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Donkey’s milk as medicine: Subhash Jadhav and his unusual companion

With other modes of transport either impractical or expensive, Subhash Jadhav and his donkey travel across Mumbai and its suburbs on foot.

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai |
Updated: April 4, 2018 8:15:00 am
Donkey’s milk as medicine: Subhash Jadhav and his unusual companion Customers identify him with the sound of the ghungroos placed around the donkey’s neck. (Express Photo by Karma Sonam Bhutia)

Subhash Jadhav goes to different parts of the city every day, walking many kilometres with an unusual companion. With other modes of transport either impractical or expensive, Jadhav and his donkey travel across Mumbai and its suburbs on foot. Legend has it that Egyptian queen Cleopatra bathed in donkey milk to preserve her beauty.

Jadhav’s customers, however, have more humble need for it. He says they drink it for its medicinal properties. “Based on doctor’s advice, customers usually buy donkey milk to cure cough, asthma or while recovering from tuberculosis. It is usually given to infants who have cough or other infections,” the 47-year-old says.

One of the few in Mumbai who sell donkey milk, Jadhav took over the job from his father Sukhdeo, who belonged to Ahmednagar. (Express Photo by Karma Sonam Bhutia) 

Customers identify him with the sound of the ghungroos placed around the donkey’s neck. One of the few in Mumbai who sell donkey milk, Jadhav took over the job from his father Sukhdeo, who belonged to Ahmednagar.

“Earlier, donkeys were used in the city to carry load at construction sites or do other civic work. My father had a few donkeys used for that purpose. A doctor at that time in Chembur area would advise people on the benefits of donkey milk. My father then began domesticating donkeys to sell milk. Eventually, the demand for donkeys to carry load stopped, and he began only selling milk,” Jadhav says.

He says he took over the work after his father passed away, while also working part-time as a tailor now.
Today, Jadhav has three donkeys, including a male, a female and their foal.

Jadhav’s day begins early with him waking up to feed the trio — he says he has not named them — and depending on where he has to go on that day, he leaves home with the female donkey. (Express Photo by Karma Sonam Bhutia) 

He says he usually buys donkeys in January from a market in Jejuri that especially sells donkeys. He explains that unlike donkeys kept for carrying load, those reared for their milk need to be taken special care of. “They cannot be left on their own on the streets to eat whatever they can find as the quality of milk would otherwise not be good,” he says.

Jadhav’s day begins early with him waking up to feed the trio — he says he has not named them — and depending on where he has to go on that day, he leaves home with the female donkey. Jadhav says that since the milk gets spoilt quickly, it cannot be stored.

“I take the donkey along with me, milk it and give it for consumption immediately. Infants are given a small spoon of around 50ml. Adults can have a small glass. It tastes like cow’s milk,” he says. The cost for a spoonful of milk is Rs 50, he says, adding that he makes around Rs 500 per day. He returns with the donkey around 12pm.

“I take the donkey around in the morning and return by afternoon. I do not travel again in the evening, but some customers visit,” he says.Jadhav keeps the donkeys at an open space in Chembur colony, which was his erstwhile home.

Due to redevelopment, the home was demolished and he has been living nearby on rent. He points to an under-construction skyscraper, which will be his new house. “I will continue to work here till this open space is there. Once I shift to a building, it will be difficult to maintain the donkeys in its premises. That will be the end of this work for me,” he says.

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