Evening milk runs

Part of my daily routine is the milk run to Chachiyawas. I’ve spent all winter buying milk on a daily basis so I can have a glass or two in the morning. I buy one kilogram of milk for Rs 28. That’s about 40p. The kids drink most of it.

Despite repeating this every day for three months, I still get it wrong. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever be able to do a simple task with the same ease I would expect in the west. It’s not normally me who notices that I’m doing something odd, or wrong, but someone will often point it out.

Today I ended up leaving a bit late. I normally leave during daylight, around 6pm, for what takes about 20 minutes round trip. At the latest I go at 7.30pm, after dinner when the light has all but faded. Today I set off at 8.30pm.

The hostel staff were surprised to see me head out so late. In fact, they were terrified for my safety. Chachiyawas is only 5 minutes walk down the road, but it’s pitch black and the village is famous for alcoholism. First my auntie warned me that it was too late, then Ambica told me it was dark (presumably I can’t see) and then Bhagchand insisted on coming with me – I didn’t let him. Funnier yet, the gatekeeper refused to open the gate for me because it was too late (8:40pm by this point) so I had to climb over the wall with my milk canister.

The trip was incident-free. The village was quite busy still and so the only way I could have got into trouble was if the village turned on me, something I can’t see happening even if my notoriety forced chance on me.

But the trip got complicated. And you have to understand, I make most things complicated in India, presumably because nothing really makes much sense to me.

I had to buy some kerosene oil for my new chula purchase. At Rs 280 the little metal contraption is going to allow me to heat milk, water and cook maggi noodles. The shopkeeper didn’t understand what I was asking for, but after some a quick theatrical performance – miming what I assume I look like boiling water on a stove – he kindly told me he had no oil but would get some tomorrow.

So I didn’t get kerosene, but I assumed I’d be able to get my regular milk. I did, in fact, get milk, but it was hot. I don’t know why it’s acceptable to give someone hot milk when every day for the past three months you’ve given them cold milk. But he’d already put it in my canister and handed it over. I didn’t want to be rude and assumed he was just being nice and had already heated some up. I didn’t want to cause trouble, so I thanked him and took it.

So right now I’m on my third glass of milk and I have another half a litre to go. I can’t give any away because the kids are in bed, and it won’t keep until morning. The last thing I want to do is waste it.

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