The Fall of Milk: Dignity to Cheeseburger

The Fall of Milk: Dignity to Cheeseburger

Glass of milk | Source:, couleur

Few months back, little before COVID-19 pandemic gheraoed the whole world, my mother visited us in Singapore. She spent her whole life in a remote village in Bihar. It was a new and unique place for her. One Saturday night, she was invited to my friend’s home for dinner. As she has been vegetarian, my friend cooked mattar with paneer, only exquisite food, presumably, for a vegetarian. We sat on the table while eating she was pressing the paneer with her callused thumb and index finger. She asked me, “Ye kya hai? (what is this?).” I had a casual glance and said, “Paneer hai, Maa (This is cheese, mother), it is made up of milk.” She stopped touching and eating up. When we were coming back home, she whispered, “why do you cook milk with salt?” Beta, this is disrespect to the milk!

It appears to be sheer stupidity on the scale of logic, but there is another dimension to it—why such thoughts? The conditioning which she has undergone throughout her life may appear convincing idea. The conditioning taught her to give pure and utmost respect for milk and the animal who provides it. 

Traditions of milk in various cultures

History of cow and milk in India and various other culture is older than history itself. The cow has been a constant companion of an Indian family from Dwapara Yuga which is vividly described in the epic Mahabharata. Shri Krishna is his childhood and as a teenager was depicted as a person responsible for taking care of his herd of cows.

It is a completely entangled question — Is respect towards milk sustained because of a cow is holy or cow became holy because it produces milk? However, that is not a point of discussion. Milk and cow had the utmost respects in various cultures. The cow has always been revered as a holy cow and there are numerous mythical characters like Kamdehnu which is also known as divine bovine-goddess described in Hinduism as Gou Mata. There are even communities in India who trace their origin with rearing cows. Even, some people in the community have a surname of Gopa. which translates in Hindi as a person who rears and serves cow. In some part of Bihar, the same community is also called as Gobar which is loosely and locally meant to cow dung. The cow has always been an integral part of Indian societies. They were part of the festival. Especially, during Deepavali, cows were the first living creature in the household to be fed. They were also garlanded. Birth of calf was celebrated. Their death was mourned, and in some parts, they were given a proper burial with the priest reciting the mantra, begging the god to relieve her from the vicious cycle of life. Respect in the form of various ways did not limit to the cow but extends to the life-fluid she produces. In some cultures, it is not acceptable to see milk touched by human feet.

Cow’s milk and its products, symbols of abundance and fertility, have been among the ceremonial offerings to the gods of India since the earliest Vedic times. Respect towards milk is not only common in India, which has been the cradle of Hinduism, but also in various other parts of the world. Milk symbolizes the mother and being considered as a fluid of eternal life, fertility, abundance, it is always practised in various cultures to keep it away from contrary food like meat, fish which is a symbol of barbarism, brutality, and blood.

In India, it is widely practised to avoid mixing milk with chicken, fish or any kind of meat. People believe that having milk after chicken may give rise to vitiligo or leucoderma which is primarily a condition caused due to melanin deficiency.  Grivetti in his research observed the prohibition of meat and milk is a widely accepted norm in South-West Asia, Central Sahara, East Africa, and South-West Africa. In some of the moslems community blending of milk and fish is prohibited. Kosher law, which dictates Jewish dietary regulations, prohibits the mixing of milk and meat. For example, a cheeseburger can never be Kosher. Milk and meat cannot even be served at the same meal, such as a glass of milk with a steak dinner. The African pastoralists do not boil the milk as they believe that this will prevent further milk production from that cow

Based on research, most of the practices which were in practice or being enforced is declared to be a myth; however, one aspect is certain–such common practices where milk is common is based on nothing but just gratefulness towards milk and the cow. That could be only because she provides milk which is, or so far presumed to be, necessary for the human to not just thrive but merely survive. Through the civilizations, there were no other foods on which a human child could have survived. It may appear little boastful; however, have a glance on the child. How do they survive? Either on the mother’s milk or cow’s milk. Due to their invaluable contributions, human as a race got in better shape. The gratefulness and considerate attitudes of human towards the creature lead us to portray cow as mother.

Fall to Cheeseburger

Now, milk is just a liquid white in the colour and found packed in plastic or paper containers, based on the preference of dairy producer and marketing agent. It is found the chilled section of the supermarket, where chilling cold often burns the finger. In the corporate pantry, it is used to tame the bitterness of coffee. It is also poured in blackish boiling tea concoction and it dissolves itself to whiten the blackish cloud. In the super-fast chain outlets, cheese covers the burnt loin of the body which produces it. In the households, it is used to make curd which often marinates the carcass of the chicken, lamb, and even its own mother’s body, beef.  It is used to make the butter which often seems naked and incomplete; unless the word chicken is uttered.

Image of Cheeseburger | Source:, Shutterbug75

What is leading the transformations

The culture of food is always transformative and continuously affected by culture, availability of food, human’s historical belief, conditioning and established understanding about food and its impact on human health. In the last few decades, with the development of television, social media and extended culture exchanges, lead to drastic transformations in our food behaviours. Disconnect with the origin of food and rampant brutality in the dairy industry are other reasons which are leading continuous disrespect towards the life-fluid.

Food for thought no longer focuses on food, itself

We are getting disconnected with ourselves with a quest to connect with something important. We do not know who we are. We do not know what we drink. We do not know what we eat.  Food for thought no longer focuses on food, itself. Food has become almost on the least preferred point to be thought upon. It is not at all new and unacceptable to see people keep blabbering and chattering while eating and partying. In the household, people keep watching television while eating. Some people will not even start eating unless they start doing something so-called important like switching YouTube. Food is merely secondary or meaningless stuff which is just crushed and thrown into the stomach. Once we go through such kind of behaviours, we will slowly get disconnected with the food itself. Once such behaviours are getting matured, disrespecting anything and everything is not at all uncommon.

Blatant brutality in the dairy industry is another factor which is leading our transformative behaviours. Disrespect of milk is not purely disrespect of the milk, but it is just ungratefulness towards the cow. Because the idea of milk and cow is convoluted, it could be also conveyed as disrespect of cow get its origin from disrespect of the milk, itself. As the respect of either is caused by another, so is the disrespect. At moment, the dairy industry is the most blatantly brutal industry where lame pregnant cows are thrown to die with child protruding his/her face and glancing at the people and truck which is pulling the dying mother. It is the same industry where the male calf is shot with a bullet because that is a cheaper way to eliminate the planetary burden. Moreover, such brutality is intermittently shown to the public and intelligently portrayed as an acceptable norm. Such continued practices are systematically desensitizing human of its own feeling and emotion. It is leaving the human devoid of gratefulness. The question arises–In there a possibility of any product from such a brutal industry could be respectable?

Vimal Kumar

Vimal Kumar is Naval Architect by profession and an education enthusiast. He is attempting to make knowledge accessible beyond the boundary of societal barriers. He also strives to pen down the untangled whirlwind of mind. He can be contacted on email: