As I write my first blog through this post, my mind goes thinking into many of those times, where we do things for the first time. We are unaware of most of the things that are about to happen and get a first hand experience. We also face hindrances in our way as we progress but that should not anyhow demotivate us from trying something new. Every opportunity brings about a new ray of hope and we never know what it might lead us up to. With sheer determination we can turn every adversity into a good fortune. We have many examples amongst us of such personalities who have done great work in the most humble conditions. One of them being the father of dairy industry in India, Dr. Verghese Kurien. Credited with revolutionizing the face of Indian dairy, Dr Kurien needs no introduction. I got to learn more about his life and work from his autobiography ‘I too had a dream’. The book tells us his story through the words of Gouri Salve, a Mumbai based freelance journalist.
Dr. Kurien was born on 1912 in Calicut, Kerala and was the third of four siblings. He had extraordinary achievements since his childhood and was only fourteen when he joined Loyolla College, Chennai to study Science. He showed his all rounder qualities by excelling in sports activities as well by representing his college in Tennis, Badminton, Cricket and a special interest in Boxing. After studying Engineering, he was selected by TISCO as a graduate apprentice and later studied metallurgy and nuclear physics at Michigan State University. Although he was actually selected for a scholarship in dairy engineering and took some of those courses as well. After he returned, he was asked to join the government dairy at Anand which he had to take up reluctantly. The Kaira district that time was blessed with greats like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Morarji Desai and Tribhuvandas Patel who believed in the progress of its people. Kurien later joined the Kaira District Cooperative upon Tribhuvandas’s persistence. It was the vision of Tribhuvandas Patel who spotted the genius in Kurien and persuaded him to stay on in Anand though Kurien considered himself to be a ‘misfit’ in that place and had initially wanted to run away.
Under Dr. Kurien’s leadership, the dairy progressed from being a humble milk collection centre to the to the world’s largest food marketing business and the country’s largest food brand AMUL. He emphasized on the cooperative structure of the organization and believed that the true development of a nation is in the development of this men and women. He enabled India to nearly double its per capita milk availability and made India’s dairy industry the largest rural employment provider.
He enjoyed the support of all the Prime Ministers in his tenure while fulfilling this great project and everyone trusted his abilities and decisions. But he also faced many trying situations where he had to be bold and take strict stands for the benefit of the farmers. There were many people who wanted his ideas to fail but he never let them be successful. One such story that is mentioned in the book is about the complaint he once received when someone found a dead fly in one of the milk cartons the dairy had sent. Kurien asked for a post mortem to be carried out on the fly. If the fly carried milk in it’s lungs then it would mean that the fly had indeed drown in the milk container after drinking milk from it. But if not, someone had put a dead fly into one of those containers to malign his work and the farmer’s image. Post this, the whole episode died it’s own natural death without anyone mentioning the dead fly.
Dr Kurien incorporated similar cooperative structure while entering the business of mustard oil and fruits and vegetables. He never compromised on the quality of product sold and followed pure ethics even if it meant financial loss. One example of it can be of when they tried to enter the salt market. At the same time, Tata began marketing iodized salt which had occupied a fair share of the market and was of very good quality. Dr Kurien felt that the project was not working out as it should have and had to eventually wind it up.
Though a Malayali, Dr. Verghese Kurien lived in the small town of Anand till his very last breath. Being the person of his competence, he could have easily had the best of the offers from any part of the world and led what we call to be a ‘good life’. But he could never leave the farmers of Anand for anything that came and always worked for their benefit with the least of expectations. He was awarded with many national and international honours but never let any of those make him complacent. His life is a learning for us. He taught us to be a person who can be competent in his field of study and do our work with full integrity. While doing so we can always work towards the benefit of the people around us and who are involved in our lives. His life as reflected through this book serves as an inspiration to many youngsters who are into the threshold of stepping into the world to do extraordinary work. He teaches us to be patriotic in our way without letting greed make us its slave. I wish more people read about his life as it is inspiring in every way possible.