Of goats and men

Flying qurbani by Raja Islam

The second eid or Eid Ul Azha is almost upon us, tis the season to be bloody as they say in muslim households all across the world. Mine is no different and I have readied my apparatus for buying 4 goats for my family. Obviously this apparatus has been carefully chosen to maximize my buying potential for the least amount of rupees over the years, yes I am the designated goat poacher err purchaser of the clan.

Every 50 years a goat purchaser is chosen from my clan for his finest bargaining skills, for his silver tongued charm, for his dexterity with animals. Actually it all boils down to who wants to hang out with the smelly things for a day or two in reality. The apparatus discussed above involves an old shalwar kamiz (one must never wear decent or upscale clothing) at the animal mandi, prices are based upon first impressions thus a middle class one must be made. The second prop one must use is a namaz ki topi or skull cap. This gives a very pious and honest impression, making the seller trust you and engage you as these pious men are those who make the biggest and the most solid purchases. A prayer bead in the right hand whose fingers are moving at random while discussion cannot do any harm either.

Obviously by now you are wondering as to why all this is necessary to go and purchase a few goats. Well dear reader little do you know what is in store for you when you reach that market. Every year more and more con men arrive armed with investors at their backs and tricks a court magician would be proud off to try to sell us their overfed animals at 4 times the going rate. This is how a goat whose market price is somewhere between 4000 to 5000 Rs is sold for 20,000 Rs to the buyer on this eid. Thus this is a battle and there are several rules of engagement involved, let me outline some of them.

3091296561_14fa3aed67_m1)      The first and foremost thing to do when approaching an animal market is to avoid the fluffers, these are people standing just before the market offering you good looking animals for a decent price at your convenience, obviously they are all fakes and will steal your animals after delivering them to your house that very night, Avoid and ignore totally and dive into the madness.

2)      Never ever approach from the front. Meaning the direct walk to the animal in the market and enquiring straight up on its price is a big huge no no! Learn to loiter. One must spot a good animal and then hover around it, as the other buyers stupidly engage in conversation one must eye the animal as they would eat it raw right there, this gains the respect of the seller and shows the others that you are a serious buyer.

3)      When finally the seller is stealing sideway glances at you, by your now suspicious loitering you must step up and start petting the animal, caress the forehead, scratch it behind its ears, ruffle the hair but never ever start the conversation with the seller even when he storms off  You just stand there touching and cooing. This gets the seller worked up and he will finally ask you whether you like the animal to which you give a haiku like reply “All animals are nice in the eyes of god”

4)      He will then either give you a gali or a price, you take both with your eyes on the animal slightly nodding as if you might have heard it but never giving a counteroffer.  The seller will be very frustrated at this point and might pull the animal away from you thinking you are some sort of freak or he might ask you what do you think to which you must say something which assures him that you have no money.

5)      When the seller realizes that you are indeed some kind of moron he will start discussing with other customers in pure desperation which will give you some sort of idea of what his bottom price is while worked up, while they will not buy because a weird man is caressing the sellers animal with a grin, namely you.

6)      Next fish out exactly and this must be in exact change an amount 10 % less than the sellers bottom price and hand it to him saying you like the animal so much that you have borrowed it from your, chacha mama, old friend, new acquaintance whatever. You then take the goats rope and you walk and not look back. Even if you hear the seller screaming at you do not turn around because then you will just have to pay more, all you have to do is walk to the gate where the transport wallas are standing and leave with an air of resignation which will ensure you get a good rate on the transport as well.

Decked for slaughter by Raja Islam

Obviously the whole routine takes some getting used to and must be executed perfectly to ensure the best buying price and quality. Care must also be maintained to make sure that the goat in question has two teeth, no visible damage and should preferably be castrated because then the meat will be quite tender( all puns intended) how you will check for that quality can neither be outlined here nor printed, use your imagination. These are the common traits every sacrificer wants in their animal. The next step is to display it right outside your house at a prominent vantage point, if you can afford to you must put a shamiana and lights around it as well as keep someone as a handler who will quote triple your purchasing price to any onlooker, photo opportunist or family which happens to enquire. This is mandatory as then you will form the proper aura and impression of the holy sacrifice about to take place.

Eid day will finally arrive and then the holy sacrificer (by this point holier than thou) should put on as much ittar as possible and after prayer in the wee hours of fajar come home and use the biggest knife the rented butcher/carpenter/gardener (at eid they all work) have in their possession to let loose on the poor beast. Some people prefer to wear small masks as to not let the flying blood enter their nostrils and remind me of Hannibal Lecter. Actually I have tried whispering “hello clarice” to the goats but by the time they see the knife the poor dears are busy defecating their feelings all over the front porch to understand. Oh!! also of most importance is the fact that the goats head must be pointed towards mecca and that it must endure no pain as you cut its throat open. How the no pain part is achieved is still beyond me but usually the bleating stops after about a minute or two and the cutting/slicing for the evening bbqs can begin.

At the end of it all one must make sure to not have the blood and the offals cleaned up from their porch for at least a couple of hours so that everyone knows that you have achieved the nirvana of a holy sacrifice. If you ask me the holiness finishes when the animals are castrated at a tender age to appeal to us buyers but hey, what do I know?

Eid mubarak!!


As published in “The Friday Times” on 4th Dec 2009

  1. thank you for publishing this witty piece! it’s great to see a bit of humour when we’re all wallowing. we all need a laugh, a chuckle, and that’s exactly what The Goat-buyer’s Bible did for me. See you at the next bakra bazar and may we see who gets whose goat first! 🙂 (Poppy Agha also contributed to this comment)

  2. LOL! I did my own Qurbani at Hajj and after that Slaughterhouse our slaughter techniques are extremely humane! Oh and our Bakras are way better. The arab goats are extremely small!!


  3. All I can say is that it was a great piece. I had a great laugh reading it. Sadly I have never had any experience going to the bakra mandi. We have always had it outsourced to someone else who would buy our lambs and goats for us. 😀

  4. Great post, enjoyed the read. I only have one question, is there any move at all towards ending this tradition? I’m assuming probably not but I thought it might be worth asking.

  5. hahaha, loved the way you described everything from how an animal should be bought to how it should be sacrificed! 😛

    And of course lets not forget, amazing picture by Raja… 🙂 I met him at a yellO.pk meet up… Very simple man but has an eye for the camera!


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