As a 5 year old in the grimy Mumbai suburb of Malad, I’d go outside with my grandpa, pot in hand, to wait in the early mornings for the guy who’d come with his buffalo. The man would milk the buffalo right there on the street with the milk squirting into our pot. When the pot was full, my grandpa would let me pay the man with the money he’d put in my pocket.
We’d then take the brimming pot home, boil the milk on a coal-burning stove, skim off an inch of white butter, boil it again, skim off another inch of butter, then use the milk in our chai. Even after twice skimming the fat, the milk was still thick and rich. Any remaining milk would be fermented into yoghurt, for making cooling, delicious lassi or warm, soothing kadhi (a chickpea flour soup) the next day.
And the butter, sans any flavorings, was delicious on its own or on bread, or rolled up in an overnight roti. With no refrigerator, the butter had to be all eaten the same day, and I was happy to oblige. I can taste that ambrosia in my mouth even now, a taste so comforting and sumptuous, it felt like I was savoring all that is good in the world.
It’s occurred to me that life is like buffalo milk. In its rawness, banal. But properly treated, it is rich and variously delectable, and, has to be consumed before it expires.
May your new year be as flavorful and bounteous as buffalo milk butter.