06 Dec 2007


Within the city of Mumbai, there are several million people who are at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.  For the most part, they are uneducated and live in Mumbai’s massive slums or on the street.  They are hard working but often their jobs seem strange.  Not only does the activity seem strange but also the work enviroment.  In reality, some jobs are unsafe and unhealthy.  The tasks are often repetitive and require simple skills.  Others require training and carry a professional status of their own. 

 The pink turban and the small black bag stuffed full of instruments identify one such profession.  Removing ear wax is indeed considered to be an important task.  The place of business is usually on the sidewalk or, as in this case; next to the butcher shop where chickens are awaiting their fate.  No appointment is necessary.  Customers can often be seen waiting on benches.  He always cleans his instruments between clients … and, … he requests payment before going on to the next person.

 Another profession is the shoe repairman.  With his small box of supplies and tools, all that is needed is a place along the street to set up shop and the repairman is ready for business.  The workmanship and materials are first class and the price is very competitive.  Typically, the charge is 20 to 30 cents for repairing and polishing a pair of shoes.  Many repairmen make a variety of shoes and sandals for their customers. 

 Caring for a herd of dairy cows is yet another specialty.  In a city with a population density of nearly 100,000 people per square mile, it seems strange that there would be room for dairy farms.  Fodder for cows is cut from the nearby fields.  These fields are actually lowland swamps and the soil is unstable for buildings.

 The green grass is trucked to the dairy where about 100 black cows resembling water buffalos are confined.  The workers keep the area and the cattle clean.  The cattle hair is trimmed to make it easier to give the cow her daily bath.  Manure is collected as it falls and used for fertilizer for the hay fields.  Milking, … of course, … is done by hand.  Each milker, … with bucket in hand, … is assigned a set of cows.  During the 5 minute milking time, the cow is treated to a grain mixture as she stands patiently through the process. The milkers wear specially designed shoes so that their feet will not get dirty.  Sometimes extra milk is left in the cow’s udder so that the baby calf can obtain its nourishment. Many of these workers live in the barn and sleep on the rafters … just above the cows.

 The fresh milk is delivered directly to retail outlets or to homes and restaurants.  It is up to the constomer to pasteurize the milk.  With it’s very high butterfat content, the milk is excellent when boiled with tea to make the popular drink known as Chai.  Much of the milk is used for this purpose.

 The pharmacy also known as … Ayurvedic Clinic … is an interesting place to visit.  Packaged drugs with familiar labels are available.  No doctor’s prescription is required.  Nonetheless, most of the stock is herbs and other traditional potions, some in boxes, some in jars and others in sacks.  The numerous salesmen are knowledgeable and eager to help.  They will explain the application of the various herbs and medicines, how they were prepared, and something about their potency. 

 Mumbai is a place that is made up of a diverse and complex people; … people that do things differently than we in a Western society have come to expect.  But, … this is India.  … It is their place.  …  It is their culture.


Ayurvedic – eye er vidic


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