Ujwala Chintala was born and raised in India for the first 23 years of her life.
Like many Indians, Ujwala grew up immune to the suffering of stray dogs. In a country where suffering smacks you in the face daily, sometimes it is easier to look the other way.
After moving to the USA and having a kids, it turned out her daughter was a big dog lover – a funny twist of fate. Her daughter was always begging for a dog but Ujwala kept shrugging it off. But then, during a trip back to India with her family, her daughter befriended a stray dog and everything changed.
Ujwala reached out to Dharamsala Animal Rescue on Facebook and began donating to help our cause. After getting to know her, I decided to share her inspirational story, and let you know how you can buy her sweets and help dogs!
Here are excerpts from our conversation:
Deb: Will you share with me the story of what happened in India that led you to take notice of the stray dogs?
Ujwala: On a trip home to India one summer, my daughter befriended a stray dog. The dog ended up having puppies, so my daughter began to feed the mom so she could keep her pups alive. Unfortunately, many of our neighbors were not happy about this because they did not want any more dogs in their area. They do not like dogs, so they decided to take action by moving the mom and the pups to another area away from their homes.
The neighbors could not catch the mom, but the unweaned pups were tossed elsewhere. The daytime temperature had been reaching 115 F, and I knew the puppies would die if they could not be found. I frantically looked for the puppies for 24 hours. I found most of them and returned them to their mom, but as expected, two of the puppies did not survive.
Deb: Oh no. That is so heartbreaking. You and your daughter must have been so upset.
Ujwala: The incident haunted me for a long time, even after I returned to the USA. I realized I wanted to keep helping dogs which led to becoming a foster. My first foster experience was to help a dog named Lily and her seven puppies find homes.
This fostering experience solidified it for me. I loved helping dogs. It made me so happy. Since Lily, I’ve fostered 43 more dogs: Moms, puppies, adult dogs, orphaned underage puppies, injured dogs, and dogs in need of rescue from a hurricane.
Deb: Amazing! So many lucky pups. What made you then decide to start helping dogs in India?
Ujwala: I visited India again for a wedding after a year fostering. At the wedding, people were eating lots of food. Stray dogs were trying to eat the food that had been tossed, but the wedding guests did not want any dogs there. To make the dogs go away, people were hitting them.
At that time, I realized I was not even hungry, yet I was eating the lavish food along with the others. I did not understand how people could not be okay with the stray dogs eating the wastage. I realized just how cold people can be.
After this experience, I knew I wanted to help the dogs in India, but I did not know how. I started researching and found a few organizations in India. I began fundraising and donating. I shared posts. I even started a catering service for weekly meals and desserts and gave cooking lessons to friends.
I sold painted henna candles; sold ice cream in neighborhoods. In 2018, for Diwali, I sold 850 laddus and raised over $600 for People for Animals Hyderabad. People loved the laddus and it was such a success that I decided to start the Laddu House.
Deb: Have you always loved cooking, making sweets?
Ujwala: I didn’t start cooking until I got married. I discovered I loved it. I used to invite my friends to dinner parties all the time. My friends really loved my food, but I never wanted to make cooking my career. I work in IT, which I enjoy. I do like using my cooking skills to fundraise. Last year, I raised and donated around $3000 from my catering and sweets.
Deb: That is amazing. Fundraising is not easy. I love India food, and really love Indian sweets. I am so thankful that you selected Dharamsala Animal Rescue as one of the three Indian charities you will be donating to. How did you first hear about DAR?
Ujwala: Honestly, I am not sure, but I think I first heard of DAR when someone shared a post on Facebook. I also saw your India TED talk. I was so impressed. Lots of people in India couldn’t do what you did. I wanted to go back to India and help but I couldn’t giving up my job, home, and luxuries. You being an American, travelled all the way to India to help. I felt ashamed. I wanted to help DAR as much as i can. I painted a few henna candles and sold. Donated that money to DAR.
Deb: Thank you for the nice words, but please don’t feel that way. I really think I just had a midlife crisis. I also have no children, so the risk was easier to take. I am not going to lie, I do miss the money and the easier lifestyle. What I realized though, is that we all can do our part. It is never just one person. You supporting DAR helps us keep going! Thank you so much.
To purchase some yummy laddus for Thanksgiving, or anytime, please click here. 50% of the profits goes to DAR.
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About the author
Deb Jarrett, at age 40, decided her life needed some shaking up. In fact, she needed to rattle her brains a bit. She was done climbing the corporate ladder, paying mortgages and internet dating—so she quit her job and moved to India to help animals. Not to be confused with Elizabeth Gilbert, at this point in her life, Deb had done just about all of the self discovery she so desired on therapist couches, yoga retreats, and spiritual workshops. In fact, she Eats very carefully, due to the risk of bacteria and parasites. She no longer Prays after experiencing the harsh reality of the developing world on a day-to-day basis and believes compassionate action is the answer. However, she did find Love with an Indian man. She started Dharamsala Animal Rescue in 2008 after her first trip to India.