| Pratap Sharma on his way to feed animals. Telegraph picture |
Jorhat, May 8: Pratap Kumar Sharma, with his white beard and bedraggled clothes, resembles a vagabond who has lost himself in the whirligig of time. But this retired assistant executive engineer of the Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) has found a new meaning in life by feeding stray animals on the streets of this Upper Assam town.
“Abandoned dogs and cows roaming the streets are my family and I find peace by feeding these animals. This has become a habit which I acquired about a decade ago,” Sharma told this correspondent today.
He sets out early on his rickety bicycle from his new-found home at Thakurbari here to feed “the children of God” on the streets of Jorhat town.
Sharma purchases biscuits and bread worth Rs 200 daily and travels on his bicycle in the streets of the town to feed dogs and cows. “I also help poor people who need help,” he said.
It was in 1997, three years after his retirement from ASEB, that Sharma visited Puri in Odisha and dedicated his life to what he believes is God’s purpose.
“I came back from Puri after staying there for about a month a reformed man — a man of God. I wanted to do something and empathised with these homeless animals which looked as forlorn as I felt,” he said.
Sharma has his own family at the Sarbaibandha area here but had decided to stay alone at the Thakurbari. “I don’t have my own family as I separated from my wife many years ago and we have no children. I was staying with my brothers but had decided to stay alone. I visit them when I want to,” he said.
An ASEB employee here said Sharma has been doing this humane service for several years now. “People hardly know him and many ignore him as mentally unstable but this kind of service is really praiseworthy.”
He said Sharma could have easily led a comfortable life with his pension and retirement benefits, but chose this rare gesture instead.
Nearly two decades ago, another elderly person in Jorhat, Bishanlal Agarwal, had taken up a similar mission to plant trees on the streets of the town. Agarwal, like Sharma, would set out on his bicycle and plant trees by the roadside. He died a few years back and his family has introduced a “green award” in his name.