My grandfather died earlier this year and he’s been on my mind a lot lately because yesterday would have been his 91st birthday. I like to think I inherited his love of words, travel, and buttery goodness. He always had a great sense of humoUr and I know he’d prefer we think happy thoughts when remembering him. And so, I present to you one of my favoUrite articles he wrote and hope it brings a smile or two.
We Go Goating
Chaudhry Sahib has been consistently exercising his individuality every year at Eid-ul-Azha. Unlike ordinary mortals, he gets a goat delivered at his house. This year became an exception since he decided to go for more variety. So we went ‘goating’ in his car to the bakra mandi earmarked every year by the local administration.
All went well. There were animals in plenty: aristocratic goats to suit pockets of politicians and bureaucrats, bourgeois goats for those with lesser means and awami goats for the awam. We bought one goat each after haggling over their price. The dealer, swearing by God that he was at a loss parting with the animals, congratulated after he had pocketed the money and handed over the goats with the yard long jute ropes. “May Almighty Allah accept your sacrifice.”
“Aameen!” we echoed.
But this was not the end of our odyssey, only the beginning. The main problem of getting the goats home lay ahead. Chaudhry Sahib, fancying himself to be a logistics expert, had brought along with him a coil of nylon rope.
“Not to worry, this will solve our problem!”” he said, and started to uncoil the rope.
“Hold on, Chaudhry Sahib! What exactly do you propose to do?”
“Simple, yaar! We tie a goat to each end, secure its middle to the rear of my car and tow them home. Why? What’s difficult about towing a goat or two goats for that matter? Or better still, we have them hoisted up to the car rack, tie them down firmly and drive home.”
We discussed the proposal but abandoned it. Even if our goats were disciplined enough to be towed behind a car without wrenching off its rear bumper; even assuming they were docile enough to allow themselves to be hoisted six feet without bashing in the car roof; and even if we could get home without attracting the adverse attention of traffic cops; there was the problem of getting them down safely again. We could visualise a thoroughly dented body, smashed car windows, bruised bodies and crowds enjoying the sight of two men employing such unorthodox methods of transporting goats.
We soon found a solution to our problem. Around us were vehicles of every capacity, with their owners yelling their guts out, announcing their destinations. We sighted a van whose owner was shouting: “Ek aur, ek aur!” (One more, one more!)
“Khan, do bakray bhi hain!” (Khan, there are two goats too!)
“Aray baba, chaar bakray bhi lay aao, koi masla nahin!”
He helped us to push the goats into his van, I followed them in and Chaudhry Sahib got into his own car.
Khan gave two hefty thwacks on the body of the van and yelled ‘Janey do!’ (Let her go!). I found a seat and the van moved off.
A census revealed that the occupants of the van, apart from its driver, conductor and myself, included six large goats and two chaps clad in embroidered waistcoats, baggy shalwars, large turbans and sporting fierce-looking beards. In the far inner corner sat a bespectacled young man quietly reading a paperback. As the last of the passengers to arrive, I had no choice but to occupy the only seat available and that was — hold your nose — between two of the goats, one of them being our own, the other belonging to ‘them’.
Believe me, dear reader, for a taste of sheer hell on four wheels, there is nothing to beat a five mile trip in a rattling junk heap that passes for a van, and on top of that — but let me elaborate. Every few moments, the contraption lurched about, one or the other of the goats trod on my feet and I let out an agonised ouch! Matters became worse when one of the goats (theirs) gave me a vicious prod that threatened to crush my rib cage.
The van rattled on. Chaudhry Sahib who had been following the van, shot ahead of it as it approached our mohalla and rounded up a couple of lads to help in getting the goats off.
It had been a successful hunt as all were full of praises for the goats we had managed to buy. On the minus side, I am sure no laundryman will be prepared to take on the job of restoring my shalwar kameez. They now resemble batik, the famous Indonesian technique of dyeing fabric. The black and blue patches on my body is where I have been playfully prodded, poked and butted by two goats, one on each side, to enliven my trip from the goat fair.
“Never again, I swear, Chaudhry Sahib! Martyrdom has its merits, no doubt, but I don’t intend attaining it like this.”