The Case of the Missing Milk

What happens when personal responsibility is ignored

P. Venkat Raman
3 min readFeb 16, 2021


Cartoon by P. Venkat Raman

About three decades ago, I was walking the corridors at my work and saw a short yet poignant story pinned to the outside of some cubicle. I never forgot about it.

Let’s take a look:

​Whose Job is it Anyway?

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

So succinct, yet so expressive of the practical issues surrounding shoulda, coulda, woulda, perfectly knit together!

This reminds me of another story I have heard when I was a small boy.

The Case of the Missing Milk

This is set in India where it is auspicious to bathe the idol of Lord Shiva in pure milk.

Once, a king ordered that a huge vat be set up at a temple for an elaborate ceremony of such a bathing. All the merchants of the kingdom were asked to privately donate a jug of milk each by pouring their offering into that vat while praying and seeking the Lord’s blessings. The vat, filled with such donations, would provide the milk required for this special ceremony. The vat was so huge that people needed to lift their jugs above their heads to pour in their offerings.

Each merchant reasoned thus: “All the other merchants will be adding milk into the vat. If I just take a jug of water and pour it into the vat, it wouldn’t make much difference. I can save some money.”

One by one all the merchants made their private offerings, secretly applauding their own smartness.

After all the offerings were collected, the priest arrived to find a sumptuous supply of pure water for the Lord’s bath.



P. Venkat Raman

A tortoise among internet marketing hares. Slowly inching toward the goal.