Returning from dinner at the Sarnath Cafe, we came upon the milk exchange, a nightly occurrence, the exchange of milk for money, most often happening around 7:45 pm. Two to three milk lords arrive on moped and bike; they meet near the front gate with the milk receivers from CUTS handing over cash, then collecting their liquid loot. All stainless steel, large pails, small pails, some hanging off the handle bars of the bike, swaying and splashing as the bicycle makes its way down the bumpy, dusty road and inside the gate to CUTS. A language barrier and the fact they are all men, prevents me from getting the low down on the transaction and the goods, but this is an economics lesson of the most basic kind. I see the cows during the day, the water buffalo, sometimes in small herds of eight, walking down the road. A little further out of town, more cows, often seen cooling off in a river where a rotten smell permeates the air. Petting cows on the street, wondering, is it you, dear cow, who provides me with the milk for my morning brew?
Morning coffee, sometimes a heavy layer of milk scum floating in my cup. Lesson learned: remove with a spoon, never stir. Although thankful to have milk to add to my instant Nescafe, there are days when the scum, with its coagulated and slimy, heavy thickness, causes me to decline my much-needed caffeine. No fault of the cows I meet; they are not to blame. It is the cooking method: boiling milk at very high temperatures in an open pan produces this little jewel. Nehru Guesthouse, you ain’t no Starbucks.
Now the next morning, reviewing my words before sharing my post, an arrival. Sitting on the blue plastic tray, alongside the pitcher of milk, spoon and jar of Nescafe, a surprise: a new coffee cup. The handle, not quite lining up, previously broken, glued back to become new. The color! The texture! Exhilaration coming over me like a gigantic crashing wave, taking it in with my eyes, caressing it’s texture, my senses now on fire. I can’t stop staring at its beauty, my every cell filled with what feels like drug-induced bliss. This cup, taking me to a once familiar place, but one I can’t explain or name. I love it! I love it! Settling down, I think of my Mother, a lover of all things beautiful; I’m reminded that this is I, as well. My thoughts now turn to life, and how much delight and wonder I’ve felt just looking at this simple, once broken, cup. And I think of how I must be changing, unaware until this moment, that in the very smallest of things, I found bliss.