On a cold winter morning, Gajraj Singh Kachhawa, a resident of Jaipur sat at a tea stall sipping on some hot sugary tea. Just as he was about to leave, a man walked up to the stall, purchased a packet of biscuits and fed a street dog.
Gajraj stood by watching this. He walked up to the man and asked him why he was giving the dog biscuits laden with sugar and wheat, which are both considered bad for dogs. Gajraj even urged the man to consider giving the dog milk or even better, some curd. “The only thing I will get for Rs 5 is this packet of biscuits,” the man replied before walking away.
This thought stuck with Gajraj, who went on to establish Bejubano Ki Rasoi (Kitchen For The Voiceless), where a pre-packed nutritious meal for a dog costs all of Rs 5.
Speaking to The Better India, Gajraj says, “I have been feeding dogs in my own capacity for over five years now. When the lockdown was imposed there were so many people who were supplying food for others. However, the street dogs suffered the most. No one was willing to feed them or even care for them. That was when I started a concerted effort towards feeding the dogs.”
Most of the street dogs are fed by small restaurants and cafes that usually give left-over food to the dogs.
Gajraj says, “With the lockdown, none of these smaller establishments were working which meant no food for the dogs. During this period I was feeding over 600 dogs regularly.”
The 27-year-old, who is an entrepreneur and digital marketer, owns a club in Jaipur from where Bejubano Ki Rasoi functions. “Since the club is operational only in the evenings I could use the kitchen to make these healthy meals during the day. It was a win-win for me as I did not have to make any additional investment,” he says.
Once the meals are prepared and packed they are sold through a stall that is set up near Vivek Vihar metro station in Jaipur. “We are now selling over 500 packets of food each day,” he adds.
Nutritious Meals for Just Rs 5
Each precooked meal, which consists of 400 gm of food, has paneer, soybean, rice and eggs along with multivitamin medicines for dogs. Gajraj says, “We add the paneer and eggs for protein and the rice is cooked in the water from the paneer to ensure that the dogs do not get dehydrated during summers. To this, we also add seasonal vegetables. We do not add any sugar or wheat to what we serve. Salt is added in very limited quantities.”
While there are packaged foods available for dogs, Gajraj says that most of them tend to leave the dogs dehydrated. “We now have many regular clients who serve their dogs the food we make. Most of them come back and tell us how much their dogs seemed to enjoy this freshly cooked meal as compared to pre-packed pellets they were fed earlier,” he adds.
When Gajraj started this initiative, he did not want to charge for the food. However, he says that his friends urged him to charge a nominal amount. “I was told that no one would value what I was doing if I were to not charge for it. So, after the biscuit incident, I started charging Rs 5.”
On average, Gajraj says that each food packet costs about Rs 15 to make.
The price fluctuates depending on the cost of vegetables. “No matter what it costs us I do not intend to price it more than Rs 5. All through the lockdown, the food packets were being distributed for free. The idea was to get as many dogs fed as possible.”
The plan for Bejubano Ki Rasoi is to open up five more counters across Jaipur to be able to feed a minimum of 3,000 dogs each day, says Gajraj. “We do not accept any donations from people and work solely on self-funding and the money that we make by selling the meal packets.”
Priyanka Sharma, a resident of Jaipur who has also been feeding stray dogs for a while, says, “While the dogs usually eat whatever they are given, I saw the difference when I fed them one of the packets I bought from Bejubano Ki Rasoi. Within a few seconds of placing it before them, it was wiped clean.”
“The best part is the nutritional value of each food packet.”
She continues, “For the amount of money they charge per packet, I am sure that nothing else will come close to being pocket friendly and nutritious at the same time.” Priyanka has purchased over 60 packets from Gajraj and says that she cannot recommend it enough to all those who stop to feed dogs on the streets.
So, next time you reach for a sugary biscuit or treat for a dog, stop and think. A nutritious meal with proteins and carbs might go a long way in keeping the dog healthy.
To follow the work that Gajraj is doing, click here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)