The Goat.

It can't even be called a road, really. The little winding mess that links Beckbagan to the Mainland China lane.

Coming back from school, I always used to keep an eye out for Millie's Primary School, shoved into one side of the street. A little cement box, with the door open and darkness within, but never so dark that you couldn't see row after row of sweaty pupils and a harassed teacher intently - some less than others - engaged in the great learning process.

If I craned my neck a bit, and if it wasn't too sunny, I could see the blackboard inside and the things on it. Didn't seem too different from the things written on the blackboard in my school. Sometimes, the times table. Sometimes, a caricature of some unfortunate soul whose less than stellar body parts were exaggerated for the benefit of public entertainment.

Next to Millie's, stands a pile of makeshift houses surrounding a little square filled with people and birds and cows and goats and puppies, all existing in the harmony that comes with the passing of time. Potential photographs - a crow sitting placidly on the back of a cow chewing hay, a puppy rolling gleefully in the gutter, a little girl picking the puppy up by the scruff of its neck and not seeming to mind that it's covered in mud and cow poop, holding it very close to her chest and disappearing into one of the houses. Puppy has a home. Goats, nudging each other, as they try to get to their food. An occasional angry goat-sound if one of them tries to be too greedy. Animals have a certain etiquette too.

At the end of the road, on the corner, a green and white mosque. Outside, lots of people making noise. A game of cards just by its doors, a yell as someone triumphs, a different kind of yell as someone orders a child to go home. Three or four women drying their saris on the pavement nearby shaking their heads at the futility of the opposite sex. A row of dilapidated cars, rusty and faded, living out their last days. And inside - the doors are usually open - a big empty hall radiating a stillness that the tumult outside does not destroy.

And the goat. The goat on the chair.

There has been a goat standing on a chair on that road for as long as I can remember. It doesn't really do much - it just stands there, surveying its surroundings with a look of haughty grandeur, not unwoven with a certain peace, a certain surety.

Sabir lives in that locality. Once, we were driving through and as we passed the goat, I asked him why it stood on the chair all the time.

"Oh," he said, airily. "He does that. He just likes standing on chairs. He'll go into a sulk if the owner doesn't let him."

"Why does he like standing on chairs?" I asked.

Sabir thought deeply for a minute.

"Well," he said. "You can't expect a goat to sit on it can you?"

Fair point.

The last time I was in Calcutta, when we were crossing that area, I looked for the goat. He wasn't there, neither was the chair.

"Chagol ta kothai?" I asked.

A cryptic question, but Sabir understood.

"He died earlier this year. Just got sick in the morning and was dead that night before anyone realised what was happening." He sounded sad. The goat was a local pet. Everyone knew about the goat-who-stood-on-the-chair. He'd been around forever, and I suppose people didn't expect that to change. I didn't.

I didn't say anything because there was nothing to say really.

When I was going back to Delhi, we wove our way down that street on our way to the airport. Right next to Millie's, stood a cot in the sun. A goat was standing solemnly on the cot.

Oh time, you trickster. 


blinknmiss said...

I'm not sure but I was sure that goat was a she. Had an exotic name too.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you a Capricorn? ;)

Interesting post...