Many years ago, my family bought a goat, pure snow-white, in distant Okhaldhunga. We walked and carried it alternatively to Kathmandu in 18 days flat. I remember very little of our trek back home as I was under three feet. The phrase ‘under three feet’ gained currency in the Nepali tourism world as hotels would describe children entitled to a 50 per cent discount on their services.
From surreal Okhaldhunga we returned to our roots in the museum city of devotees – Bhaktapur. Locals would view us as people who went beyond Banepa, which is the farthest most Bhaktapurians travelled those days. Most importantly, we had a goat, a white one at that, a rarity back then. Most people could not afford a goat, let alone a white one, regarded as a deity. The goat was a friendly creature. Before and after school, I would offer him grass and water. Dashain was a big family event. All our extended family would come days ahead and stay with us until Tihar. It would be a joyous moment for us. We would fly kites, play marbles or practise bamboo ‘guns.’ I would also show off our four-legged white sibling and brag about it as the ‘bahan’, or vehicle, of Lord Indra.
When we had enough of the goat and the feast, my cousins and I would walk to Siddipokhari, where we would climb up onto the back of the leftover of our family Studio Baker mini pick-up truck that my father and his brother had brought from Delhi. Life was trudging along happily for us. I was oblivious of the tragedy that was to fall upon us in Dashain.
As the main days of Dashain neared, more fringe family members arrived, but empty-handed. They were supposed to bring ducks, chickens, even pheasants and a goat or two. Those days it was impossible to get eggs, let alone fowls and goats in Bhaktapur at the eleventh hour. As the elders started debating about the problem of livestock, my father’s younger brother came up with a brilliant idea. Why not kill the white goat? My father could not dissent.
As our fringe family relished the white goat’s cadaver with ardour, my family stayed in a room. My father, who could not get away, sat with his brothers and cousins for the feast, teary-eyed. He did not touch the meat. My mother cried, so did I and my sister. At night, I prayed to the goddess to give me my goat back. In my dream, I saw the goat frisking around happily. As I tried to hold him, I woke up to the sad reality that he would never come back.
A version of this article appears in print on October 15, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.