet adoptions. Endearing close-ups of pups with a ‘take me home’ cry can tug at your heart strings.
The lockdown has led to quite a spate of owners abandoning their pets. Abhinaya has adopted 2 rescued dogs herself. With a sustained social media campaign, 10 dogs including 5 Indian mongrel pups have found cosy homes. And counting. While the Labradors and the Rajapalayams are lapped up, Abhinaya’s grouse is there are sadly “no takers” for mongrels. “I just don’t want them to be born on the roads and die there.”
With a ‘never say die’ spirit, you can almost picture those grateful puppies wagging away with a new found ‘Abhiyum Naanum’ confidence!
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author, Public Speaking Mentor & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)


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