Donkey's milk costs a cool Rs. 2,500 per litre

When was the last time you saw a donkey in the city? This docile animal, the butt of so many jokes and epithets, which used to carry humongous piles of clothes, has moved up in life, so to speak.

For various reasons, including the advent of cheap mopeds, dhobis have using them to transport clothes to and from the dhobi ghats. So today, though donkeys are very much a part of their lives, they are prized for their milk and meat, and for occasional roles in the show business, including politics.

Milk and meat

There are still some 250 donkeys milling about the city's dhobi ghats today. These animals, though, are not the washermen community's sole preserve: others also rear them to make a killing from their milk. “Selling donkey's milk is an age-old business in the city,” Mohan Rao, treasurer of Jasma Bhavan Road Dhobi Ghat Association, told The Hindu. The milk has great medicinal value and is used to treat cough and sore throat in infants, he said.

“A 100 ml of donkey's milk costs around Rs. 250 in Bangalore. We have at least two customers every day, though donkeys cannot secrete milk right through the year,” said Srinivas, a dhobi at the same ghat, who has been selling the milk for many years.

More than nutrition

Donkey's milk is as nutritious as human milk. It also has cosmetic uses. It is not just the legendary Egyptian queen who could afford to bathe in it. Anthony, a dhobi at the Hebbal ghat, said that women here also use it, though presumably not in such prodigious quantities.

Donkey meat is also prized as it is lean and high on protein.

Films and protests

An unusual spinoff of donkey rearing is hiring the animals to film units and politicians. “I usually charge Rs. 2,000 per donkey a day for film shootings,” said a member of Jasma Bhavan Road Dhobi Ghat Association. Kannada Chalavali Vatal Paksha activists had hired his beasts on many occasions to stage protest demonstrations near the Vidhana Soudha and the Raj Bhavan, he added.

With such attractions, no wonder instances of donkey theft have been reported in the city. Janardhan, a member of the Madivala Community's Association in Madivala, said that an animal could cost anything between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000. His community members collared a few donkey thieves in Nellore in Andhra Pradesh recently and recovered some stolen animals from them.

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