Mission Delhi – Kavita Joshi Rai, Lodhi Garden
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This mobile phone snapper has perhaps the most beautifully named instagram handle in Delhi. Please shake paws with Kavita Joshi Rai, the founder of @dogs_of_lodhi, aka Dogs of Lodhi Garden. On a recent rainy evening, she was sighted near the park’s gate no. 7 with friends Jingle, Happy, Tiny, Mr John Snow, Misthi, and Frecky.
You started your Insta account in March last year.
I’m constantly photographing the many inhabitants of Lodhi Garden and thought this would be more efficient way of sharing my images. I’m part of a group of animal-friendly souls that feed, nurture, medicate the park’s creatures, and have been walking in the garden ever since moving to Delhi 17 years ago. My dog Sultan was friends with every dog here. I lost him last week and it is painful to do these walks without him.
How many dogs have adopted Lodhi Garden?
The park has about 50 dogs. Some have been here from when they were puppies. Some were abandoned as adults when their families got tired of them. Some wander in from the streets, stay a while and move on. Take Sasha. He was left in Lodhi many years ago with a metal chain tied tightly around his neck. The other end of the chain was tied to a tree. Fear and anger had made him unfriendly. He had lost trust in us humans. Some do-gooders in the garden managed to free him. I got to meet and interact with Sasha only since the 2020 (pandemic-triggered) lockdown, as we were feeding all the Lodhi dogs during that period. He still severely distrusted humans—we had to put his meals down on the grass and walk away before he would approach it. Most days the crows would eat the food before he could reach. And now, he takes his food from our hands!
Many of us aren’t natural dog lovers, and feel edgy around these dogs.
I find the best approach is to speak kindly to them, and to bribe them with a few treats such as biscuits, milk, paneer, etc.
Did your late Sultan love Lodhi?
Sultan started to do his walks with me in the garden from the age of three months, and he continued at it till the last day of his time with me. He was 11 and a half years old. Lodhi was his most favourite place—that and the back seat of my car. He loved traveling. Even through the months of lockdown when the park was closed I would walk him on Amrita Shergill Marg, along the garden’s boundary wall. He would peer through the closed gates and wonder why he couldn’t go in. Sultan was friends with each and every dog and cat inside the garden. A big-hearted dog! He was never jealous of any affection I showered on the dogs of Lodhi or of the food they ate.
[This is the 500th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The dog lady of Lodhi Garden