"I don't know much about white revolution.. . . but he was my father!!" whispered Laatiben Bharwad, struggling to speak after hours of crying.
Bharwad was one of the thousands of milk producers who had come to Amul Dairy plant in Anand from several villages across the state to pay homage to 'their father' Verghese Kurien.
As the news of Kurien's demise spread across the state, Anand -- otherwise a sleepy town of Gujarat, woke up to thousands of farmers from far and near who poured in to pay their last tribute to the man who transformed this small town into the milk capital of India.
By 11 am, the traffic police personnel were deployed at key traffic to cordon off the road through which the hearse would travel from the Amul Dairy plant premises to 'Kailas Bhoomi', the local crematorium.
In his early days at Anand, Kurien hated the place, where he had come after a bustling and busy life in New York.
Not only did he persistently tried to leave the 'godforsaken place' (as he stated in his biography 'I Too Had a Dream'), his efforts paid off and he was about to bid adieu to Anand when Tribhuvandas Patel, founder chairman of Kaira District Co-operative, came to him and asked to stay for sometime to help Kaira Co-operative in setting up a processing plant.
Kurien agreed, and devoted his entire life here.
Even he may not have thought that Anand would be his karmabhoomi and home for rest of his life.
The fact that his life was entirely dedicated in serving the farmers of Gujarat was evident from Kurien being bid adieu with a 'Sarva Dharma Prarthana' (All Religion Prayer) by a trio of Hindu, Muslim and Christian priests. Kurien was a Syrian Orthodox Christian.
It was also known that Kurien had expressed special instructions on how the last rites should be performed on his body.
"Recently, he had asked us to cremate his body electrically, so that no wood is wasted.
"He preferred to be cremated in a manner that could relate with the farmers of Gujarat, despite being a Christian," said a Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation official.
Ever since Kurien's demise in the early hours of Sunday, at Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital, the milk and milk products manufacturing plant almost came to a standstill, with a few butter and cheese processing machines running. Hundreds of workers stalled work for a day to pay homage to the man who gave India its first dairy co-operative movement.
"In 1980, when I was just 20 years old, I joined the Kaira Co-operative's butter plant on a contract basis.
"I had hardly worked for three years there, that one day Dr Kurien came up to me and motivated me to buy cattle and get into milk production.
Today, because of him, I am earning an amount that would have been impossible if I remained as a worker in the plant. I am also a member of the Virol Dairy in Sojitra village," reminisced 51-year-old Kantibhai Parmar, while controlling his tears.
Image: Verghese Kurien