About meals and place of milk in diet

Dr. Mukund Naware
Dr. Mukund Naware

Dr. Naware recounts the initial years of his professional life journey that began in 1970 at Uruli Kanchan. This was before he joined NDDB in . In this memoir he writes about his days at Bhartiya Agro Industries Foundation and the unforgettable experience of meeting Balkoba ji, brother of Acharya Vinoba Bhave.

The year 1970 had begun very well for me. On 1st of January I had landed in Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izzatnagar, as a Trainee Officer deputed by Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF) to undergo three months’ Advance Course in Physio Pathology of Reproduction and Artificial Insemination. That course was usually meant for Captains and Lieutenants from Army’s Remount Veterinary Corps but for the first time a batch of twelve civilian officers from BAIF was entertained there.

Arrival in Uruli Kanchan

On completion of training at IVRI, we reported back at Uruli Kanchan in the month of April. We underwent an orientation program that provided us the genesis, programmes of BAIF and its mission. Yes, Shri Manibhai Desai called BAIF a Mission and said we were to work in the field like missionaries.

The idea of BAIF emerged from the activities taken up by Ashram Goshala which was  a part of Nature Cure Centre (NCC)  established with the blessings of Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, it was but natural that in all our dealings we were to cherish the values preached by Mahatma Gandhi. 

During our orientation programme the lecture by Shri Manibhai Desai was most inspiring. Apart from his efforts to develop Gir cows he also told us how he studied the anatomy of cow by conducting post mortem as and when any animal died of a disease in Goshala and while dissecting he referred to the book of Veterinary Anatomy and studied the organs. We also gathered that he had read the book ‘Animal Breeding Plans’ authored by Jay Lush on Population Genetics which was supposed to be very difficult to understand for graduates like us. With these attributes no doubt Shri Manibhai Desai was our Philosopher and Guide. Dr. MR Marathe, Dr. DV Rangnekar and Dr. AP Phatak were also there as senior staff. After orientation one by one the officers were posted at BAIF Breeding Centers that were opened in Panjarpol Sansthas and Cooperative Sugar Factories..

Ashram; Nature Cure Centre

I was retained at HQ to coordinate the field activity and for organizing supply of liquid nitrogen to all Centers. In NCC there were houses in a row and I was offered one of them on sharing basis with a colleague. In the next month Dr. SB Gokhale who had completed MVSc in Animal Genetics at IVRI also joined BAIF and he started sharing accommodation with me.  We both had graduated from Nagpur Veterinary College and knew each other very well and had common hobbies like Indian classical music. Around same time Dr. AL Joshi who had Doctorate in Biochemistry joined us. We had no problem regarding residence but main problem was food. So we decided to try Thali meals available from NCC as our first alternative.

Thali Meal

The Nature Cure Centre ( NCC ) had a regular kitchen to cook meals for their patients. They had a number of cottages and rooms to house patients who came there from Mumbai / Gujarat to overcome chronic ailments and particularly lifestyle diseases. Many persons came there only for weight reduction program. Once at the Centre, they were prescribed a balanced diet plus daily exercise and physical activities like sweeping the ground with broom and rotating a stone mill in a sitting position with both the hands. The Wheat and Jowar Aata thus produced was used in making Rotis in their kitchen.

The NCC offered Thali meals with Rotis which were coarse, Chawal that was not white, Dal  which was plain, Vegetable curry that was bland, Chutney which was not spicy, Butter milk with little trace of butter, Tomato Cucumber salad and a dumpling of Yellow Butter from cow milk. Also each Thali was so designed that the total daily supply of salt would not exceed three grams. With that kind of description the Thali was unpalatable and not attractive. For us it was very costly also. We tried that Thali for couple of days and realized that we were not meant for it and could not continue with it. In fact we had noticed that many patients in NCC also didn’t like that Thali food and number of them were actually going towards bus stand in the evening to eat Farsaan and Chivda to compensate that less salt intake. 

Self Cooked Meals; some experiments

Dr. Gokhale and I decided to cook our own meals. We went to Pune and purchased kitchen utensils. I purchased Hawkins Pressure Cooker and Dr. Gokhale went for a Gas Stove with two burners. I remember it was on 27th June 70 that I purchased a two liter hindalium  Paweli for heating milk which is still with me. It was useful for all of us since milk was essential for tea and for drinking as such. Same way we purchased other items on sharing basis. 

For vegetables, grains and number of other items we had weekly village market held just outside the NCC. Visiting that weekly market for fresh vegetables was really worth and enjoyable. Myself and Gokhale would go and fetch our weekly requirement with good bargain and once home we could sort out grain and get it ground at a flour mill and all that was done on weekly holiday. For  grocery we fixed a shop and soon we started our kitchen. Initially we had enthusiasm even for making Chapatis but soon we realized that it was cumbersome and asked one watchman to help us. We could prepare rest of the items ourselves. Women from neighborhood families were curious about our trial and errors and soon news became public. 

Somehow this news reached to Shri Manibhai Desai also. One day he straightaway asked me about our kitchen activity. When I told him that we hardly had any alternative he categorically said that we should not be spending more time on this activity and our duty was much more important ! But it was difficult for us to follow his advice and we continued to cook our meals for number of months. 

