Sheela Chaoji, married to Wing Commander Chandrashekhar Chaoji, for 32 years. Her son Anirudh is Project Director, Bhumata and her daughter Anjana, who has shifted to Thane after marriage, is a horticulturist, (the first girl to study Horticulture in Pune) who runs a very fruitful farm.
Sheela has a large bonsai collection, which she started 25 years ago and has won the Wills Trophy at the Poona Women’s Council a number of times. What occupies most of her time, however, are her dogs – more than a dozen Dobermans. You see, she, along with her family, is into breeding them.
Do you give more time to your dogs or your family?
I give enough time to both, but my day starts with my dogs. The first thing I do when I get up at 6 o’clock, is to prepare almost a kilo and a half of rice, mix it with milk and eggs and give it to the dogs. It is only after that, that I make tea, breakfast and tiffin for the family.
Is it very time-consuming caring for puppies?
Yes, they must be cared for just like babies, especially till their eyes open. After my husband and son leave at around 8.30, I turn my attention to them. We have nine pups at the moment. I mix Cerelac and ABDEC drops and feed each one individually with a spoon. Then I have to wash their bedding everyday and see to it that their room is washed out with phenyle. After that, I take them out in the sun but not for more than an hour. Their lunch too, is special. I roast rice and moong dal, grind them together and boil the powder into a porridge along with milk.
What do you have to do for the grown-up dogs?
They have roti and mutton soup for lunch and dinner. Of course, this involves making fifty rotis at a time. Then I also make drink laddoos and methi laddoos for the new mothers to give them additional strength.
With 15 dogs to care for and your bonsai collection, do you get any time for yourself?
I make time for myself.In any case, gardening is a hobby and a form of relaxation for me. But I do manage some spare time in the afternoon to read. I am also a very religious person and I spend more than an hour in the puja room. It gives me great strength and peace of mind.
Are you very particular about cleanliness in your house?
Yes, it is an important aspect with me. Even with so many dogs, you will never find any smell in the house.
Do you go in for a lot of decorative items in the house?
No, for me, natural things (like this piece of fossil) is of more importance.
Both your children have gone into fields related to environment and nature. How is that?
That is how my husband and I have brought them up – to love and appreciate nature. I have never taught my children by the “Do this, do that ” method. Since my husband was in the Air Force, we were posted to some beautiful places. On weekends and holidays, even if it was raining, we would all climb onto the Vespa we had, and go off for a picnic. At Nagpur, we picked up an injured peacock and jackal and nursed them back to health. Our children would always help in the garden. That is how they have picked up a love for nature and animals. They have always learnt by following our example, to be actively involved in doing things and not wasting time by gossiping.
What is your secret of a happy family?
Through the stomach. I make it a point to cook elaborate meals with lots of fruit and nutrition. And during every festival I make all the traditional sweets at home because children should learn all this.
What are the memories you treasure most in your married life?
My husband and I have travelled a lot to many beautiful places which abound in natural beauty. These trips provide a wonderful break for me.
What would you advise other parents?
Get your children interested in active hobbies so that they are fruitfully engaged. And follow an `early to bed, early to rise’ policy. It will keep your mind and body, healthy and fresh.
Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.