A master trainer in animal welfare and the first woman to work on Indian race courses, meet Roxanne Davur – the founder of Terra Animal Trust – who has come back to the serene environs of Karjat, a place closely connected to her family, to start an animal shelter for abandoned, destitute and chronically handicapped animals.
Her family was one of the first few to have settled in Karjat way back in 1964 and after having worked in the Nilgiris for the past 12 years, Roxanne decided to move back to Karjat, where her heart truly belongs. She aims to spread awareness and encourage careers and empathy in animal welfare. In an exclusive interview to Holiday Home Times, she speaks about her life in a remote village, the local produce, and the challenges she had to face while setting up the animal shelter from a scratch and much more.
Please tell us something about your personal and professional background.
I lived many years in Germany. I have two sons; one who works in the Madhumalai jungle and the other works abroad. I was in Ooty for 12 years where I went full-time into animal welfare, rescue and its laws. I did my master training in 2001 in Delhi and operated a mobile rescue unit vehicle and was the inspector for the Animal Welfare Board of India as well as race course inspector. In 2007, I was asked by the tehsildar to come back home.
I love all good things in life – music, books and of course good company. As far as my work is concerned, I will continue to battle against people who think animals are just commodities, because even in this age and time, animals are still considered commodities by many people.
Why did you decide to settle in Karjat?
My parents moved in here in 1964 and used it as a primary residential base. This place had to be my preferred choice since it was familiar, convenient and everybody knew me. Besides, it takes maximum two and a half hours to reach South Mumbai, when everyone in the city takes two hours just to leave the place.
What are the challenges you faced while building a shelter/ house?
I have a 900 square feet house on a one-and-half acre plot. Nowadays everything is available in Karjat from paints to tiles, roofs etc., except for skilled professionals like plumbers, electricians, or contractors. But that’s the case in any place I suppose; even in Mumbai. I can’t understand the logic of living in Mumbai and not having enough space or fresh air. The good part is that this place (Karjat) never gets flooded since the earth absorbs the water, one can build an office here, have larger space which is wi-fi enabled.
Today Karjat has everything that a city like Mumbai has; dream resorts are being built here, the quality of construction is at par with those of Mumbai. In fact many developers are implementing the architectural designs of Mumbai in their projects in Karjat.
Coming from Ooty, did you face any problems with the climate or environment here?
No, it was in fact a great delight. In Ooty where I had lived for long, I was forever wearing damp clothes. Here, that’s not the case. Having said that, Karjat has its own share of problems too, like power shortage, etc. But you can always use an inverter or alternative power sources.
Tell us something about the locality you live in. How far is it from the market place? How do you manage to get your supplies?
Back in the 70s when people came for the weekend to their farmhouses, there would be no electricity, and they had to bring their supplies from Mumbai. Now, everything has changed. They might be limited in terms of variety, but lot of stuff is available here from cheese, bread, butter, eggs, etc.
Every Thursday a truck comes with fresh vegetables to Takve, the village I live in, and every Saturday the farmers market takes place in the main city. You will find local produce. Although, no exotic vegetables.
What is the general budget one should keep in mind when looking to buy a property in Karjat and what they can expect to get for that?
Generally, 50 to 80 lakhs for an acre of land. One can also buy a flat for 20 lakhs in a gated community which is under construction. However you don’t know when it will be completed.
I would recommend, people rent a property and see what it’s going to be like staying in Karjat and then invest. Anybody wanting to buy a property in Karjat should take the services of an authorized real estate agent. Don’t take your investment decisions based on the inputs from the locals or anybody you meet on the road.
Are you socially active in Karjat?
I have no problem with the social life here. It is available if I want to. Karjat farm owners club meetings, where a mix of old and young turn up, take place regularly. Or if I have to get to a wedding in Mumbai, I simply get on a train and in two hours I am there. I went bananas in Germany when I moved to a countryside after living in the city. I had nobody to talk to there. In that respect Karjat is not bad at all.
Who are the other people like yourself you hang out with? What do they do there?
I hang out with an elderly gentleman who has been living in ‘glass house’ (so it’s called) almost regularly. Then there is a colleague of mine who lives down the road in Sawla. She was given a 5 acre plot on rent by a local villager after seeing her work in animal welfare. I also enjoy the company of Radha and Brad who live on the outskirts of Karjat. But you know, with 80 odd animals it’s difficult to just leave during the day.
What about medical facilities? Are they easily accessible?
Normal medical facilities are easily accessible, but not specialty clinics. Government-owned dispensaries and hospitals are there in Karjat, whether it’s good or bad it depends, but they are more or less like those we see in Mumbai. Close to my house in Kadav, there are doctors as well. I had visited one Dr Pawali when I fractured my shinbone recently.
Any advice for people keen on living in Karjat?
Have respect for the environment and use alternative energy sources for your various needs. Don’t pay measly salaries of Rs 1500 or Rs 2000 to locals. The cost of supplies is almost the same as Mumbai, so take that into consideration. And don’t be aggressive. Give back to Karjat what you want to take out from Karjat.
Are you happy to be staying in Karjat?
I enjoy every day and I’m glad to be in Karjat. Although I wish there was a good DVD library or a rental service.