Tears for the "Milkman of India"

Rupali Karekar joins India in bidding farewell to the "father of white revolution".

 
On Sunday, the whole country joined Anand in bidding the ‘Milkman of India’ adieu. The Magsaysay award winner died of old age at 90 leaving behind his legacy in the form of an internationally-reputed company called Anand Milk Union Limited, known to countless people around the world as simply - Amul. -- PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

I had heard this legend in journalism school.

It was about a young man, a US-educated mechanical engineer with a minor in dairy engineering, who was about to return home to serve his bond period.

He was asked to join India’s Government Creamery in a place called Anand in the north-western state of India’s Gujarat. On being told of his deployment, the 20-something reportedly fumed:  “Where the hell is Anand?”

That summer, Dr Verghese Kurien landed in the sleepy town and never left. The town had changed his destiny and he, in turn, had changed its.

On Sunday, the whole country joined Anand in bidding the ‘Milkman of India’ adieu. The Magsaysay award winner died of old age at 90 leaving behind his legacy in the form of an internationally-reputed company called Anand Milk Union Limited, known to countless people around the world as simply - Amul.

His story, an inspiration for millions of young Indians, has already been written in India’s contemporary history in gold.

The architect of “white revolution”, Dr Kurien was responsible for flooding his country with milk, once a deficient commodity in India. He brought the obscure town of Anand on the map and transformed the lives of its hundreds of farmers by starting his cooperative movement.

Today, Amul is a household name in India, and there is not a single India-born Indian anywhere in the world who does not know what it stands for.

So effective was Dr Kurien’s cooperative movement that the then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri started the National Dairy Development Board to replicate its success throughout the country.

The success story was even adapted into a film called Manthan co-written by Dr Kurien and directed by acclaimed director Shyam Benegal. One song from the film “Mharo Gaam Khatiyabadi” (My village Khatiyawad) became a rage.
Amul has now expanded into an international brand with a range of milk and milk products to its credit.

It became ‘The Taste of India’. In fact, there are some people from my grandmother’s and mother’s generation who are unaware that the yellow stuff we spread across our breads at breakfast is called “butter”. To them it is still called ‘Amul’.

In Singapore, the shelves displaying Amul butter packets in Mustafa shopping centre, probably empty faster than any other India-imported commodity. I have made it a habit of buying two at a time so I never run of it even if Mustafa does.

The jingle ‘Utterly, butterly, delicious - Amul’ is one of the most popular advertisment in India.

Then there are the famous Amul hoardings, a combination of social commentary, tongue- in-cheek humour and great advertising which have left smiles on many faces over the decades. The lastest one was a tribute to Dr Kurien, with a teary-eyed Amul girl, grieving the death of India’s accomplished son.

Though his rein in Amul was not bereft of controversies (at one point he was accused of being autocratic), he will go down in history as the Milkman of India, who himself never drank milk.

“I don’t like it,” he used to say.

Goodbye Dr Verghese Kurien and thank you for everything utterly, butterly delicious.