'It does not make a difference to me that I do something which Hindus do'
'We have a strong belief that because we serve the cows, God has given us everything. There is nothing that we lack and it really could be because we serve cows. From 5-10 cows it became 25 and now 65'
Drenched in sweat, clearing the floor covered in cow dung which also smears his pyjama cuffs, Zubaid-ur-Rehman could be mistaken for an ordinary labourer working at a cow shelter in the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh.
But he is not.
The man owns 40 acres of land where he has developed mango orchards and also runs a real estate business apart from a utensil factory in New Delhi.
Notwithstanding his net worth, running into several crores, Zubaid-ur-Rehman spends weekends tending to 65 cows at Madhusudan Gaushaala, developed and maintained by him at Chandyana village in Bulandshahr district, about 125 kms from the national capital.
'Babban miyan' as he is popularly known, takes pride in fulfilling the desire of his mother Hamidunnisa Khanam.
Sheltering and protecting cows and addressing the river Ganga as mother, comes naturally to him.
The practice attracts both brickbats and bouquets for him.
"My Hindu brothers do it but why can't Muslims do it. This is something that gives me immense satisfaction. It comes from inside. My mother started the trend some 50 years back and after her passing away, we have only expanded it," Zubaid-ur-Rehman told PTI in a chat.
"My mother would ensure that sick cows receive treatment and would always ask us, if we would continue to do it. We don't know how she developed an interest in it but now this has become our family's identity."
Chandyana is one of the 12 villages, known as Barah Bassi (12 colonies) and 'Pathano ki basti', falling in Tehsil Syana in district Bulandshahr.
It's a place where some Pathan families, that travelled to India with Isa Khan Niyazi, settled during the times of Sher Shah Suri, who established the Suri empire in northern India in the 16th century.
Since then Chandyana and its neighbouring areas became Muslim dominated.
"We follow the 'Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb'. We have named the shelter after Lord Krishna (Madhusudan is one of the names of Krishna). It does not make a difference to me that I do something which Hindus do. I faced resistance too from a few relatives but largely the effort has only got the praise," he said.
"Also we have a strong belief that because we serve the cows, God has given us everything. There is nothing that we lack and it really could be because we serve cows. From 5-10 cows it became 25 and now 65. Our growth was simultaneous."
His son Umair, an MBA, said they don't think on Hindu-Muslim lines.
"There is a mosque on the shores of Ganga near our house. We perform 'wazu' at Ganga only. I will also continue this family tradition along with the business," he said with pride.
While his sound financial position lets him run the gaushala easily, 'Babban miyan' still shells out Rs 2.5 lakh every month.
He does not take any aid from the government, something people do for maintaining their gaushaalas.
"Yes, I need that much money but Rs 1 lakh is managed by the milk we sell. Rest I pay from my pocket. It was on advise of a friend that we added some dairy cows to our shelter to manage expenses. Earlier it was only stray cows," he said.
'Babban miyan' also distributes free milk to needy people during the times of festivals like Diwali and Eid.
"We also give free milk to needy people during weddings in their families."
In India, about 20 states have laws that ban cow slaughter because of a emotional connect with the animal.
The Supreme Court had upheld the validity of those laws.
His religion does not bar him from eating the cow meat but Babban miyan said they happily chose not to eat it.
"Islam does not stop from eating cow meat. But out of love and affection for cows, we do not eat it. We drink their milk, how can we kill it for food. Also, there is law against it and we must follow the law of the land," he said.
His act of protecting cows has attracted attention of even celebrities.
He counted that personalities who have visited the 'Madhusudan Gaushaala'.
"Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, boxer Sangram Singh, the cast of TV show Bhabi ji ghar pe hain, political personalities like Manoj Tiwari and people like Raza Murad came here to see it," he tells with pride.
It will not be a surprise if the list gets longer.