Monday, June 21, 2010

DCM Farms

He woke up at 5:00am. Got ready. Dressed. Looked back at his sleeping room-mate & silently stepped out into daybreak & cycled down 5-kms to DCM Farms. DCM stood for Daruwala, Canteenwala & Mistry - three Parsi friends who had invested in the Dairy farm. Patil was just opening the gate when he reached. Working quietly & quickly, in1-hour flat they loaded the milk cans for the morning delivery & started the sterilization unit. They cleaned the centrifuge machine, cleaned the butyrometers, pipettes & centrifuge tubes. Mopped & swept the floors of the freezer room & processing room & at sharp 6:30am, switched off all the lights. As soon as Heena-bai arrived, they asked her to make the tea & disappeared in the abandoned warehouse at the back. Practiced hands cleaned the chillum, crushed the tobacco, roasted the Manali hashish, packed it all into the chillum, wrapped the wet/clean safi at the lower end & Reddy lit-up the chillum while Patil chanted, ‘Om Namo Shivai!’

Respectably stoned, they returned, had the tea, followed by 2-litres each of raw buffalo-milk from the freezer. Patil got dressed to go on his delivery rounds, while Reddy opened his Lab, lit the stove, lay out the chemicals, set the water to boil & began his day. Ramu & Kaalia had arrived & had begun pasteurizing the milk from the freezer. Pasteurizing went on all day. For Reddy today there were 45 samples to be tested before the daily milk supply went to the restaurants, hotels, college-canteens & local army units. His boss Mistry was a stickler for tidiness, so he cleaned up the floors, the fan, the table-top & even had his cap-n-mask on by the time Mistry walked in.

“All OK, Reddy?”
“On schedule, Sir! The ultra-violet box has a whole lot of flies dead on the floor this morning. All cleaned up now.”
“And you had your morning fix already?” asked Mistry with twinkling eyes. Reddy grinned.
“OK ! Scram! Go take the bike & take care of the old women! I have had enough of their daily whining.”
“Sure, Sir.”

Reddy drove off on his daily circuit, delivering 1 or 2-litre cans of milk, 250ml or 500ml of cream. Took signatures, collected cash, listened to the 85-year old boasting about his Chrysanthemums, heard Mrs. Gomez yelling at her husband, watched the sexy Mrs. Iyer drive off in her car, managed to get away from Mrs Khotey’s whining in less than 10 minutes (whew!) and returned to the Farm.

He went through the 45 samples meticulously. Mistry had trained him to perfection till he could test the fat (Gerbers method) & proteins (Kjeldahls method) of any sample in record time. Every test result was recorded with date & time. Any sample of cow-milk with less than 3.5% fat, had cream added to it and homogenised. Any sample that showed more than 4.0% fat, was centrifuged to remove the extra fat as cream. By the time he finished all the samples it was lunchtime. Patil & he went to Mangal Vihar cafĂ© & had their Rs 5 thaali , smoked another chillum & went to ‘the Shop’. Knowing Annette would be there, Patil combed his hair, tucked in his shirt & sucked in his belly as they reached.

Saturday afternoon sales were brisk. Buffalo milk, Cow milk, Lemon-Lassi bottles, Strawberry-yoghurt in paper-cups, Butter, processed cheese be it Cheddar, Gouda, Mozarella, Ricotta or Roquefort ….. they sold it all. Mistry’s wife Helga, was a German lady, who used to process the cheese in the huge state-of-the art laboratory they had at home.

Mistry had met & married her when he was doing his degree course in Dairying in Germany. His father had sent him to study Medicine in UK hoping he would marry a decent Parsi girl when he returned as a Doctor. Instead, Mistry returned as a Dairy man with a German wife in tow. Even after a successful career of 15 years, his father would yell at him & his wife …. anywhere … at the Farm, at the Shop, in front of staff & even the customers. Helga called it the ‘spice in their romance’.

By 6pm they returned to the farm, just as the daily supply came in from Ghatkopar, Winterland, Haalsbaad & Krishna dairy farms. Altogether 16,000 litres of fresh cow & buffalo milk. Everyone, including Alfred, the manager, Mistry, Reddy, Patil, Ramu & Kaalia helped to unload it all. After 2 months here, Reddy had learnt to take two 40-litre cans, swing them around and send them spinning to the edge of the store, where Patil would expertly grab them & stack them up in 2-tiers. After the supply trucks left with the empty cans, the gruelling work of Pasteurizing the milk began. All 10 huge machines began to hum & by 8:30pm, only 10,000 litres were done. The remaining 6000 litres would be done next day. Once they had put it all in the freezer, they were exhausted. Patil & he smoked their last chillum for the day, before Reddy cycled back to his room, found his dinner under the bed (his room-mate always made sure of that), gulped it down & crashed out. Another day gone.

