The Town

Away from the madding crowd, in a small pocket bordering two States, lies a town. The town is populated by farmers and clergymen.

The land is made of dusty roads, fields of paddy, maize, wheat and a small forest cover. There are two religious buildings on either side of the town. One is a chapel and the other a temple, which has a roof held by four pillars and an idol of a deity at the center.

The town is governed by officials from the only official establishment, the post office. The post office also provides the formal education till grade 10. Those who wish to study further, migrate either North or South, to the more urbanized towns from the two States.

The milkman is the only townsman, returned back, after pursuing further education in the city of the North State.

He says, “I became the milkman, the same way the politicians receive their designation, through nepotism”.

Stories that occur and have occurred in this town, documented by the writings of the milkman are titled, “The Milkman’s World”.

You are welcome to be a reader of it.

The New Resident

The Carpenter
Delivery: ½ litre daily
Mode of payment: mostly cash, seldom through kind.
Two seasons prior to the monsoon, the town welcomed a new resident into its small community, a migrant from the southern state. He was almost an old man, a Christian, related (in some way) to the doctor who had recently passed away. Occupying the house of the late doctor close to the church on the southern tip of the town, the man would continually be cutting, shaving and shaping wood.

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During routine deliveries, the priest (who loves to gossip) told me that the man was a carpenter and the late doctor’s brother.

Every Monday and Friday, the carpenter would ride his rickshaw to the adjacent village and sell the furniture he’d made. He always took his cat along with him.

One day while making the deliveries he asked me to increase the quantity of the milk to a litre, the reason, “it turns out my male cat is not a male”. It was obvious; the need for milk was going to increase, since his family did as well.

It is safer to avoid walking on the roads where he rides his rickshaw now, he’s got two cats and a litter in there with him!

– The Milkman 1997

When Dogs Die.

 

Doctor P T
Delivery: 1 litre daily
Payment: Cash and always on time

Progress has stayed far away from this town. Same old traditions and stereotypes prevail here as they did, and if it weren’t for the city education, I would be unaware of them myself. In fact, some of the residents are people exiled from the city. They choose the bliss of ‘regress’, as some would say, rather than the hell of ‘progress’.

The local doctor is one such person. His name consists of only initials, Doctor. P T. Studied in the city where he had enough of money, a respectable practice and was the heir to a huge ancestral property, but still chose this town.

One summer day, during the daily delivery route, the postman’s house was in mourning. His father expired. It must’ve happened just an hour before my delivery. The doctor was at the door, paying his condolences to the postman. After delivering the milk to the postman’s wife, I walked out with the Doctor.

Without an ounce of remorse or regret, he walked to his car. I asked him if he’d got used to it, the deaths. He said, “I’ve never lost sleep on account of the death of any person. It may seem cold, but given the life people live, it is a surprise they survive as long as they do.”

There was an awkward silence, at least on my part, till he reached his car. He called me from his car and said, “You know when I lose my sleep, when dogs die.”

 

Milkman 1993

The Lives of Others

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The Transporter
Delivery: Nil
Payment: N/A 

During the growing years of the milkman, when he was in grade 8 of the post-office school. An opportunity appeared. A long weekend from school and a two-day employment offer from the transporter, given the harvest season, which would allow him to explore a neighbouring village/town, probably more city-like.

In the middle of the ninth month, harvest was booming and the 5 trucks that transport the produce were working in full capacity. For one of the trips, one man more was needed, and the milkman became that man. That trip was a lesson of great importance that would shape the milkman’s future decisions.

IMG_5218.JPGThe transporters, or rather transporter and his drivers, are popular amongst townspeople. They transport the harvested produce to the neighbouring vegetable markets. And before every journey the transporter is asked to bring some sweet from one village or a shawl or some tool from somewhere and so on.

Out there is a life beyond self-sufficiency and meagre commerce and if not for implementation I want to experience it to quench my thirst of curiosity.

Wrote the milkman, in the first of many stories that would be added in his journal.

 

– Milkman 1984

 

The Atheist

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The Atheist
Delivery: 1/4 litre of milk (x 2)
Payment: Accounts dealt by father 

 

 

Religion in the town is quite lenient. It preaches to be a pathway of spirituality and that’s about it. And among all the residents there is also an atheist, at least according to the catholic and temple priest.

An old man he is, the atheist, living with his wife in the secluded part of the town, which opens up to the sea. His wife does attend mass every Sunday, rarely speaks of her husband though. His is the only house that my father insists on delivering the milk to personally.

However, in one of the rainy months, father caught the flu. Work wasn’t possible and nor was the delivery. So he asked me to make the delivery.

The road to the man’s house is frequented by very less and hence most find it unfamiliar. It was the most scenic part of the town though. While there is beauty in the landscapes, the open sea somehow always seems more attractive.

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On arriving to the house, I waited with his delivery of two packets, each a quarter litre of milk. I went on to the back of the house that opens to the sea since no one tended to the door for over 10 minutes.

