Young boy and the glass of milk

I am about to talk about a boy who hailed from a middle-class family, had very loving parents, who always wanted to give their child the best that they could provide. It was a happy family. The boy also had an elder sister, who too cared for her little brother, and being older, always kept her vigil on him as he was very naughty.The boy was around 6 or 7 years old, played all day long, after coming from school, ate those juicy jack fruits that grew in the garden of his house. Jumped on the trees and climbed the branches to take in the fragrance of a white flower called ‘Gando-raj’ in Bengali which means ‘Gandho‘- smell and ‘raj’, the king; which together meant the king of fragrance. The English name is Gardenia. Yes, indeed it has a mild blowing, sweet fragrance. The flower had an intoxicating effect of absolute sublime feeling. It was so good that it drained out any tiredness that may have kept him under binds. Everyone loved that flower, bloomed probably during the months of April through June, during the summer months.

The boy used to pluck one and danced, smiling to himself and used to wrap around the big towel around himself at the neck which his mother strung on the roof to dry. Adjusted the angle of a cap, on his head borrowed from his grandfather. Looked at everyone with squinted eyes. You know why? He wanted to be like an emperor from the Mughal era. Thanks to the history lessons his father had given him as he was posted in New Delhi where Red Fort is present with Mughal monuments in plenty. All these fun-filled times across the day used to slowly come to an end for the boy when evening descended on the household.

A glass of milk, by Gautam Lahiri
A glass of milk

Evening meant, no more play as the sun has gone down, it also meant you have to open the books and study what has been taught in the school.  And something else was very frightful for the boy and that was, a glass of milk which his mother used to heat up on the stove and place it on the table. With slight sternness in her voice, the mother said ‘Khe nao’..or in English, it means, “Drink it..’ and with no please attached, a hint of anger. The boy felt as if the world had stopped..why did nature create this milk, of all the things in this world. Why all the young boys have to have this white liquid… he had all these questions which roamed in his mind and never could get an answer. This happened every day. He wanted to stay alone. He wanted to have a world of his own where there was no milk. In those days, the milk was sold in two types – the double tone which is completely fat-free and the other was the single tone for milk with everything added used for children for their growing needs and it tasted a bit funny because of its extra fat content.

Definitely had a distinctive smell which was surely not palatable. The boy, unfortunately, had his daily tryst with single tone milk.

It was 30 mins affair…the milk landing on the table with a ‘thud’…the sound or the power of it increased every day as the mother used to get very irritated with the boy as the milking ritual started. The second stage was the boy holding his nose with two fingers to block the nasal passage trying all he could to stop any smell of the dreaded white entering his olfactory senses. Somehow he gulped the milk down, coughed in the process, and grounded halfway through spilling it on the table. By this time, he had started crying, tears rolling down the cheeks, flushed with anger, and redness prevailed over him for at least one or two hours. By the time the last drop of milk went away from the glass, the boy had lost around 200 cc of tears. His mother had fumed and red-eyed gave a piece of her mind, every day; however, the life moved on for the boy with this painful evening.


The Father of this little boy used to stay in Delhi and visited the family every six months. The boy was very attached to his father and both he and his sister used to wait for their father to come. He used to smother them with love and affection, held them for minutes and dropped them back on the floor and then came the final moments for them…out came the gifts for the boy and his sister. Expectations written all over the face, both children stood at attention and whatever gifts their parents gave, they accepted them with smiling faces. Mother had trained them to be modest and to stay happy with whatever came their way.On one such occasion, the boy was gifted with a model of a car. All he knew in his life was ‘cars’ in all its shapes and sizes. He used to love cars. His father knew the boy’s liking and brought him a model of a 1967 silver maroon Mercedes Benz(MB) 220 S

Mercedes Benz 220 S, the dinky model which was gifted to me by my father by Gautam Lahiri
Mercedes Benz 220 S

The car model was about six inches by two and a half inches. The model was made to perfection, with the minutest of details, of the 3 pointed star emblem of a Mercedes, even the small tires had the well-defined patterns. The car was a one to fifty scaled model of the original model. He loved it. He could lose everything for this car and with utmost care kept it beside his study books, besides his pillow when he went to bed. All the elders whenever wanted something to be get done by him used to threaten that…’ do this or we will take away your MB 220S’ and hurriedly, the boy acceded to every command just to keep the car firmly under his soft hands.As days and months passed, so did the boy but few things in life refused to change. The milk events remained as terrible as ever for the boy’s daily life. He was so young, hardly could do anything, and kept up with the pain, and slowly the tearful, eyes, quivered with a lace of happiness, the bitten lips getting back the lost color when the boy held the Mercedes in his hands. So, he lived in the small car he so cherished. One day, something happened…the boy’s uncle;  his mother’s elder brother came to their house. He was a doctor, a very good doctor, and a physician and returned after eleven years from England after completing higher studies. Like everyone getting acquainted with the new member of the family, the boy also was introduced. With eyes wide open, big arched lashes falling rhythmically, he looked up to find a person with a smiling face, jet black hair pulled backward, two intent but friendly eyes staring down at him through thick glasses. The boy somehow felt comfortable with this new man and then the doctor’s eyes moved a bit to catch something which the boy was holding behind him; the man tilted his head, and asked, “What is it?” “What are you holding behind you?”

