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Darjeeling COVID Heroes: Paruka Chettri | Wooffers

Photos by Nawami Gurung

Paruka Chettri is an animal lover and member of Wooffers, an NGO that works closely with Darjeeling Goodwill Animal Shelter to rescue abandoned and stray animals in Darjeeling and find them a home. She has been diligently feeding and taking care of the animals in the streets of Darjeeling during the lockdown. She shares her experience with Simran Sharma:

When I come across animals, I feel love. I start thinking of what to give them or feed them. I always made sure to feed them during my walks around town. It was more like a hobby then. When the 2017 strike happened, I witnessed many dogs starving, some even dead. It was then that a few friends came together as a registered NGO and started officially providing food to the animals.

There weren’t many incidents of animal starvation that we came across during the COVID-19 lockdown. I have many friends and fellow animal rights activists in other places that face problems and harassment for feeding dogs. In the Hills, we don’t notice much cruelty because people here are generous and compassionate. Therefore, I try feeding animals at Chowrasta, Mall road, places with no residents where the strays are dependent on garbage bin leftovers.

Besides dogs, we also try taking care of cats, monkeys, horses. Monkeys are also looked after by the members of the Mahakal Mandir committee. Maybe that is why we notice that there aren’t many monkeys down at Mall Road. Just like us, the main reason why animals loiter out of their habitat is for food. Even the horses are taken care of by their owners. Although their livelihood has halted due to the pandemic, they take care of them. I do feed them whenever I meet the horses; sometimes they follow me along with the dogs. Yesterday I couldn’t make it because of the rain. The dogs near Bhanu Bhawan had become so starved. They ate like it was a banquet!

People here like adopting pets. In Darjeeling, we don’t have a problem with strays as the Darjeeling Goodwill Animal Shelter takes care of vaccinating, spaying, neutering, etc. The problem we have noticed is with pets, whose litters have been abandoned on the roads by people.

This pandemic led to the spreading of many rumours, especially about animals. In Darjeeling itself, I remember when a rumour had circulated about cats spreading the coronavirus, we came across an incident of a cat with its mouth tied up trapped in a burlap sack inside a dustbin at Chowrasta. Only with a little movement could we figure out that there was something inside. I think these times are testing our compassion. Of course, we should be stringent about protocol but also wise to stand up for what is wrong.

Photo by Nawami Gurung

I grew up loving animals. This whole journey started with love, so much so that I decided to dedicate my life to animal welfare. I don’t want to go out and work even though I could. My heart is here.

DARJINC and MAYUKH TEA present Darjeeling COVID Heroes, a series to celebrate the unsung, often unnoticed heroes, who have truly served our community during this pandemic. Keep visiting this space for other such motivational and humane stories from the lockdown.
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