In the olden days, many people had their own cows and buffaloes to take
care of their dairy requirement. Still, a milkman was very much a part of the
village or town scene.
First, we had the milkman leading the cow or the buffalo by a rope and
milk the animal right in front of our house. For this he would bring his own
vessel. But he would show it to us to prove that the vessel was indeed empty
and did not contain any smuggled water. He would start milking only after
we gave the ok. He would then measure out the frothy, pleasantly warm milk
into our vessel. It was a different matter that, though the milk was not
adulterated, the volume of the milk would go down once the froth and the
temperature went down.
Next came the ‘bhaiyya’s who would bring pre-milked milk in their huge
cans tied to their cycle carriers. Though there was no problem of foam, these
men were known to dilute the milk generously from the roadside taps
depending on the demand. A daily squabble between him and the housewife
was a regular feature. One of the ‘bhaiyya’s used to walk in directly into my
kitchen, pour the measured milk into any vessel available and push off. This
would lead to quite a few awkward situations as I had just then been
Then came the private dairies with delivery boys who would supply milk
from containers equipped with taps. Though there would be no adulteration,
there was the problem of foam created by the rich release.
Finally came the Government dairies (followed by private ones) supplying
pure milk in sachets with the date printed on them. Even these had been
rumored to be tampered with syringes but with reliable agents taking over, the rumor died a natural death. Modern children are so used to this source of milk that many of them do not even know that a cow/buffalo is the actual
source of milk and not the sachets. This milk would be delivered at our
doorstep by a person employed by the agent. These milk routes would be
sometimes undertaken by educated persons holding other jobs and they
would be doing this only as a side job and consequently would be very
Our milkman was a cheerful bachelor who was also an Insurance agent.
When he came to deliver milk, he had a spring in his step, his cycle horn
would honk merrily and he would exchange greetings on festival and other
special days. If we did not by any chance respond to the repeated honks of his cycle horn, he would come inside, ring the doorbell and hand over the
milk. Even his leave of absence would be intimated to us with a panache; he
would write down the ‘off’ days on a chit of paper carrying his Insurance
agent rubber stamp When he went on leave, he would go happily and return
even more happily. Later, as his days of absence grew more, he outsourced
the job to ‘boys’. I got to know that his increased visits to the village were
due to the fact of his getting engaged to be married.
One day, he brought us his wedding invitation. His bride was a college going girl who would not join him in Bangalore till she finished her
I noticed that he continued to be happy going home but would
understandably be a bit depressed when he came back.
One day I asked him if his wife’s examinations were over and that if she would be joining him in Bangalore. He responded in a funny, half despairing
tone, “No, she has a baby now.”
So, his absences and outsourcings continued, more than ever. One day he
took all the ‘boys’ also home– leaving us in a lurch; the occasion for it being
the naming ceremony of the second baby!
Now our delivery man has become surly and snappy, going round with
a permanent sulk. His step no longer has a spring. Instead, his whole
demeanor and behaviour reveal a sort of impatience. If you are not there
with the first apologetic honk of a horn, you will go milkless that day. He
couldn’t care less. No greetings are exchanged on Divali and New Year’s
I am hoping that soon his wife and children join him and they lead a happy
life in Bangalore. Is it too much to expect a cheerful face first thing in the
morning, if not a big smiley?
Moreover, what would be his role if we revert back to the glass bottles,
to avoid plastic?