As part of TBI Invisible Heroes of Everyday series, we have introduced you to the paperboy, the street cleaner and the metro workers already. Today, Tejaswi Bhagavatula invites the slayer of his sweet morning dreams – the milkman – in for a chat and discovers a new-found respect for his work and it’s immense complexity!
Since childhood, I have hated the milkman for ruining my sleep every single day. Since the time I could hear, the Telugu milkman’s long, almost-patented “paaalu” shout as he delivered milk at our doorstep has been my mother’s wake-up call and my dreams’ death knell. Paalu means milk in Telugu, by the way. This story is about that dreaded childhood “doodhwala” and his great service to the nation, as I have now discovered.
Just to give you a perspective, India is the largest producer of milk in the world. And we have about a million ways in which we consume the milk – the hot chais, filter kaapis, sweets, kheers and the compulsory curd rice. All this demand makes the poor Indian cows supply an estimated 140 million tons of milk every year!
Now to the real story – the tons of milk that is produced is generally packed into half litre milk packets (how many packets does that make? Do the math as I cannot!) The distribution of this milk has been mainly relegated to the unorganized, unrecognized sector of the milkman. When was the last time you bought milk at the super market or a store? It’s still a rarity. We have always depended on the so-called ‘unorganized‘ milkman sector, and it’s about time we recognize and realize that he sure is an organized guy! With all the complex deliveries he has to make, and just the sheer scale of delivering a major share of the 140 million tons of milk in half litre packets!!
But as I called my milkman in for a chat, I realized that though they have such a vast distribution network, they have never been treated like one. They are quite similar to the network of the paperboys – a huge, disciplined yet unrecognized and unacknowledged workforce. It is demeaning that they are not paid anything by the milk producing companies, and its hard to understand how they work by charging just Re1/day/milk packet from the households for doing this service. But, as the milkman jovially explains, this is not the only job they do. He explains that most of them have a proper day job too, something menial but still a job.
So the next time you call yourself a multi-tasker, think of the irritating “paaalu” guy.