Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Milky ways

I hate milk. I am no great fan of it. My only use of it is to pop cornflakes for my evening dinner when I am short of either effort to cook or money to eat out. Which is not too uncommon. If I buy more milk I save more. But there is a expiry date attached to it. So I cannot buy as much milk as I would like to. And it is no easy travel to the supermarket to buy milk. How I hate the chore of walking to the store and buying milk. Combine that with the number of choices, it is just too much optimization for me! I am not surprised to hear of immigrant Soviets in US who returned because they could not handle the bewildering number of choices available, often uninformed ones.

Anyways, to cut to the story, my dad was damn good at this optimization game.

This was in the early nineties in South Calcutta. There were only two people in the house whose task was to procure household goods from the market. Dad and I. The limitations were the usual suspects: limited supply in the market; limited hours that the counter (milk booth) is open; huge number of customers and queues; limited informal quota of milk allowed per customer; and peak demand on weekends. And this is how we tried to beat the game! We bought large containers meant specifically for milk. Mondays and Thursdays were our target days to avoid the weekend rush. Since supply was limited, that meant the counters would close before we reached. Or if we were only slightly unlucky, we would get the 2ltr quota of milk allotted per customer in queue. For a family of 6 and a curd-ivorous Gulti family, it is not sufficient. Both Dad and I could not risk going to the same milk booth. We needed to "diversify our risk." So both of us went to different milk-booths (one to Golpark booth and the other to Aurobindo Centre booth on Prince Anwar Shah Road). But if each of us bought more than the 2 ltr of milk, there would be milkopia at home. Even that had to be avoided for fear of wasting milk and money. There were no cellphones around. Coordination was difficult. Combine that with chilly wintry mornings and waking up at 5 am in the morning to prepare for the long walk to the milk-booth, and you pretty much have the picture.

There were memorable moments as well. Like I would sleep off in the queue and my dad would stand to bear my dozing head and shield me from the cold in his "AC" shawl. Often the prize for a successful "operation" was a Rs 2 pack of steaming hot
jalebi.The clincher is this. At that time none of it seemed outrageously abnormal to me.I thought this is the "milky" way of life.

Only now when I see umpteen choices of milk at the supermarket does the boiling indignation step in! Maybe I don't find the milky way here irritating anymore.

Back to the Top

Back to the Top