This is Jaya Sekar (left) and Vinayakamurthy (right). They meet each morning at 6:45am, when Vinayakamurthy comes to milk Jaya’s cow. Jaya lives in Aranganur, a village on the banks of the Chunnambar river near the town of Pondicherry in India.
Jaya is a beneficiary of Sharana’s micro-credit program. She is 43 years old, and the mother of two girls. Her husband died in an unfortunate road accident this past May. Things had been difficult as a complete family, and now the burden is wholly on Jaya to provide for her daughters. Jaya started a business with a micro-credit loan from Sharana in 2005, with just a single cow. She repaid her loan a year later, in 2006. Between then and now, she has acquired 3 additional cows and sold 2. One died, but was covered by insurance whose claim returned some funds for the loss to Jaya. She now runs her small business with 3 cows, and has 2 calves.
This is Vetrivelan, known to us all simply as Vetri. Normally, he is home with his family in Pondicherry at 6:45am. But this morning, he came out to Angalakuppam to visit Jaya and the village. Vetri is a veteran Sharana social worker who has known Jaya and her business plans from the time of its inception, and who keeps track of how she is doing.
Why is Jaya not milking her own cows? It is customary for women to tend to the cows and men to milk and distribute, both for reasons of physical strength and skill, as well as for other social beliefs related to caste purity. Jaya explains that her role is to feed and care for the cows, and assist in the milking by calming them, since they are each so sensitive. She also performs pujas on Fridays to pray for the good health of her animals, and a good yield in milk.
Soon the milk vessels are full of milk. Each cow gives 8 litres of milk in the morning, and 6 in the evening, when the milking process repeats. Jaya sells the milk at Rs. 20 per liter. Vinayakamurthy delivers it in town. Most of it is purchased by restaurants in Pondicherry.
By 7:15am, Vinayakamurthy is setting out for Pondicherry town with full canisters of fresh Angalakuppam milk.