Marwa Kazi Mohammed
Human beings often forget to be kind to each other, and even more so in these unprecedented trying times. But one Nepali man took an initiative to shower compassion and kindness to our furry friends on the streets, with nothing but a heart full of love and a will to get it done. Saurav Rimal took to the streets of Nepal and went onto creating waves around the world, with his work being featured on BBC as well. Today we talk to the man himself, his life, and his ideas ahead of the road.
How did you grow affectionate with animals? Anything specific, any memories?
Hi there, Thank you so much for the opportunity, it’s really great pleasure for me to share my experience. Before the lockdown on March 24, I was hoping the municipality would provide sanitizer at the community level, to the police, to the hospitals, in the ward levels. I needed almost 500 liters of sanitizers to be distributed at the community level. After that suddenly there was a lockdown and there is no mobility and I needed all the sanitizers so the police the government and the authority they had given me the vehicle pass to move around. At that time probably I was the only one in my area to go out and see how things are done. But even on day one, I was quite involved in making sanitizers and driving around the city. There were a lot of dogs going around and they were hungry. So I started giving them food from the house. I started exploring different areas like university areas, community areas, where there are massive crowds in general but it’s now suddenly empty. I was traveling around and I saw a lot of street animals hungry, even the monkeys were hungry. All the holy temples in the valley have monkeys. There are two temples that are called monkey temples one is swambhunath temple and another one is Pashupatinath temple. These are core monkey areas and they were starving. There were no people so there was no food. Even the monkeys were wondering what’s going on and why there’s no one around. So that’s how I started feeding them and the feeling of satisfaction, I can’t describe it over the phone, you have to come there and see how it actually happened. So these small things really matter and I think this is the smallest gesture I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve been doing till now and getting all the satisfaction, happiness. They recognize me by my voice. They even can smell my car. I don’t have to call anyone, not the dogs or the monkeys, everyone recognizes me. Even the cow recognizes me on the street. I’ve been giving relief packages to people who are in need of it. I’ve been giving cooked food to a hundred people for two months I think. People do not give that much satisfaction receiving the food cause you know people are not happy. Some are not satisfied with the relief, some complain about the food, some want more. The needy becomes greedy. But when it comes to the street animals and they are eating the waste, no one’s there to give them food. So we go there and help them and they eat without complaining about anything. Their gestures are very welcoming, they say thank you. In the ecosystem we live in, the street animals also live in that cycle. So they are alive because of us. So we have to take care of them. I think that’s my first priority now. It has become a priority. During the covid time, I lost my dog. He was like my best friend. I’ve been continuing this feeding program to street dogs in memory of him. And I really feel different doing this. There’s not a single day that I don’t think about him. I’m just trying to solve a problem. I’m talking to NGOs in the US and other countries if they can partner with me. Collaboratively we can help these street dogs in a better way. I’m doing this independently. I haven’t registered as an NGO, so the money comes from my pocket and from my friends, family members, or close ones who have been helping me. I’m managing the fund also. This is a summary of what I have been doing in covid time. But there’s a lot to tell. I have much to share with you and I look forward to this. Thank you so much.
What made you go out on the streets during a Pandemic, to help our four-legged friends?
So after reading the newspaper, online news, there was news about the street dogs are having a bad time with food and water so that’s how I walked in to help them out. In a day, I used to feed about 350-400 dogs in the valley. And to date, I’ve been doing the same. I tied up with the Delhi restaurant, very famous in Nepal. They helped me with the cooked food for the dogs.
Did you face any obstacles or backlash? How did you overcome them?
So there were a couple of obstacles. During the food distribution to monkeys and dogs. The first problem was the people. It was a total lockdown and we were feeding them in the street side, but the people that lived near they used to come out and say they don’t make our floor dirty. We said ‘we are feeding them on the roadside, we’re clean and they are eating garbage. Better than garbage, there’s food here. We promise you they’ll eat everything. We won’t leave anything.’ So that’s how it happened in the first step. And after a couple of days of our feeding, when I was feeding the street dogs, some NGOs who are active in the field they said, ‘ this is our area, why are you feeding here? Go to some other place.’ I said is there really any area for dogs? Let them eat twice, what’s your concern in this? I’ve been feeding them since day 1 why are you saying these? So these are the things. Even when I was feeding the monkeys they used to say they try to clean what you’re doing, banana peels all over the place and everything. So a few days later we started cleaning also. And till now I clean them. So people come and go but I had a helper brother Piyus who has been helping me through all the activities on a regular basis.
