We interviewed Mukul Nagpaul, a fitness coach, animal rights activist, and extreme sportsman from India.
Many of our readers will have no idea what it’s like growing up in India. Could you tell us a little about your early life?
I was born in Ludhiana, which is a city in the state of Punjab in India. My family has a business producing bicycle parts.
Since childhood, I was a very athletic kid and was winning a lot of sports competitions. But by the end of my school, I realised that more than just doing sports, I liked being physically active and helping others with their health and fitness goals.
So, I left the family business and started working as a fitness instructor, which was considered an unimportant profession at that time. I had a hard time convincing my family and friends that I was doing the right thing–and indeed I struggled for about 4 or 5 years–but eventually they saw me excel and become more successful and started to support me.
What drew you to animal rights when Indian society is generally not interested in those things.
From childhood, I have seen my parents giving food to cows and dogs, but my attachment to animals started 5 years ago when I started helping my wife feeding stray dogs every night around our neighbourhood.
In India, people generally tell you to stay away from stray dogs by telling you that they can bite and have infections. But when I started feeding the stray dogs with my wife, I realized that even they are so cute, loyal and lovable, and they deserve love just like pets or any other human. So we decided to work on providing our furry friends with the better life that they deserve.
You currently look after about 30 dogs in your own shelter and take care of another 300 dogs elsewhere. How did you get started? How do you sustain these activities?
We volunteer at a shelter that has around 300 dogs and take care of around 25-30 dogs ourselves. As mentioned above, it all started when I joined my wife in helping her feed stray dogs, and then together we decided to work on this with the aim of providing a better life for stray dogs.
The food and medicines for the dogs sometimes get pricey, and they need a lot of our time, but we manage by using our own money, plus we get donations from some kind-hearted people who also wish to help us in this mission.
Aside from the publicity surrounding your Ironman races, are you involved in other social or political activism to change attitudes towards animals in India? If so, what do you do and how can the international community help?
My wife and I have conducted Fitness bootcamps and Fitness workshops. I ran a barefoot marathon to raise awareness and money to help dogs in India and change people’s perception towards dogs.
International Community plays an important role in helping us spread the message that dogs also deserve better lives. You can start by simply feeding a stray dog in your neighbourhood. You can talk to and educating others if you see someone troubling a dog. Or you can adopt a stray dog and make it a part of your family.