Trouble started 6 days after Tara-bai joined. Just before leaving at night, Reddy heard a scuffle & found Heena-bai & Tara-bai fighting like animals in the processing room. Huffing-n-hissing, tearing each other’s hair, clawing & rolling on the floor they were locked in combat. Reddy pulled them apart & almost got decapitated with the lid of a milk-can. Kaalia came to his rescue & the women were separated. Problem, was Heena-bai was Patil’s ‘aurat’ and they had been making out for months (where they found time & place in the farm, Reddy couldn’t imagine). But Tara-bai didn’t know that. Ever since she joined, Patil was hitting on her – and when he finally scored, Tara-bai needed some girly-talk and she actually went and asked Heena-bai, ‘how could you waste a randy hunk like him?’ Heena was stunned & she just went berserk. Patil wasn’t around so she vent all her rage on Tara-bai. Reddy wondered how Patil managed to have a wife at home, daily cycled 25kms to-n-fro & still have enough juice left over to make out with such tigresses! He spoke to Mistry & within 2 days had Tara-bai transferred to their own dairy farm 40kms away.

Couple of months rolled by. Heena-bai was visibly pregnant. She used to get breathless stirring 40-litres of milk in the huge bowls. Reddy helped her out on occasion. But what stunned him was the fact that Heena-bai was more upset about not being able to ‘take care’ of Patil as much as he ‘needed’. She didn’t care in the least that she was unwed. Wow ! Reddy reassured her … but Heena-bai was worried.

One day, the motorcycle was kaput. He took Patil’s bicycle and went on his usual circuit. Torn kurta, tattered jeans burnt by acid, aluminium cans hanging on the handlebar … carrying milk & cream for door-to-door delivery …as usual. But that day, en route, a bus from the local medical college passed him by. They were going to Shivaji-Rao Medical College to attend the Forensic Medicine lectures by famed Prof. Daniel D’Souza. They all saw him cycling by …the boys & the girls … and they waved to him …and he smiled …and waved back. Soon he was at Hotel Orchid, going in by the back entrance … meeting the chef.
“Salaam Saab! Cream delivery, Saab ….. sign here Saab. ” He finished his circuit in 2 hours that day.

The night before Ram Navami, due to the unprecedented demand, they were selling milk till past midnight. Finally, after Annette had deposited the cash collection with Alfred, they were all sitting on the steps of the shop. It was quiet. Dogs & beggars slept on pavements. Cops were doing their nightly beat on bikes. Reddy lounged on the steps, too tired to pick up his bike & go back to his place. Suddenly, there were yells & shouts round the corner. Seemed like trouble. Reddy quickly took the bi-cycle-chain-belt from his waist & ventured to see. As he turned the corner, he saw Patil running….! Slippers & shirt in one hand, trousers in the other, dressed in his undies, Patil was running for his life, chased by a bunch of guys with knives & iron rods!!

Reddy stepped in between them & somehow managed to stop the gang of four. Apparently, they were pimps & Patil had been getting some action from the best whores, on credit, for the past 1 month. He had reneged on payment today, as he had promised and so these fellas were going after him. Reddy managed to placate them; took about Rs 4000 from the collections Alfred had got, much against his wishes …and paid off the pimps. He found Patil at the Farm, where he punched him in the gut & laid him out flat. Then they both burst out laughing & laughed till they had tears in their eyes. Finally, they smoked a chillum & parted. Reddy didn’t notice that Patil was worried about how he would pay off the instalments to Mistry over the next few months. After all, his 12 year old daughter’s marriage had been fixed already …and this money would be … difficult.

6 weeks later, Reddy was arrested. Suddenly, around 12:30in the afternoon, 3 cops walked in, asked for him by name & took him in. He was thrashed & thrown about for about half-n-hour before they asked him anything.
‘Who’s paying you & how much ?’
Reddy was confused. What was going on? The cops only spoke Marathi …or with their sticks. Here he was bleeding from the nose, breathing heavily … and didn’t know why! After an hour or so, Mistry walked in to the police station. Apparently, Hotel Ritz had ‘caught Patil red-handed’ delivering diluted milk. Patil squarely blamed it on Reddy. Cops were called in, they spoke to Mistry & Mistry confirmed that Reddy was in charge on quality-control. He also told them that Reddy was a junkie. After 2 hours Reddy managed to convince Mistry that something else was wrong. The records were brought in – the time of testing samples were checked. Time of delivery was checked. There was no way the milk could be diluted here without being seen. Reddy was released quietly & supply continued as usual. On the 4th day, they suddenly swooped down and took samples of the milk at every step of its use in Hotel Ritz. Within 3 hours, Reddy proved it, that the new cook at the Ritz was diluting the milk. He had been planted there by the rival Meenakshi Hotel. Mistry gave Reddy Rs 1000 as an apology, while Patil was very clumsy with his apology.

