100 Days in India Project

Black and white photograph of a bicycle rider walking past a large puddle in New Delhi

61/ 100 Hunt for a Milk Shop

After a long train journey from Jaipur, and keen to find some milk for our much needed coffee, we ventured out into the streets of New Delhi to find a shop that might have some. We were nearly at the very end of our trip by this point and to help us acclimatise back to Scottish weather it started to rain hard.

As soon as there first few fat raindrops landed in the dust that covered the streets the entire area transformed. Seemingly from nowhere, huge sheets of plastic appeared over chai stalls and over the gaudy displays of plastic goods lining the streets in this part of town. Cycle rickshaws attached flimsy screens to their roofs, completely opaque from decades of use, to offer some protection from the warm but torrential rain. Even the dogs scrabbled to find shelter underneath anything that they could use without getting kicked or stood upon.

Still on the hunt for milk we stopped at a chai stall, partly to ask where people buy milk and partly because he had a huge canopy to hide underneath alongside a bunch of men and some dogs (see the photograph below). He welcomed us in to sit amongst the long strands of hanging crisp packets and we repaid him by purchasing a couple of drinks. As well as chai they made all sorts of foods that were egg based. French toast, omelettes, fried eggs, fried eggs on chapatis, fried eggs on an omelette, chopped up omelette with chillies and egg sandwiches. Watching the able chap cook incredibly quickly using only one pan, one implement and a mountain of eggs made hanging about until the rain subsided worthwhile.

We asked him where people buy milk. Thinking about it for a while whilst coating an egg sandwich in more egg, and even conferring with the other men under our rain shelter, he eventually answered “from the milk shop”. Luckily for us it was apparently further along the same street. Encouraged by the mere existence of a milk shop, and intrigued to see what such a shop would actually be like, we trundled on through the now sludgy streets, avoiding the torrents of water pouring off of the tall buildings that had no guttering.

Half an hour later we were still milkless. I do recall that I was muttering and grumbling about the fact that almost everything they eat in India has milk in it, but we couldn’t buy any. Chai tea, lassis, Indian sweets, gulab jamen, gallons of yoghurts and paneer. So many of the open-fronted buildings we passed by were full of huge wide pans of milk being boiled down to condense it. Street corners had vats of shredded carrots being boiled in gallons of milk to make carrot halwa. But none of the shops had any. Perhaps the sweet-makers bought all of it?

Almost ready to admit defeat and go home in a bad worse mood I spotted someone carrying a churn of milk. Then someone else, and another. We were obviously close to the source of the mystical dairy products now. Then, appearing out of the steamy mists that were now swirling around the damp streets was the answer to our lactose conundrum. A very official looking milk shop called Mother Dairy. Open from early morning until late at night, this centralised milk dispensary service would fill up your churns or bags with milk. If, like us, you had nothing in which to put your milk you could use the automatic vending machine which would sell you milk in an impossible to use plastic pouch.

To be honest I didn’t care how it was delivered, I was tired and grumpy and just wanted to go back to the hotel. We didn’t even have our coffee in the end because it was too late in the day now. Still, at least we had some for breakfast and, should we ever need milk again, we know where to get it. Yet another great example of learning a lesson on one trip that will potentially make life that bit easier the next time.

Three-wheeled rickshaw in New Delhi during a rain storm.