Did people not say things like, why are you feeding animals when people are distressed?
No, I mean not really. Not directly like that. They used to appreciate our feelings towards animals. But even they used to say why don’t you give it to the people also, who are needy. So people used to ask us whether we helped other needy people. I said yes we have been working with daily basis workers, the waste workers, the LGBTQ community, the sex workers, and everyone who has been badly hit by covid you know. So that was what we were busy doing in the covid time. But yeah people used to appreciate a lot saying that ‘oh this is the real happiness. That God will remember you.’ and at the same time they also said, ‘ please provide some food to people also.’
From the street of Nepal to straight to BBC, what a remarkable journey! What is your personal favorite memory from it all?
So the journey has been very remarkable so far, and I never thought that my work would be recognized and remembered by so many people. The appreciation I’ve been getting from people, I could never imagine I would get from the people around. I never expected something like this to happen so it is all a big surprise for me during the tough time. Because I had two choices, either stay home and get frustrated or go outside and help who needs help. So far the entire thing I’ve been doing has been a gift for me. This gives me immense pleasure and I’ll continue doing this and look for ways to make this better.
How did the journey feel for you, spiritually? Would you say that you as a person feel different after this, or has your perspective changed in anyway?
This is something I had never planned to do in my life. It is probably the first time I’m doing it and now I believe I was born to help people. I was born to make a difference in people’s life, animals’ life and do whatever I can because that is where I feel more satisfied than anywhere else. This is the particular positive impact Covid has had in my life so far. Covid has totally changed what kind of person I was and what I am now. So, I want to take this image in my head and build a brand for a better future for the people in need.
I totally feel different and the way I used to think has changed as well. It’s all about the end game and I’ve learned so much in life in this particular period of time which has helped me a lot. It has helped me move forward in life with a better image and become as a better person.
What are your future plans regarding this endeavor? Have you thought of anything?
To be honest, at this point in time, I’ve not thought of anything else. I really wanted to focus on the stray animals because that’s where there is a lot of lack in our country for them. So I’m planning to make it a little bigger, trying to plan a way forward to register my own NGO, connect with other donor agencies abroad to help me out with the funding, and everything else that they can do to move this campaign ahead. But, at this point in time, I just feel like going on the ground(?) to help the needy(?) This is not the right time to do anything which is new. So, there are a lot of future plans I want to take ahead but at this point in time, I want to think smart and limited.
But, There is always a way for the betterment.
Would you like to say anything to the young activists of Bangladesh?
I think there’s a lot to do for the stray dogs, you know. So, what I’d like to say is that, to the activists special, rather than fighting more and more for their rights, you know, it’d be a wise thing to join hands with the local municipality and find a better solution for the stray dogs to be kept in a shelter because leaving them somewhere else is not the solution. Maybe keeping them in a shelter with better food and better care can get more funds and, you know, can help other street dogs to get a better home. I’m not an expert in this because I’ve just experienced during the covid times so, I mean, I don’t have much to say about this but still what I believe in is collective, we can make a better future, and it’s not about country or individuals, you know, it’s about the thought process that we need to develop within us. So, if our thought process is good and positive, you know, anything can be achievable and keep on, you know, struggling for what your want is, you know, and the success will be there. So it’s all about having patience and moving ahead, kind of, with the government entities, the related departments to sort this thing out and maybe, you know, get some donations from other NGOs.
The work is hard. You know, my work life is different. I have a tech-based start-up that I’m running in Nepal. So, this is not the feeding thing is not my core thing. But still, what I believe is, in this tough time we all have to come together and contribute what we can towards our society. So that’s why as a loyal citizen of the country, you know, I’ve been doing this to my community. This is not my full-time work. I have a different work so I don’t that all these things as a business. It’s completely social work and wants to take this forward evermore.