Friday, 6 October 2006

Bahkra (goat) bemusement...

Last night, I was online with a friend I'm going to visit in London this weekend. One of the wonderful things about our friendship is that he spent several years in Pakistan (he's English), so he understands a side of me that none of my other close friends quite get, b/c they don't know the culture. I can go to him with all the family/cultural stuff I can't take anywhere else. It turns out that one of his Pakistani friends is visiting this week and we're meeting him at the pub Saturday evening.

Of course, our conversation often turns towards Pakistan, and last night was no exception. I was complaining about not being able to find anywhere lay a jumper to dry flat, especially since the cats have taken over the dining room - he had an easy but untenable solution (no, it *wasn't* the microwave - you know who you are). Then he said, "Isn't it funny how Pakistanis don't have pets?" That took me back...

It was December and I was six. My parents reckoned it was ok to take me out of school for a month, and we were in Pakistan, currently at my dhadhi's (paternal grandmother) house in Sahiwal (southeastern Punjab). One cool morning, I walked out and found a goat tethered to our neighbours' 'tree'. I went to pet it - I remember horns bumping against my upper chest/shoulders, so it must have been a billy goat rather than a nanny goat. Whilst the adults were busy, I went out and petted and talked to him - he was white with black patches all over. Over the course of the day, he stopped butting quite so hard and seemed quite happy with my fussing over him. The adults took note and let me feed him. By evening, we were best mates.

The next couple of days followed the same pattern. On the third morning or so, he was gone. I was devastated and asked everyone where he was. I was told that he had run away, and I asked if they would look for him, if he was ok. Of course, they said.
(My friend's oh-so-sensitive male response at this point in the story? "Nah, it had been slaughtered.") Dusk fell, and after a day's play, I asked what was for dinner. My Baji (a term used for older female relatives such as sisters and cousins) Shaista showed me the pot she was cooking in, and I thought I saw a goat's head. I thought, "It's HIM!" No, I reassured myself, the adults wouldn't lie to me. It wasn't my goat. I ate dinner with a clear conscience, but was puzzled when I tried the meat and one of my parents said in Punjabi, "She ate it; she doesn't know." But every now and then, for the remainder of our stay in Sahiwal, I kept an eye out.

Later that night, blissfully unaware of my betrayal of my horned friend, I was being fussed over by one of my older male cousins who'd come to visit - I'm the oldest on my dad's side, but I'm one of the youngest on my mother's; Mohsin is a good 14 years my senior - and I told him, with all the gravity that only a six-year-old can muster, that I was convinced there was nothing in people's heads, b/c you could hear if someone whispered in one ear and you were at the other. "Let's try it," I suggested.

Mohsin swung me up, and I said, "Daddy, daddy, say something!" I listened intently at the other ear.
"Helloooo, Mohsin!"
"SEE!" I said triumphantly, with complete disregard for my elders and male authority. "You have nothing between your ears!"

In my defence, you may as well start as you mean to carry on.

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