Mission Delhi – Laali, Lodhi Road
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Now she’s here, now she’s there — she’s just everywhere. Laali, 4, is all restlessness. She’s unable to stay on one spot for more than a moment. She even jumps into the busy road in front of her, unafraid of speeding cars, unscarred by a particularly horrifying event of her past. Two years ago, Laali — then a young puppy — was hit by a car and lost one of her legs as a consequence.
“We keep telling her to be safe, but she just doesn’t pay heed to our warnings,” says Mintu, her on-and-off guardian. The dog and the human live on the same pavement on central Delhi’s Lodhi Road, along with Mintu’s wife and three children. The family initially had three dogs, in the sense that “whenever we would shift our base from one spot of the pavement to another, they would follow us.” The other two died in separate road mishaps during the months of the coronavirus-triggered lockdown when, ironically, the city traffic was at its least hectic.
Laali felt the absence of her furry companions for a few days, notes Mintu, “but eventually she realised that now that she’s alone she’s getting all the undivided love from my children, my wife and me.”
Mintu’s kids are playing a few steps away on the pavement, the youngest holding a pair of balloons. Mintu’s wife is sitting on a bed-sheet laid out against the boundary wall of the members-only Delhi Golf Club—this little piece of the pavement is, for now, their home. The family, including Laali, depends on the earnings of Mintu, who picks up trash produced by the restaurants of nearby Khan Market. “I often get leftover food, including chicken dishes, from the hotels, and we all have it for dinner, including Laali.”
Laali might be full of energy, but she stays rather quiet during the day. “She runs about all over the road, and sometimes disappears for as long as an hour. But she comes to us as soon as she starts feeling hungry.” Her daily diet includes milk, as well as whatever food Mintu and his family rustle out for themselves.
At night, as soon as it is 10, “Laali sits besides our dwelling and starts to bark if anyone even dares to look at us… she is our best chowkidar (guard).”
When Laali was hit by the car, Mintu took her to the dog hospital where she had to be amputated. Mintu had to spend 6,000 rupees on the treatment, he says, admitting that it was a fortune for him.
Patting on Laali’s head, he mutters, “I have seen her since her childhood.”
Now Laali slips away, running towards Mintu’s kids, with whom she stays for a moment, before rushing towards some other object of fascination, invisible to human senses.
[This is the 389th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Laali, the loved one