How long one can go without meal is a question. However, at Uruli Kanchan I met one personality who lived on milk for number of days just like a meal. Could milk become a square meal ? I have no answer. But I had an occasion to meet him.


My colleague by name Uday (उदय) was keeping financial accounts in BAIF and we were friends. He had spent more time in Ashram and knew many people. One day he told me that Shri Balkoba (बाळकोबा) Bhave, the younger brother of Acharya Vinoba Bhave was back to Uruli Kanchan Ashram and we could go and pay our respects to him. With profound respect Balkoba was called as Balkoba only.

Acharya Vinoba Bhave had two brothers namely Balkoba and Shivaji. All three were bachelors, followed Gandhian principles and did social work.

Acharya Vinoba Bhave had two brothers namely Balkoba and Shivaji. All three were bachelors, followed Gandhian principles and did social work. It is on record that Mahatma Gandhi visited Uruli Kanchan for seven days in the end of March 1946 when he treated hundreds of patients with naturopathy with the help of Dr. Mehta, Balkoba Bhave, Manibhai Desai and Dr. Sushila Nair.

Milk as meal

My colleague and friend Uday (उदय) who was responsible for keeping accounts in BAIF had spent much more time than us in the Ashram and knew many people.

One day Uday told me that Shri Balkoba (बाळकोबा) Bhave, the younger brother of Acharya Vinoba Bhave was back to Uruli Kanchan Ashram and we could go and pay our respects to him. With profound respect Balkoba was called as Balkoba only.

I had heard about Balkoba. In fact he was there when the NCC at Uruli Kanchan was started way back in 1946. He himself had also undergone treatment for a chronic disease while at Uruli Kanchan. So every set up now seen at Uruli Kanchan had linkage to this past history starting with Balkoba. Every year he spent six months at Uruli kanchan and rest of his time in Pawnar Ashram of Acharya Vinoba Bhave and at Dhulia. I was curious and keen to meet him. Uday had met him number of times.

Meeting Balkoba

So one evening we went to the cottage where Balkoba was staying. It had a thatched roof and we had to bow our head while entering it. As we entered I saw Balkoba sitting right in front of us on a mattress covered by a stark white sheet. The first thing that struck me was his resemblance with Acharya Vinoba Bhave. As we went near him I touched his feet and folded my hands. He welcomed us and offered us Chatai lying in front of him. We sat on it.

” Balkoba, this is Dr. Naware. He has joined the Foundation. He is a Vet.” Uday told him.


Balkoba looked at me and expressed his pleasure on this introduction.


” It is good, Manibhai is making big effort to increase cow milk production and you are joining him. Where do you come from ? ” He asked me.


I told him that I was born in Satara and brought up in Nagpur.


” Do you take cow milk ? ” He asked me.


I told him that as a child I had taken cow milk but later on cow milk was not available in cities.


Therefore I had taken buffalo milk for a longer time.


“First YOU should take cow milk as a matter of principle.” He told me. ” When you take cow milk then only you have moral right to tell people to consume it. When Manibhai is committed to produce cow milk you will have to tell people to consume it. And before that you should consume it.” He said.

I appreciated his point because people had also liking for buffalo milk on account of higher fat content and its ability to whiten tea. Non availability was another matter.


” Do you know how important much cow milk is ?” Balkoba continued, ” How much I owe to this माऊली ..Mother cow…If she had not been there I would have died long back. I am alive because of her. Now whenever I see this माऊली … tears roll down from my eyes. She is my माऊली my true mother.” He said full of emotion.

I had heard that Balkoba was on cow milk diet for number of days perhaps weeks. Now he was confirming how he owed his existence to consuming cow milk.

After a little pause he again started praising cow milk for its nutritive values.

” I have lived on cow milk all these years. Do you know, it is complete food. It gives strength and stamina. It has power to cure so many diseases. All proteins, vitamins whatever body needs everything is there in cow milk. But they say it has less of iron and they have advised me that I should take extra iron.

That is why now with milk I chew some leaves of raw spinach ” He said pointing his finger towards a bundle of spinach leaves lying by his side. But for this he wanted me to understand importance of cow milk as a complete food and carry the message to the people.

Seeing those spinach leaves I admired Balkoba’s willingness to accept at least one deficiency in milk. I knew he had lot of experience on its therapeutic values. I had not known anybody with so much faith in cow milk. Also I had seen that his devotion to cow was honest and unparalleled. The purpose of our meeting was over.

With that impression I asked for his leave and folded my hands.


Acharya Vinoba Bhave had two brothers namely Balkoba and Shivaji. All three were bachelors, followed Gandhian principles and did social work. It is on record that Mahatma Gandhi visited Uruli Kanchan for seven days in the end of March 1946 when he treated hundreds of patients with naturopathy with the help of Dr. Mehta, Balkoba Bhave, Manibhai Desai and Dr. Sushila Nair.

The Nisargopchar Gramsudhar Trust was formed on 1st April, 1946 where nature cure was followed on the guidelines given by Mahatma Gandhi. Afterwards Balkoba, apart from practicing nature cure studied philosophy and authored couple of books on Gita and one titled सोपा ग्रामीण निसर्गोपचार i.e. Simple Rural Nature Cure.


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