TAMIL NADU

Their sachets make your day at work

DAIRY CHORE: For those delivering milk sachets every morning, it is a whole lot of challenges .

DAIRY CHORE: For those delivering milk sachets every morning, it is a whole lot of challenges .   | Photo Credit: — Photo: V.GANESAN

Meera Srinivasan

CHENNAI: “Nothing like a good cup of coffee or tea as soon as one wakes up,” many believe.

The first cup of tea or coffee every morning could be very important to you, but there are a whole bunch of people who toil during unearthly hours in order to bring milk sachets for your family’s consumption.

It is 4.15 a.m. and the streetlights are on. The city roads are largely empty and quiet, barring a few points where milk booths are stationed. Around these booths are groups of persons quietly arranging trays with sachets and picking up a few for delivery at homes.

K. Thaayar is nearing 70. Her day begins around 2.45 a.m. She has been in the profession for decades. “I was in Standard VII when we got Independence. In the seventies, we moved to Chennai from our home town and I took up this job,” she says, adjusting her brown-coloured woollen muffler. “It is very cold, you see.”

The milk in the sachets travels quite a distance from its production unit to the booths before making its way into your coffee mug, and those who deliver these sachets at homes are integral in the chain.

Admitting that it is no easy job, she says: “What to do! I have a stomach to feed.”

Dhanalakshmi, who is over 70, also says her income is vital to her family’s sustenance. “Earlier, I used to come with my husband and he would take me on his cycle. He is no more now.”

The profession sure has its share of challenges. From being blamed for leakage or spoilage to being shouted at for late delivery, those in the profession battle several difficulties. “Some customers refuse to pay us if the sachets leak. It’s not our fault. Sometimes, the delivery van comes very late, but we get yelled at by customers for coming late,” says Thaayar.

If it is the chill and mosquitoes now, it was the rain a couple of months ago. “I fell sick and ended up spending Rs.1,000 on treatment,” says Ms. Dhanalakshmi, who wears a huge shell-framed pair of glasses, typical of an adorable grandmother.

The demographics of those in the profession ranges from senior men and women to even school-going students. G. Hari, for instance, is a Standard XI student who delivers milk before going to school. “During my examinations, an anna living near my house steps in. I make about Rs.900 every month and this amount is very important to us,” says the young lad, looking quite sleepy at 4.15 a.m.

R. Krishnamurthy and K. Kumar deliver milk before going to their respective jobs. “Any additional income is a boon in our house. It’s okay if we don’t get enough sleep. We are actually quite used to it now,” says Kumar.

The entry of several brands of milk in the industry has had an impact on them. “Shops have their own boys to deliver the other milk sachets, but we carry on because this is what we have been doing and this is all we know,” Ms. Dhanalakshmi said.

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