Leela Parulekar: Lady & the tramps


The residence of Leela Parulekar is better known as a big bungalow with dogs all around. Her love and compassion for animals is simply beyond words. Dogs and Pups had a chat with Leela at her home in Pune.
Entering the gates of Jeev Raksha, one is greeted by multitude of wagging tails and playful barks. There are dogs, cows, birds, donkeys, etc, each giving you an inquisitive look as to who has entered their premise. There are dogs of all age groups – pups, adolescents, besides many injured and old ones. A look at them reflects the life they must have lived before they entered this haven, now they know they will be loved and cared for. They are all over the place– some can be seen strolling, some sitting comfortably on a chair or a charpoy under the tree. One can see the canine cheer!Leela Parulekar, better known as ‘kuttewali bai’ (the lady with dogs), loved dogs from her early childhood. Her love, which started as a child, is still continuing and the numbers are gradually increasing, with each passing day. She believes in loving all animals and says that people should learn to live in harmony and peace with them and also respect them. Her shelter Jeev Raksha takes care of those who are unwanted and uncared for. Leela tends to each one with heart-felt concern, doing her best to heal the wounds both physically as well as emotionally.Inspite of her job as a director of a Marathi newspaper Sakaal, Leela manages her work of tending to the needs and caring for all the pets. She is the daughter of the famous Dr NB Parulekar, founder-editor of Sakaal, from whom she has inherited her journalistic capabilities. She completed her schooling from St. Mary’s while she pursued her graduation from Wadia College. She has a masters in French literature and has studied at Columbia University, New York. She even worked with New York Times and the Paris-based Le Monde. But, her love and compassion for animals changed her life forever and brought her back to Pune.
Everyday at Jeev Raksha is intense, full of little tragedies and challenges. Special care and attention is given to pups and kittens as well as those who are injured or are quite old. Each and every nook and corner of the bungalow is dedicated to animals. You can find dogs everywhere – on the bed, in the kitchen, even in the bathroom! One can see some of the dogs sprawled over her bedroom. “My house has literally gone to the dogs. They are my children and my life is complete because of them,” said Leela with a twinkle in her eyes.
The moment to catch is when Leela steps out – it is a sight to behold! Do you remember the story of the pied piper, who was followed by rats? The same is the case here, the difference being that instead of rats, Leela is followed by a stream of dogs of all breeds and sizes. Particularly admiring is a beautiful once-abandoned Great Dane, who follows her everywhere, even if she has to go to the bathroom. Like a shadow, he follows her every footstep, without letting her go out from his sight. Equally possessive is a lil Dachshund, whom Leela amusingly calls her boy-friend. Even while chatting with us, her boyfriend didn’t move. He sat on the table beside her. Then, there are others like DJ, Kalu, etc and all love her dearly.
Leela remembers her pets with fondness. She particularly remembers Chimpu Brown, when she had to go out of town for some work and her mother was ill. She asked Chimpu to take care of her mother. Everybody was surprised to see that he did not move from her mother’s bedside for a fortnight, until Leela came back home. “I was simply touched with this gesture,” told Leela.
Leela is at times deterred by some of the callers who wish to abandon their dogs due to some illness, old age or other behavioral problems. She feels that if they can cope up with other family members having similar problems, then why can’t they keep and take care of their pets. Aren’t they responsible enough?
Jeev Raksha also puts up their dogs for adoption. “But we are very careful about giving our dogs away. We do a proper follow up and ensure that he is going into good hands. If still, we find that the dog is not properly cared, we bring our pet right back,” she added.
Her love and compassion for animals is deeply appreciated by all. Venu Menon Animal Allies Foundation conferred her with Venu Menon Animal Allies Award 2002 for her outstanding contribution to animal welfare.
Though she has a dedicated team of 15-20 people who work along with her, she still tries to devote most of her time to her animals. Her team looks at her with pride and shares her vision. Her only limitation is the finances as she has a shoe-string budget. “I am happy, if I can feed them well. I don’t think about tomorrow,” told Leela. But, she always welcomes the little donations and help she gets from some of the volunteers from time to time. The help is either in the form of food, old clothes (for sleeping and tying wounds), newspapers (for sleeping) and medicines. Everyday they use 25-30 kg of newspapers.
Leela advocates that we should love animals and teach our children to do the same. “Childhood is the right time to make children imbibe these values because it is then that they are more open to ideas. A dog can change your life. He will reward you with his boundless gratitude,” told Leela.