January 11, 2006

Both Missing

The rickshaw driver told me I was lucky today. I nodded and replied, "we both are lucky." He said, "Yes, yes, we are."

It’s been a long time since I got through to office this quick. At the turn that takes the rider through Saki naka, past the main signal where roads carrying people traveling from Ghatkopar, Kurla, and those from Thane, Bhandup, Kanjur Marg, and Powai meet, it is nice and proper chaotic on regular days. Today, there was little resemblance to the otherwise frothy tide of vehicles, honking, and dust jamming the senses on the daily ride through Saki naka on the Andheri-Kurla road. If you’re lucky, it’ll take you about thirty minutes in the morning to travel the four kilometers from L&T Gardens, past Saki naka, to Marol naka. In the evening rush-hour it can easily take you an hour to traverse the same distance. Once it took me two hours in a BEST bus. I spent the time dreaming at the window that day when I was not looking at the vegetable vendors hawking the only freshness to be found in that part of town.

I wonder if it is a holiday today. I remember only those holidays that I get off from work. Today isn’t an off. So what is it about the light roads then I wonder. I see rickshaws parked on the sides, indicating slack business. I recollect newspaper headlines for an answer to light traffic on the roads. There is none I remember that’ll answer my query. About then the rickshaw driver turns to me and says, “Today is a holiday na, that’s why.”

Then things fall into place. Over the last few weeks, shops, and other establishments lining the route showed off a fairly large population of garlanded goats, some sporting green ribbons on their small, pointed horns and tied to metal or wooden pegs, doors, railings facing the road on either side of the route. Today there was not a single goat visible, nor were the kids who played with the goats as they stood silently, turning this way and that as the children yanked their ears or pulled them by their horns.

I sift through my mind and watch out for shops and establishments from recent memory that hosted in the narrow space fronting them children playing with the goats leading up to Bakri Eid day, today. I find neither. No goats. No children. Both missing.

Surely, only the goats will have copped the knife. But for a moment I wonder what if one of the faithful can’t afford a goat, and is bound by his god to kill today, ‘sacrifice’ as they term it, and has eleven children to feed, but no money to do so, and a god too powerful not to appease.

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