Thursday, December 27, 2007


It took six men to hold the goat down. They laid the animal, no bigger than an adult sized golden lab on its side, his neck hanging over a makeshift stone hole. Around us, there were several skinned goats hanging in the alleys of the Dharavi slum—Asia’s biggest—in central Mumbai.

The men were sweating as they held the goat down, their lean biceps bulging as they pressed the animal’s legs on to the ground. With one fast slash, a slit was made across the goat’s neck. Blood poured out, its color greatly contrasting to the animal’s snow-white fur. The goat screamed a guttural shriek and tried to wriggle out of his position. It was no use; the men were too skilled and the goat too dumb. Both the men and the goat remained in their positions. A thick, lime green paste, which was likely part-digested food, came up through the goat’s esophagus and out through the goat’s neck as it attempted to vomit. Even when the goat should have been dead, it continued to shake and scream. After what seemed like a week, both the men’s muscles and the goat’s muscles relaxed as the animal seized all movement. The whole procedure lasted two minutes. The image and sounds, however, are burned in my brain.

This isn’t unique of Dharavi slum—we just happened to be there during the ceremony. Many goats in India and elsewhere were sacrificed for Eid. In Delhi, many of the goats had decorations around their necks and painted horns of green and yellow. Children paraded their temporary pets around on leashes. Muslims celebrate the festival as a commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, under the order of God.

After watching the goat, we walked through the rest of the slum, partly in a daze. We learned that the annual turnover of work from the slum is approximately $665 million every year, with most of its workers earning less than two dollars a day. In this slum is the city’s recycling center, pottery factory, bakery, soap factory and many, many small scale industries that support India’s economy. Not one person asked us for money. The adults and children looked relatively healthy and happy. While the people in Dharavi slum do lack basic infrastructure facilities like sanitation and healthcare, maybe they do have reason to celebrate this year, with mutton, of course.

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