“To customers, I have no name. Just Doodhwala.”
There are plenty of jokes about bored housewives and the milkman. However, the reality is much different. I can’t take credit for this article. It appeared in today’s Hindustan Times and was written by Phorum Pandya. However, I thought it was worthy of republishing for its interesting and insightful look into what it’s like to be a milkman in Mumbai.
“I visit 70 homes in Jogeshwari everyday and all the residents know me, but not one of them knows my name,” says Shiv Shankar Yadav, 32. “For them, I am just Doodhwala.” Yadav has been working at Essaziz Tabela in Jogeshwari for six years. “I will do this all my life,” he says. “I know no other job.”
Twelve years ago, Yadav came to Mumbai from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, hoping for a better life than he had farming his family’s small plot. “I miss my wife and three kids,” he says. “But I can’t afford to bring them to the city. Life is too expensive here. My job allows me to send money to them and that helps.”
Yadav’s day starts at 5am, when he collects the freshly packed milk bags from the tabela or cattle shed and packs them into the blue plastic crate tied to the back of his bicycle. He then hops on and begins his morning route, wheeling past joggers and sleepy office-goers as he weaves through narrow lanes from Jogeshwari East to Jogeshwari West, delivering fresh milk as he goes.
“I don’t know the name of the lanes, or even the buildings, but I recognise every door,” he says. “Some times a sleepy resident will answer; most of the time I just drop the packets into bags hung outside.” There must be customers who wake up even earlier than him, he muses. “Because if I’m even a few minutes late, they’re at the door, waiting to yell ‘Aaj late kyon aaya? (Why are you late today?)’. Yadav’s morning route is usually done by 11am, after which he returns to the staff ‘quarters’ at the tabela —a single, dingy room shared by five milkmen. Here, he has a bath, a nap and then lunch.
“I cook all my own meals,” Yadav says. “Living on my own, I have had to learn.” Lunch is usually dal, rice and roti, with chicken as a rare treat if he has some extra money — “which is not often”, he says. Between supporting himself and sending about Rs 1,700 to his wife in UP, there isn’t much left of Yadav’s Rs 4,000 monthly salary for treats.
At 5pm, it’s time for Yadav to get back on his bicycle for the evening round, where he delivers to the rest of the 70 houses on his route. Though it sounds exhausting, Yadav says the shifts suit him just fine. “I get a four-hour workout everyday. It keeps me fit,” he says, smiling. Ask Yadav if he likes to watch films in his free time,though, and he bristles.
“I don’t like heroes or their movies. My free time is devoted to bhajans,” he says. A milkman lounging nearby pitches in: “We’ve got a great singer here… he’s in great demand during festivals and poojas.” “I don’t get enough time to practice,” grumbles Yadav, flushing with pride. That’s not surprising. Yadav, like most milkmen, works seven days a week through the year, with no breaks for festivals, public holidays or even illness.
“Once every 14 months, I take leave to go home and visit my family,’ Yadav says. “That’s my only break.”
Photo: www.flickr.com user foxypar4.
© 2010, Diary of a White Indian Housewife. All rights reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.
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