Utterly, bitterly isolated

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"Beware the ides of March," said the Soothsayer to Julius Caesar. No such thing may have been uttered to Dr Varghese Kurien last week, but he was pretty much aware of the plot to unseat him from the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation by the very farmers to whom he had been a demi-God till recently.

He presented the image of a man betrayed by his trusted aides when he said adieu to the world of dairy cooperatives on Monday.

But Dr Kurien certainly does not fall under the category of those who fade into the woodwork. By citing the Malayalam proverb, "

Muttathe Mullakku Manamilla

" (the jasmine in your courtyard has no fragrance), his message to the Government was clear. He may have lingered a bit too long but there is no denying the shabby treatment meted out to someone who had led, drop-by-drop, India's White Revolution.

Dr Kurien has always been outspoken, comparing hamburgers of McDonald's to `cutlets' (pronounced cut-lace) made by grandmothers back home in Kerala. When dairy major, Kraft, sought a JV with Amul, he is said to have turned down the offer as he wanted no part of a `Krafty Amul'. This straight-shooting seems to have earned him more enemies than friends.

Now, all that is past him and Dr Kurien may be planning to don a new role a mentor to dairy cooperatives outside India. And the choice of his next assignment is obviously designed to send a message of his displeasure to the Government. Clearly, the Pakistan reference was not one made to spite the powers that be.

"Look, I no longer have an active role to play in dairy cooperatives. Over a dozen Pakistanis called on me last month, inviting me to play a role in developing an Anand-like model in their country. It is a standing invitation, wherein the President, Gen Pervez Musharaff, has expressed his desire to set up a co-operative dairy structure similar to the one here in Anand. I may or may not go to Pakistan, but I can be an advisor," says Dr Kurien.

On the first day, out of his loved office as Chairman of GCMMF, Dr Kurien seemed quite relaxed talking from his adopted home. "I have had my innings and I am quite happy with what I have achieved," he says, adding that "Anand is where I built my home and there is no going away from here."

Dr Kurien says he has come to terms with a world outside the cooperative movement. But there is no denying the underlying sorrow.

Dr Kurien may have compared himself to Sachin Tendulkar, answering newspersons in his exit interview, but he seems to be more in the shoes of Saurav Ganguly right now.

But, then, who could ever have the last word with Dr Kurien as he reminded from his adopted city of Anand: "I do not wear boots... So, I guess I will have to hang up my chappals".

That is the quintessential Milk Man of India.

Vinod Mathew

Related Stories:
India's `milkman' Kurien calls it a day
`PFI status to NDDB strikes at co-op credo' - Diversion of co-op funds to MNCs imminent, says Kurien
Amul, NDDB back to doing business with each other
Kurien sacks IRMA director; HC moved
IRMA battle spills on to the road

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 22, 2006)
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