All dogs are not the same. Some have good IQ; some are stupid. Dogs are territorial, very much like human beings,” reels off Ranjan Chopra at his MG Road farmhouse office in New Delhi. He should know. Living with 18 of them, he’s become somewhat an expert on the subject of canine psychology. Chopra and his wife picked up some of the dogs from the streets and he was handed down some by expats who moved out of nearby Gurgaon.
The 52-year-old Chopra is also founder-MD of Team Computers, a ₹ 300-crore IT solutions firm with 1,100 employees, and offices in Delhi, Gurgaon, Bengaluru and Mumbai. His living-room-like office at the sprawling farmhouse from where he runs his business is all glass on one side, overlooking a lawn where sprinting dogs are a common sight. One wall has a huge flat panel TV with video conferencing facility while the other one has a white board with scribbles all over from past meetings. The dogs come and go, and some are free to saunter in even during serious work time, says Chopra. “I think my little son distracts me more than the dogs,” he laughs.
Chopra was not a pet aficionado from the beginning. He grew up in Kolkata and was not allowed to keep pets at home then. Getting married in 1994 changed that. An out-and-out pet lover, Chopra’s wife Shharyu also takes care of the 18 dogs at their home. Among them are two Rampur hounds, two Russian poodles, four Indian guard dogs, one Saluki and one Harlequin, some with curious names like Nawab and Begum, Fify and Jijy, Indu Prasad Yadav and Z1 and Z2. There is even one named Kasab, which trespassed from the neighbourhood.
“Dogs are very clear. They come to you only for love. Humans are complicated. They see, ‘what I am getting from this man?’ Only then they engage with you,” says Chopra. He admits, though, that there are challenges of keeping so many of them at home. “They’re just like children. You need to take care of their food, exercise, health etc. During the monsoons, they also get ticks,” he says. The domestic staff on his farmhouse property is assigned their daily upkeep. It costs Chopra ₹ 2,500 a month on average to feed and keep each dog, and some are given away for adoption as well. “So far 24 dogs have been adopted by others,” he says. The Chopras adopt homeless dogs off the streets, through local NGOs like Friendicoes and Jeev Ashram, and through Facebook.
Pets aren’t the only way Chopra unwinds — he also plays the saxophone. In the adjoining property, he runs Zorba Entertainment, a popular venue complete with amphitheatre for hosting musical concerts, parties and corporate events. Yet, he admits that spending time with his four-legged friends, is far more precious to him.
“Keeping dogs has changed me as a person. Ten years ago, I was a bit aggressive with people. Now I have realised that you need to be loving and patient to shape people,” he says. Meanwhile, a dog that has been mauled by a few other canines in the neighbouring farm, hobbles in letting out a feeble howl. Chopra had earlier called this dog “stupid”, for encroaching into the other dogs territory. But immediately, he starts speaking softly to it, calming it down. The dog listens to him like a child and happily goes to sleep on the floor, beside him.