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Archangel of the Les Misérables: The Chetna

It is all consuming to keep one pet at home, then how do you cater to 80 of the undomesticated ones, from rescuing them, cooking for them, feeding them, ensuring their sterilisation, treatments, and spending sleepless nights with anxiety over every single stray that she takes in, Rafat Ahmed does it all. Vexed with the society for their severe bitterness towards the friendliest of animals, Rafat has also built a few shelters for them as she risks being ousted from hers from those who oppose her mission.

A never-ending love story
'I hate dogs, I hate dogs", she grumbles good-naturedly about the love-love relationship she has with all the animals around her, domestic or pet or strays, that's not the classification she makes or imposes on anyone let alone animals. She hates the fact that she cares too much for them, she hates the fact that she is obsessed about them, she hates that one tear in their eyes or a one runny nose will keep her awake at nights and that her happiness is directly proportional to well-being of these les miserables.

Friends refer to Rafat as 'The Mother Teresa of animals' and she might very well achieve the sainthood if you see her through the eyes of her stray pals. In fact, you should rather see the adulation in the eyes of her sworn friends to know her. The unmistakable love and affection you witness there is the biggest trophy you can hold out for her. As Rafat herself admits, 'food or no food, they love you' and she just can't help love them back with all the means she has, her home, her kitchen, her funds, her time and her heart.

Cradling the strays
Rafat is constantly shocked by the senseless animosity of man towards such creatures who loves man more than themselves. Dr. Pradeep Rana who has been healing the animals that Rafat carries to him regularly for the last 3.5 years, remembers many a days or nights rather when Rafat went out in dangerous circumstances to answer the call of one stranded or mauled animal. All by herself, without the luxury of a trained team, animal traps, even without another pair of hands, rescuing animals from ditches, dark roadsides, overflowing gutters. Animals attacked by other animals in a dog eat dog world, by vehicles speeding unmindful of others on the road and just beaten by humans who can't tolerate other beings sharing the space which earnestly is theirs too, Rafat rushes out to help.

She has learnt first aid and she will answer a call even in the dead of the night and try to knock as many doors as she can to see if some trained vet can help her save a life. She will go any distance to ensure that all the voiceless creatures survive another day or die in peace.

Having started when she was in the 7th grade in Lucknow, today she dedicates her whole day to the cooking, feeding, nursing and care giving, overstepping her own limits but pushing the threshold all the time. She has been fighting for their rights even from the educated society. 'It is not your world alone, it's theirs too', says Neha, a friend and volunteer with Rafat.

Damsel undistressed
She's not the one for the faint hearted, she takes them all in, liquid or chocolate eyes, those licks and wags, the cuddles, and then the broken spines, the ruptured intestines, the maggot wounds, the depressed and shunned ones who once used to be the apple of someone's eyes in a luxuriant household abandoned for another object of affection. It's a concept that applies to all living things alike, Rafat tells us that 'even pet animals are turned out from carpeted floors to streets because they are old, or ailing, or just because it's not convenient to have them anymore'. Even the most treasured pets are thrown out like an old piece of furniture, and there is nothing that these animals can do, no courts they can appeal at, no protests can they stage, they can't even cry their hearts out, their unconditional love only makes them lick their wounds in private.

Rafat has made shelters in Noida sector 99 for them. There are a lot of resistance she has had to face, stiff upper lips sometimes for they have no patience with those on the streets, dogs or not. Having struggled with society's apathy towards these innocent creatures, her biggest win today is that the same people have turned around and carried the earlier ignored animals to her doorstep, wanting them checked for ticks, bites, rashes and most of all to ensure they are sterilised.

Wishing for an animal sanctuary
Rafat hopes she can increase the radius of her reach at least in Noida and farther and farther if possible. But one Rafat cannot adopt all the animals in the world we need to do more than just click pictures of them and add to your Whatsapp or Facebook but you could take a step today, volunteer for an animal lover around you, volunteer maybe for a dog's society.

It's the most natural stress reliever for her when wearied with a world of woe, she comes back to the dogs, pups, cats that will make her world whole again. Didn't someone say 'Heaven is where all the dogs you loved rush to greet you!'


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