City Life – Winter Couture for the Goats, Walled City
Cold days, warm goats.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
When Old Delhi’s abundant goats start appearing with garlands around their neck, we know we are nearing Eid ul Zuha, the Muslim festival in which the animals are offered as qurbani, or sacrifice. On the other hand, the unmistakable sign of winter in this part of the city is when the area’s goats begin to appear in jackets, sweaters, jumpers, cardigans, blankets, and sometimes even tailored boras, or sacks, very often with their legs snuggled through the sleeves. (Once The Delhi Walla spotted celebrated photographer Steve McCurry shooting a goat clad in such a winter dress, though the place was Meharchand Market, which is outside Old Delhi–see second last photo below).
To be sure, Old Delhi dwellers also keep cats and pigeons but those creatures go without any warm wear. Only the goats enjoy the special treatment.
“Goats are very sensitive to the cold,” says Sabeeha Jhinjhianvi, a homemaker whose house is tucked at one end of Pahari Rajaan, a street also known as Gosht Waali Pahari—hill of the meat–because it is lined with meat shops.
“Goats particular feel cold in the stomach,” she says, adding, “they also suffer from cold-related problems such as the running nose… just like us.”
Wrapping up animals in warm clothing, however, is not unique to the Old Quarter alone. Many of us who have dogs at home do the same for our pets during the winter season.
But, unlike those owning the goats, the caring dog owners don’t eat the dogs.
Zeenat Ansari, who lives in Matia Mahal Bazaar near Jama Masjid, says that many of the families who keep goats at home grow so close to them that it is difficult for them to consider their loved one as a future meal. Instead, she says, the dishes cooked from the pet goats during the Eid are usually distributed among relatives, friends and the poor—in other words, to all those people who do not have a direct emotional connect with the sacrificed goats.
Ms Ansari confesses that her own family postponed the sacrifice of their goat on two consecutive Eids. Last winter her goat was wearing her torn brown cardigan, she says. This winter, however, the goat is nowhere to be seen. “We offered it as qurbani this September in the Eid.”
Perhaps, sacrificing a dearly beloved might be in tune with the true spirit of sacrifice.