Friederike Irina Bruning is a 59-year-old German woman who came to India from Berlin in 1978 as a tourist. She arrived in Radha Kund, Mathura, to look for a guru, as she believed one needed a guru to progress in life.
But her life completely changed after her neighbour suggested she buy a cow. She started purchasing books on cows and even taught herself Hindi.
She soon came to care deeply for the bovines. What bothered her the most was that people abandoned cows once they grew old and stopped giving milk. While such cows are a daily sight to millions, Bruning decided to do something about it.
Bruning started a cowshed called Surabhi Gauseva Niketan, for which she fondly came to be known as Sudevi Mataji.
She has saved as many as 1,200 cows, most of whom were abandoned, sick or injured.
Once a cow reaches her cowshed, she takes complete care of the animal by providing food and medicine.
“Today, I have 1,200 cows and calves. I do not have sufficient place to accommodate more as the place is getting smaller. But still, I cannot refuse, when somebody leaves a sick or injured cow outside my ashram, I have to take her in,” she told PTI.
Friederike has built separate enclosures that serve different purposes. One enclosure takes care of cows that need special care; another takes care of blind or badly-injured ones.
There are about 60 workers at the cowshed, and as much as ₹22 lakh is spent every month on their salaries, foodgrain and medicines.
Friederike says it’s not easy to spend that much amount. “I have some property in Berlin. I get rent from that. Initially, my father used to send some money, but now he is a senior citizen. Every year, I visit Berlin to see him. He is not well. I am not getting any help from the local authorities, but somehow managing my work,” she told PTI.
There’s another hurdle. The Indian government hasn’t provided Friederike with a long-term visa yet, and so she has to renew her visa every year. “I cannot take Indian nationality as I would lose rental income from Berlin. My father was working in German Embassy in India. It’s the money of my parents that I have put into this gaushala,” she said.