All was well again for a few weeks, until disaster struck. The Muslim festival of Eid was 2 days away …when news reached that a viral disease had broken out amongst the cattle & there was acute shortage of milk expected in the next 48 hours. Every dairy farm they called had the same tragic situation. No milk! A privately owned dairy farm like DCM could get wiped out if they didn’t deliver milk on a festive occasion. Daruwala was in US, Canteenwala was honey-mooning with his 4th wife & Mistry was in Dubai, trying to open a Shop there. Alfred was all set to look for a new job. Mervin the accountant, said, that once long ago, they had ordered milk from Surat in Gujarat. Their credit account was still valid for another 2 years but to accept a telephonic order they needed the current password. Oh no! The only one who had access to the password was Mistry’s father. Reddy rushed to his place. The old man was actually thrilled. Here was his vengeance. Finally he could let the farm die its own death. He was actually smiling. Guffawing!
Reddy begged & pleaded & cajoled. Took insults & even ducked a shoe thrown at him. Helga came in … and Reddy simply whisked her away. Finally the old man relented. Reddy got the password, called up SUMUL in Surat & placed an order for 2 tankers of milk at 11:00am. Next morning, at 7:00am, just as a very flustered Mistry drove up red-eyed from an all-night journey from Dubai, 2 tankers carrying 32,000 litres of milk rolled into DCM Farms! Mistry sat on the ground & wept with relief. DCM farms had record sales that day, at an average 30% more than markets rates.

Next morning, the accountant raised merry hell. His safe had been broken into. 25000 rupees were gone! He was going to call the cops when Reddy stopped him. He asked Mistry why would a thief steal only 25000, when he could have stolen 1.5 lakhs ? Probably because he wasn’t a regular thief. And probably because he needed only 25000. Reddy could only think of Patil & his daughters’ wedding. When he explained, Mistry was furious. He was going to fire Patil & make sure he went to jail! Reddy knew it was a tricky situation. He called Helga SOS with his plan. Helga arrived in a mini-skirt ….. she seemed to be ‘in the mood’. Reddy then tried to convince Mistry that Patil would be difficult to replace. He was long due for a raise anyway. If Mistry gave him a raise & deducted the money stole over a year, everything would be square. Mistry understood …he made a deal with Reddy. Patil was called … explained the situation …he admitted it all …..and accepted most …er …gracefully. As per the deal, Mistry winked …Reddy held Patil from behind in a full-Nelson …. And Mistry swung a straight punch to Patil’s jaw. Patil passed out …. Woke up to cold-water splashes, smiled and said,
‘The Boss is so cool!’

After 3 weeks, Mistry called Reddy to his office at midday. Most unusual. Reddy had to shut down the distillery to make it there. He didn’t like his work being interrupted. But Mistry took his breath away.
“Join me, as my partner. I’ll sponsor your degree course in Dairying in Germany. Once you finish in 4 years, we’ll run this place like fire & be no. 1 in the race” he said.
Reddy was stunned. Mistry was his hero. A man who was in control of his life. Dedicated, hard-working, handsome & successful. And HE was offering Reddy partnership !! Wow !
“Sir, can I think about it for a 24 hours ?” he asked
“Hell, what’s there to think about ? OK … meet me here tomorrow …same time. Get lost, for now!”

Reddy was in shock. Partnership in DCM Farms ? Unbelievable! Here he was …hiding from life. He thought he was finished. And Mistry, his hero, believed in him so much! Wow!

Next morning … a well dressed, clean-shaven young man in 2-piece suit & tie, with polished boots was waiting to meet Mistry. Mistry was very surprised.
“Reddy ? What’s going on ?”
“I quit, Sir ! Came here to resign from my job, Sir.”
“What ??? Why ? What are you going to do instead ? Get married to a rich woman ?”
“No Sir. I am going to finish Medical College.”
“What do you mean ?”
“I have been a bad boy, Sir. I failed in my 1st MBBS University exams. On the second attempt, even though I didn’t need to, I cheated … and got caught. I was rusticated from college, Sir … when I joined you. I was too ashamed to go to class with boys & girls one year junior to me. My parents gave up on me. My friends were embarrassed to be with me. My girl friend ……..! Well … forget it, Sir! I thought my life was over. I was beaten. But now …you … your faith in me … I must have done something right here …. Maybe I was wrong … maybe …I still have it in me …. And if I do, I would rather fulfil my parents’ dreams … and become a Doctor … why would I become a Dairy-man ? I am sorry, Sir ….. but Sir, Thank you!!! Thank you !!!”
“Wow, Reddy! Who would have imagined it! I always wondered about you. A regular junkie … yet something about you was … always dignified … classy even. Good Luck, Son! And God Bless you!”

2 months later, Reddy passed his remaining subjects with more than 60%. His room-mate didn’t need to smuggle his dinner from the mess anymore. One of the prettiest girls in his batch was his date at the Inter-College Fest. His parents resumed sending his tuition fees after 9 months ! But he bought his new 2nd MBBS textbooks with his own hard-earned money from DCM Farms.

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