On most days, Moti can be seen navigating the world by sound, around Mumbai’s extended suburb Nerul, near the area known as Sector 19. He wears a black studded collar and likes people, despite the fact that he was blinded by two drunk men who threw acid in his eyes a few years ago, during a Ganesh Visarjan celebration.
Now a middle-aged dog of seven, Moti recuperated from the physical and psychological trauma of his ordeal with a little help from his friend Manoj Purbhe. A resident of Karave gao and a cobbler by profession, Purbhe has been running a shoe repair shop in Nerul for more than 15 years.
Moti was not the first – a raven-haired nine-year-old named Julie was a regular at Purbhe’s shop for several years. Now, Moti and Julie’s offspring, their grandchildren and a gang of canine cousins from around the neighbourhood can be seen hanging around Purbhe’s repair shop. The youngest of them, Raani, was left by a municipality truck on the same street that Purbhe works. “They knew I took care of the other dogs,” he said, “maybe that’s why.” Thus far, Purbhe has cared for each dog that has found him, with his own meagre earnings, feeding them bread, biscuits and occasionally when sales are good, some meat,
A resident of the neighbourhood, Andrew Sabu, 20, was deeply impressed by Purbhe’s dedication and generosity and decided to help him. Sabu has begun raising money on an online platform for Purbhe and his friends to buy food, water, medical supplies and whatever else they may require.
“The money will be personally handed over by me on a weekly basis and will also be monitored accordingly so that the money is put to optimum use,” Sabu said. His plea on Ketto, an online fundraising service, says: “These funds will also help Manoj Purbhe clear all his debts with the meat shops and support his family for a calculated period of 6 months. Although, this is a fairly small amount of money, I’m hoping that this fundraiser would encourage people to personally connect with him and help him out in whichever way possible.”
Purbhe, now in his mid-forties, said ever since they found him, the dogs were like his family.
“He provides exceptional care for them, buys them food, water and medical supplies, anything they need,” Sabu said. “All of them are properly vaccinated and extremely healthy thanks to his efforts.”
When he is not around, Purbhe ensures his dogs are well taken care of by a dog-sitter: the grocer across the road, who watches the dogs for a fee.
Purbhe’s favourite, Sonu, died a few months ago, around the same time that Purbhe lost his own father. “I never cried so much in my entire life, like I did when Sonu died,” Purbhe said. “I could not even cry that much at my own father’s funeral.”
During his last few days, Sonu was comatose. Purbhe spend that entire time sleeping in an animal hospital next to him. He even gave Sonu a proper burial right behind his shop in the garden, completing the ritual with a prayer and garlanding the gravestone. According to Purbhe, Sonu had been lucky for him and his business. “He was a great dog, he had the eyes of Aishwarya Rai.”
Sabu encourages contributors to meet Purbhe and speak with him about why he cares for the dogs. “I want people to go meet him to find out for themselves how genuinely interested he is in this cause,” he said.
Ever since verified celebrity Twitter accounts like that of the actor Richa Chaddha and Pooja Bhatt retweeted Sabu’s Ketto fundraiser, the project has been getting more attention.
The target was to generate Rs 35,000 for Purbhe – at the time of writing, Sabu had managed to raise Rs 24,000 online and Rs 8,000 offline. “I plan to hand over Rs 1,000 every week to Manoj,” Sabu said. Purbhe will use Rs 800 to buy supplies and Rs 200 to pay off a debt of Rs 7,000 with the local butcher.
When Sabu first approached Purbhe, the cobbler was wary of the young man. In 2015, Purbhe had been conned by a group claiming to be a non-government organisation from Wadala in Mumbai.
“He refuses to disclose their name but apparently all he was given was a packet of Marigold biscuits and a bag of Pedigree, while the NGO raked in all the cash that came from the donations,” Sabu said.
“I feel like we as humans have a lot to offer to this world and all we need is a person like Manoj to ignite that feeling in us,” Sabu added. “Having those conversations with Manoj and just working on this campaign has made me want to push myself more and more every day.”