Shiree the milkman

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

The Mollembhatt ward of the village of Saligao is divided into two sub-wards. One is Akhem and the other is Marodd. When the Goud Saraswats chose to settle in the village several hundred years ago, the original inhabitants of the area were subjugated and pushed to the periphery of the village. Some of these natives came to occupy Mharvaddo (now known as Bairro Alto) in the west of the village, others went to Donvaddo in the south and the rest to Marodd-Mollembhatt in the east. Why were they driven to the borders of the village by the neo-conquerors? In order that they would safeguard the new homes of the Goud Saraswats from intruders. Today, Marodd-Mollembhatt is inhabited mainly by new settlers who have come from outside Saligao, but some of the original inhabitants still live there.

I happened to bump into one of my old friends from this ward, after several decades. He’s popularly known as Shiree. After the initial pleasantries he started reminiscing about the past. How friendly people used to be with each other in the village in days gone by, but how suspicious everyone seems to be of everyone else these days, he mused. “Amkam meullelet te dis atancheank mellunk konttin.” Those were the days, my friend… Shiree said, and was about to walk away when I stopped him and asked, “Tum atam kitem kortai re?” (What do you do now?). The old man replied with a beaming smile, “Now I am in the milk business.” And then he began to elaborate on his old profession of farming and new profession as a milkman. He spoke in Konkani of course, but I’ve translated into English the essence of what he said, below:

“When I was young, I was basically a farmer. I tilled the land during the rains as well as in the summer and cultivated the fields with rice, followed later with beans, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, onions, chillies and other vegetables.” I reminded him that he used to send us all kinds of bhaji and other farm produce. He grinned broadly and his sparkling white teeth lit up his dark brown face. “Baba, I still use cashew or mango leaves to clean my teeth. And they are all still there.” I could see a shade of the young Shiree as he took me down memory lane.

We walked to the Mollembhatt ground where we used to play all sorts of games when we were young. Shiree was a good football player. He was one of the full-backs of the ward team. He began recounting the names of all the players, in perfect order. He reminded me of an incident on the football field when a ferocious bull came chasing after all of us. The rest of us had run helter-skelter, but good old Shiree had stood his ground firmly. He faced the animal, literally took the bull by its horns, twisted its tail, and chased the astonished creature away!

“Now I sell milk,” he repeated, and we talked a bit about milk supply in Saligao and the health benefits and risks of drinking milk. Shiree the milkman’s parting comment to me was, “But the best drink for adults like us, I caution you my friend, is water.”

That night, coincidentally, I came across an article that spoke about milk. It quoted a book by a Dr David Reuben, saying, “It has been amply demonstrated that people who have heart attacks or severe arteriosclerosis have a marked decrease of a substance called plasmalogen in the cells of their bodies. Cow’s milk contains a substance called xanthine oxidase, an enplasmalogen that significantly increases the risk of a severe heart attack. But adults do not need milk. Renin, the enzyme to digest milk is only produced in children. Indian, black and oriental adults do not produce renin. So the lactose in the milk cannot be digested in the stomach and it is broken down by the bacteria in the large intestine, causing flatulence and often indigestion, diarrhoea and other stomach disorders. Buttermilk and curds are much better in that respect. Milk and dairy products also produce lactic acid in the joints, which makes the body stiff. Monks and yogis in India who meditate for hours do not consume any dairy products, in order to avoid stiffness and physical discomfort. They are comfortable with water.”

Of course there must be other, contrary theories as well that favour milk and the health benefits of drinking milk. But naturopaths today spare no opportunity to extol the virtues of consumption of water as the best therapy for many ailments. Our Shiree knew that a long time ago…

1 comment on Shiree the milkman

  • Calisto de Souza

    I have read that milk is not digested by adults and that cow milk or dairy milk is not a substitute to mother’s milk even in the case of babies. No animal it seems consumes milk of other animals. Does it sound right ?

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