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Meet Sonali Purewal, who runs an animal rescue shelter, and is the driving force behind the ban on animal sacrifices in Himachal Pradesh. Her life is an example of doing what you love, and doing it well!
Tucked away in the foothills of the Himalayas, Kasauli is not only home to picturesque scenery, but also to the Good Karma shelter, run by Sonali Purewal, a designer by profession, an animal-saviour by passion, and a student of English literature. A mom and a wife, she juggles many roles. She recently filed and won a PIL against animal sacrifice in Himachal Pradesh. Many have also come out to challenge the ban.
Why did you feel the need to start a shelter?
I have always been an animal person, always helping or feeding the random stray dog – but this was never enough. I wished to open a rescue home, and so I did. This rescue home started with three dogs, and today it houses not only dogs, but sheep, goat, cattle, and horse etc. Good Karma Shelter, as it is called, is a People for Animals unit (PFA), and was started in 2005.
PFA is India’s largest animal welfare organization, which boasts of having more than 26 hospitals and 2.5 Lakh members. The prime area of focus for the organization is rehabilitating sick and needy animals.
Is there a particular incident in your life which inspired you to start your rescue home?
Oh, this is a tough question.
As a kid, when I used to watch T.V/Cinema, I could never really watch anything bad happening to an animal. So, I think, a need to care for and nourish animals has been there from the beginning.
Your Good Karma shelter is one of the few animal shelters in Himachal, especially the only one in and around Shimla. How challenging was it to run the shelter?
Starting the shelter was not easy, it was certainly a conscious decision I took; ready to juggle home, design career, and my passion. Challenges never end. It is not like you save three animals and you can put your feet up. It is a constant fight, sometimes against the policies in place, and sometimes for funds, but above all, it is a fight against the mentality that animals do not deserve to live.
Running a rescue home for animals is a huge investment in terms of money and time. Where do you get funds from?
We do not get funding from anywhere. It is my design work which funds the operations of my shelter.
( 2012 witnessed a contemporary art exhibition which raised funds for the operation of the shelter and also the building for another one)
How do people around you see your work? Do they willingly participate in your efforts?
I do not work for anyone’s approval. But, I am sure that our work is respected because people call in from all directions and report animal accident cases, and we make sure that all the calls within the radius of 2 hours are promptly replied to.
Please tell our readers about your approach towards work in the rescue home?
Good Karma shelter boasts of a no-kill policy. This shelter is a permanent home for injured animals and we have observed 70% animals turn around from the worse with just love and affection. Of course, sometimes injuries are too serious for 30% animals to be saved. I believe that everyone on this earth is born for a purpose, to walk a karmic path; nurturing animals is mine. We not only rescue animals, but we also organize many ABC camps (Animal Birth Control) at regular intervals with the help of doctors.
How do you balance so much in your life?
It takes a lot of patience and investment to run a rescue home. With home and work, sometimes it is too many balls up in the air. It is like being a juggler. But, it has all been worth it. The joy which I get while working for a cause (with immense support from my family) is irreplaceable.
Recently, you filed and won a PIL against religious animal sacrifice in Himachal Pradesh. After the Himachal Pradesh High Court banned the practice, there was a huge upheaval in the religious circle in Himachal. How did you get courage to fight a tradition?
Sometimes traditions need to change with the times. It is how we look at it. Such barbaric practices need to end. I was lucky enough to get a passionate animal lover as my lawyer for this case, which made my work easy. I have consulted many scholars on this issue, and offering a coconut to the deity is equally good. At the moment, I am pushing for blood donation camps near the temples. In this way, you are saving someone’s life and at the same time making an offering to the deities. We must pave the way for new traditions.
With her Good Karma Rescue home doing great work in Kasauli, her organisation has opened another People for Animals unit in Dharamshala. Sonali Purewal’s dedication and conviction for her work is an impeccable example of how to follow a passion and allow it to give you wings.
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