While people in the city snuggle up to sleep late in the night, in Aarey Milk Colony, those in the tabelas begin their day. The workers at the cattle sheds start their day in the late hours to ensure that milk reaches every home in time for the early morning coffee. Waking up at 2.30 am, the day’s work begins by bathing the animals. They are then fed and milking begins in an hour. I J Singh, a tabela owner in Unit 19 of the Milk Colony, has employed one person to take care of every 10 animals. “It takes around two hours to milk the 32 animals, both cows and buffaloes. By 5.30 am, we are done and the vehicles are ready to deliver milk to different parts of the city,” says Singh.
The dairies here do not follow a sterilisation process and send the milk directly to the customers’ homes. “We do not require to sterilise the milk. Big brands do it as they have to preserve the milk for a few days. Here, it reaches homes within hours of being milked. The customers boil it and generally consume the milk within a day,” Singh adds. The family has been in the dairy business for five generations now. Owing to the nature of the work, they need to live near their cattle sheds.
“We have to have our houses near the tabelas as we have to begin work in the early hours. Also, the animals need us to be around all the time. If any animal falls sick during the night, we have to be around to tend to it. Even people in the military can get an off from their work but we cannot. We have to be working all through the day,” says Singh.