Late one night this June, a worn down Hyundai Santro made its way through the deserted streets near South Extension in Delhi. A large polythene bag was perched rather precariously on its roof. As I followed the car in a taxi, a number of shadows emerged from the dark. The streets began to come alive.
Once we came to a halt, dozens of stray dogs converged on the car. Some weaved their way through parked cars, others jumped over drains, but the ones who knew best were already waiting in anticipation of their nightly treat. A well-built man, over six feet tall, emerged from the car and was immediately surrounded by 20 dogs. It was enough to frighten me into keeping my distance, but Rohit Prem greeted them with a wide smile. They were old friends. He reached for the polythene bag, which was full of boiled chicken, and began feeding the dogs and playing with them.
Rohit is a 39-year-old milkman who, along with his brother Rahul, feeds over fifty cats and around four hundred dogs on the streets of south Delhi every day. Throughout the two hours I spent following him, I never saw him without a smile. The brothers inherited their love for animals from their father. He was also a milkman, who started out feeding a stray dog he had encountered on his morning route. The brothers have two cars—the rickety Santro and a shinier i10—but their father did his rounds on a humble scooter.
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