I saw the old man, sitting on a chair facing the ocean, with the winds blowing hard towards us. I screamed, “MISTER, I HAVE THE DELIVERY FROM THE MILKMAN!!”

He nodded in reply and gestured to keep it by the front door. I did as he told and waited. He came out from the front door and paid me.

“Why don’t you believe that God exists?” I asked him.

He replied, “I very much do believe that he exists, I met him down at the sea,” he then concluded, “if a man owns a boat, he doesn’t need church.”

 

– Milkman 1992

 

 

The Bell Seller  

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The Bell Seller
Delivery: N/A
Payment: N/A

 

A resident in only the cooler months of the year, the ‘bell seller’ is the nomadic eccentric character of town. The youth see him to be a wise philosopher, and the rest of the residents identify him as a symptom of winter.

The catholic priest calls him “a probable candidate of religion fraud”. While the youth, due to his travels and statements, consider him wise.

“The difference between me and a resident is the same distinction you make between obligation and desire” – the bell seller says.

During the time, when the milkman duties were first bestowed upon me, the bell seller, with his bells, would walk with me on my routes.  It wasn’t an imposing thing, but rather awkward. He stopped after a few weeks; just as I had started to expect his company on the deliveries.

We never did speak on the deliveries, they were silent walks.

 

– Milkman 1991

“I WRITE HISTORY.”

The History Writer / Teacher 
Delivery – 1 litre every other day
Payment – Cash 

“Those who refuse to change with time are left behind time, and that is a not a place where anyone should be,” he said. He was from the city of the north state. And had a lot to say, but not many from the town could understand him. He was invited to teach the children in the Post Office school. The people called him the History Writer; the children called him “teacher”. I had graduated just the year before the History Writer’s arrival.

Everybody was of the opinion that the man had no manners in social matters. It was probably since the teacher was always by himself. Mingling with town’s people and others only when necessary.

IMG_7510.jpgHe was a heavy smoker, but preferred to smoke in private, away from prying eyes.

One evening, less than a month before the harvest season, I met him while heading home. He was lighting his cigarette.

I went up to him and asked him why he came to the town if he wanted it to change,
He replied, “because I am a man of contradictions.”
“How so?” I inquired further,
“I love the backwardness of the town and yet I preach it to apply the progressive change”, he concluded.

I didn’t bother to ask anything more because I couldn’t decipher the answers he gave.

After a while, silence filled up the space after the dialogue, and he shared his thought out loud.

“There are those who can adapt to change and make history by either making good or bad of the progress, I am not one of them, hence I write history.”

– Milkman 1983

Where Things Go To Die

It was during his term in the city of the North State. Things were different, more urban. Where there should be fields of grains and produce, there were concrete pathways to a closely clubbed community that was seemingly overcrowded.

Houses seemed as if duplicated from the other. Homesickness was inevitable. It was as if a fresh water fish was thrown into the polluted sea.

A recurring dream occurred to him within the first two weeks.

The village – a highway road – cars passing by – a picturesque sky above – the beach and the sea – a dog chasing something by the edge of the waves – a lady walking much further from where he stood and then it was all black.

At this disturbing time in his life, he met a beautiful young lady. It was a chance encounter. She was kind and dearly loved the people around her. It didn’t take long for him to be a part of the young lady’s life. In her company, he wouldn’t feel homesick and the dreams stopped.

The young lady saw a lot of death. It was her job; she was a nurse. In a couple of months the milkman lost her. Not in body or life, but in spirit. By loving everyone so dearly, she made them a part of her life, and when they would die, so would a part of her life.

– Milkman 1985

Relevance

On a rather melancholy day, during a feast-less and eventless season for the catholic priest, I approached him to seek advice. Certain matters of the heart with brain conflict needed to be discussed.

IMG_4286.JPGHe was sitting on the grass and looking up at a stone cross that had a beautiful backdrop of clouds and a bright blue sky. The priest heard me and continued to stare at the clouds, as if waiting for some divine intervention. He has an informal style, he is also the biggest gossip in town, and so I had to be as vague as possible.

He began,
“Back home, in the higher college, I studied History and Philosophy. After graduation I got my calling and joined the seminary and studied and practiced my theology. Then when I was ready after many years, I preached it.”

There was a brief silence; he was still facing the cross. I waited patiently and became respectful to his personal monologue.

“History has facts. Philosophy has various thoughts of inquiry and so does theology. With arguments and counter-arguments that can last as long as the energy the person has.”

Another brief moment of silence, everything became slow. The wind blew confusing breeze mixed alternating between cool and warm. I looked to the church.

He resumed,

“Feelings aren’t facts. But facts aren’t relevant anymore. I don’t preach through theology. I preach through feeling and emotion. Because ultimately, even the most intellectual and aware person will do what he or she feels.”

Then I sat next to him in silence, and stared at the cross.

– Milkman 1986

Best read while listening to Oh Daniel by Civil Twilight