The boy lost a bit of his color with apprehension. You could see the concern written all over his face.

He sheepishly brought his right hand and showed the doctor what he was holding on the outstretched palm, the maroon MB 220S. The doctor was silent for a moment and bent down and asked: “Hmm..is this your Mercedes?” I think you love it very much. Is it not the case? The boy nodded. The doctor got up and walked away. With every passing day, the boy came closer to his uncle. His uncle had joined a local hospital and usually came back from his medical rounds back home around late afternoon, almost an hour after the boy came back from school. Increasingly, the boy started spending time with his newfound uncle and stayed away from his errands, and naughty escapades. He sat on his lap and discussed all that came to his little head – animals, cars, birds but definitely not about ‘milk’.

One day, the doctor came home late than his usual return schedule, and as he climbed the stairs and came to the first-floor veranda, he heard a heated discussion, interspersed with a sob. He was very respectful of people and their privacy so he stood there listening at a distance the altercation between his sister, and the little boy. The afternoon sun had gone down, a light breeze wafted through the window and gently moved the draperies. Through the crack, the doctor saw the dreaded ‘milk’ episode. He stood there for the full event but did not speak. Retreated after the boy finally finished the milk. The boy’s mother had run out of all ideas of how to make this boy like milk. She really wanted to give her son the best and milk is a wholesome food, her effort was definitely in place.The next day, the doctor came home a little early and was sitting near the dinner table. Before he settled, he went to the kitchen and had a word with his sister, and returned.

Within minutes, as the doctor opened up the day’s newspaper to scan the headlines, which he usually did after returning. The little boy arrived with his typical zest and uncle’s love. The doctor remained quiet and was looking out of the window towards the patches of blue afternoon sky as if lost in thought. The boy sat up and asked, “Are you tired? What are you thinking? Did you see more patients today? What bus did you come in today? He rained the doctor with his incessant questions.  The doctor smiled, “I am not able to believe what I saw today.. it was amazing, I am not able to understand, how this can happen. But it happened”.. the boy with his big eyes, kept on his questions “What did you see? Please tell me…” The doctor put his hand on the boy’s head and looked at him…“You want to hear..ok, listen to this”. “I stand in front of a petrol pump, every day to catch a bus when I return home from the hospital.” “About five to ten minutes, I wait when the bus comes.” “However, today the bus was delaying… I stood there and waited when something caught my eye.””I saw across the street, the petrol pump which remains open till about midnight and caters to host of motorists. Suddenly, I see behind a Morris Oxford, or Ambassador which was sipping gallons of petrol, a silver-white Mercedes standing patiently for the Ambassador to finish.”
The boy’s enthusiasm knew no bounds, as the discussion was all about cars. “Then what happened, uncle?”

Uncle continued, “The Mercedes waited and then moved to the far corner of the petrol pump, and parked herself beside a different looking petrol wending machine. The driver in all gray got out and looked at the machine, and slowly looked at the hosepipe which connects the decanter.” For a moment, it looked like a liquid with a different color or whatever it was being examined by the chauffeur. I could not keep myself waiting and walked over. Seeing me, the driver smiled and inserted the decanter into the tank opening of the Mercedes.”The little boy held his breath with eyes wide open. Uncle went on “As soon as the pump guy pressed the button, an off-white liquid started to pour right into the tank. Oh my god, what is it, never seen such petrol in my life.” The driver could feel the look of amazement on the uncle’s face and said with a smile that this Mercedes runs, not on petrol but uses milk to run the engine. Sheer disbelief gripped me, and there it was..about 25 liters of milk got pumped and when the tank was full, the driver returned and the car started and like a soft purring cat, the engine could be heard and she drove away. “The little boy by this time had clenched fist, shivering all over said,” Did you see it with your own eyes? The Mercedes drank milk..” “Yes, dear,” the uncle said. “I had to tell this to you.” The boy alighted from his uncle’s lap, with a glazed look. He tiptoed to the dinner table and sat, holding his model car and looking intently at it.  The conversation ended, his uncle walked away to change. His mother came and gave him a tin of cheese-let biscuits which his uncle bought for his sister and him. The boy looked up and asked, “Ma..can I have the biscuits with milk ?” He went to his mother, held on to a part of her sari, and looked up. His mother looked down at him with surprised and tearful eyes. Picked the boy up in her arms, and said: “My son, I can surely give you something else but milk.” The boy shook his head and repeated, “Ma, you know; Mercedes also drinks milk and she never cries. Why? Do you think she loves milk ? Mother cried again, and said, “Yes, my son, she loves milk.”

Far away, behind the door of the other room, his uncle stood and saw both mother and son holding each other. Never again, the boy refused or was against having the milk and for very many years he believed that Mercedes that day did drink the milk until he was matured enough to realize his uncle’s so humane and novel approach to make him drink the milk.Well, readers, you may have guessed by now, who the little boy was. I take this opportunity to bring to the table these unsung heroes in this world, who have innate people skills, brilliant and exceptional management qualities with which they are born. They are true “out of the box thinkers”.

For instance, in this story, the boy hated drinking milk. The boy’s mother tried to make the boy drink by force. However; the uncle used creativity to approach solving the challenge. The uncle knew the boy loved cars and used them to make the boy attract milk.

He had studied the boy and came up with an idea as unique as this. I miss my dear uncle and always think about his creative approaches to life and try applying.

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