Mumbai Memoir 86- ‘Chasing Tails’ in Maximum City!
Mumbai is dubbed as a ‘city that never sleeps’. While most of its residents are asleep, even at midnight, the city buzzes with ‘maximum activities’. The night life of Mumbai is famous for parties, food, hangouts & fun which is enjoyed by the nocturnal fun seekers sprawled across various pockets of the city. But there are rare who hang out late night with a different cause like Muneera Shaikh. Off late I was humbled by the activity which this lone woman conducts post- midnight. Muneera, a woman in her 30s, sets out with loads of food to feed the canines on the streets of Mumbai! Collecting left over food from elite & middle-class families, who live near her home near Bandra slums, Muneera sets out solo, with a stick in hand and a huge food container or bag filled with chicken pieces, biscuits or anything eatable by the dogs which she regularly feeds. Stray dogs wait for her arrival every night, just like children wait for their mom to serve food, when hungry. Come rain or sunshine, every night till dawn, Muneera’s animal care is a common sight on Mumbai’s Western Express Highway route. Besides feeding them, she also nurses the dogs if they are ill or infested by maggots or flees. She promptly takes the ill dog to animal hospitals around, so that the animal can get medical help at the earliest.
I got to know about Muneera after I watched a documentary film ‘Chasing Tails’ directed by Tangella Madhavi. The documentary film produced by Govt. of India’s -Films Division, Mumbai, features Muneera’s passion towards animal welfare activism. The film’s crew trailed Muneera’s route, capturing emotions of compassion, love and empathy that were released while filming the human-canine interaction on the streets of Mumbai. Here’s the link for the film’s trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of0cr-gfoDo
In her own words, she remarks, ‘Though a Muslim, I have no reservations about serving the canines’ Rather she reminds the masses of Hindu mythological references of Lord Kandoba & Lord Dattatreya, who promoted dog care. After hearing her words, I could sense that the only religion that she seems to know and follows is ‘Humanity’. She hails from the lower socio-economic strata of Mumbai, but seems to be elite on nurturing quality human values to go about in life. She is extremely focussed & determined on her vision to commit her time & efforts in caring for the stray dogs that move around in Mumbai. It was extremely inspiring to know the way she deals with eve-teasing & seduction attempts from sex cravers roaming on streets at night. Once while feeding the stray dogs at wee hours of dawn, she was attacked by 3 men in a parking lot. She retaliated and whacked one of them with all her might. Looking at her undaunting spirit the 3 men ran away and disappeared in to the dark. She quotes, ‘I don’t want to play the victim and ask myself ‘Why me?’ Rather I want to challenge the trouble makers to ‘Try me’! She believes what she is doing is noble work and nothing and no one can stop her from pursuing it.
It’s clear that Muneera has internalized the stray dogs as being part of her family. As she feeds them, she talks to them, pampers them and feels sorry and disappointed when the Municipal Animal Hospital doesn’t admit the ill stray dogs, which she rescues. Whatever little she can afford, she sponsors, but on many occasions major lack of funds to treat these stray canines leaves her helpless. But still, irrespective of help arriving or not, Muneera’s crusade continues to ‘chase stray canine tails’ around her, which I believe is not only defining her purpose in life but also re-defining ‘Humanity’!
*NOTE: Anyone wanting to appreciate film maker T. Madhavi’s effort & to support Muneera’s noble cause please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy: Asian Age, The Hindu & Shraddha C Sankulkar
Photos & Captions:
Muneera Shaikh, a determined crusader of animal welfare.
Muneera feeding the stray dogs of Mumbai
Muneera Shaik was felicitated at Mumbai International Film Festival’18 after screening ‘Chasing Tails’.