Every dog has its day when Cienpy Malhotra is on her way. The Mumbai-based animal lover steps out every night to feed 50 strays 5 kg of chicken and rice.
When that familiar sound of the engine comes whirring around the corner, 50 tails start wagging uncontrollably at the thought of their "mum" who will be alighting from the car any minute. Cienpy Malhotra descends into a sea of panting dogs that make the journey from the door to the trunk impossibly difficult. She somehow manages to shake them off just long enough to take out a large cauldron of home-cooked food. The hungry little faces look perplexed – they can’t seem to decide whether to wolf down the meal or get their daily dose of belly rubs. Their hunger for food may have been satisfied, but their appetite for love and their capacity to give it back is insatiable, Cienpy tells us. That’s what has been bringing her back to her 50 four-legged babies for over three months now, to feed them a delicious and wholesome chicken-and-rice preparation – all so that no dog sleeps hungry!
Pune-based tarot card reader Cienpy, 25, who also models on the side, grew up with her parents and her sister and was taught early on that never to take anything for granted.
“I always knew that my path was always different. I grew to appreciate dogs even more since I adopted my own. Every dog is a blessing and the thought of them going to sleep empty stomach really bothered me. So, I decided to feed as many dogs as I personally could,” she tells YourStory.
The arts graduate from Pune’s Wadia College moved to Mumbai eight years ago with her family. And every day since November 2017, Cienpy has been looking out for the furballs in Goregaon’s Bangur Nagar area. She started out by feeding them a generous amount of biscuits but realised that dogs require good amounts of protein. She also found that chicken feet are recommended by veterinarians as they contain nutrients in sufficient quantities. A few weeks later, she started getting 3 kgs of chicken feet, liver and fat, and 1.5 kg of rice to feed the canine population. The total cost of the food amounts to roughly around Rs 350 per day. Their domestic help prepares the meal every day; the process takes an hour.
The food is transferred into a big container and transported it to Bangur Nagar, to a locality that is home to 35 to 40-odd stray dogs. The dogs, residing in bylanes, usually move in groups of five or six. “As soon they hear our car, they come running to greet us. That kind of reaction reminds me why I love doing this,” she says.
Each dog is served one big scoop of chicken (which every dog gets three pieces of) and rice. After one set of dogs has been fed in a lane, she picks up the papers, cleans up the space, and moves to the next lane. This process also takes approximately one hour. In an age when time is always short, Cienpy spares about two hours a day from her life as a freelance tarot card reader, model, and potential entrepreneur.
However, she feels it is all a matter of priority, and if something is important to you, it doesn’t seem laborious.
“I don’t have any problem taking out time for feeding dogs, as I consider them family. If I’m late, I postpone my dinner, but the dogs are always fed on time. If I’m out for work, my sister or my help feed the dogs. If you have your priorities set, you won’t find this difficult. For me, those dogs are my priority,” she tells us.
For her, this little endeavour is not just her doing her bit – it has also given back to her and enriched her life. One fine day, Cienpy spotted an adorable stray pup up for adoption on Facebook. She had adopted two dogs - Bruno and Zara – earlier that year and was contemplating whether there was room for one more. Later that night, when she was out on her rounds feeding her extended family, someone called out the name “Jessie”. Cienpy turned around to find the same puppy from the Facebook feed, among her happy horde! It was love at first sight.
“I decided to adopt her. I would’ve missed out on her had I not decided to feed dogs,” she says.
In India, she opines that charity in the individual capacity is not as prominent, and a general lack of compassion for animals puts that cause way below on the list.
“People who see me going out each night think I’m crazy or ‘too obsessed’ ” with dogs, and think that what I do is unnecessary. Dogs are still viewed as a nuisance in our society. I get hell for my pets in my building; I can hardly imagine what these tiny paws go through. When I am feeding them, there are many who hurl stones at them and scare them away. It’s tough, but my heart will always stay with my canine friends,” she says.
Cienpy says if one wants to embark on an endeavour of this sort, there’s just one way: start off as soon as - and only if - it’s possible for you to do it consistently. “Dogs get attached to you, and not showing up regularly messes with their physical and emotional state. Always leave your house with a packet of Parle-G biscuits. There’s always hungry dog looking for you,” Cienpy signs off.