100 Days in India Project
31/ 100 Sleeping with the Goats
Having been shown Gaffar’s new rooftop toilet, the tour of his house was complete. We still had plenty of questions for him though. One of which was why there were so many blankets and cushions up on the roof, even though he had already said they never go up there in the daytime? Well, he told us, slightly bemused, everyone sleeps together up there for the six months of the year when it is too hot to sleep in the house. Don’t we do that where we live, he asked?
Not only do all the human inhabitants of the house sleep up there, but the goats are brought up every night too, and not only in the summer. In the daytime the family goat herd is coaxed outside to roam around the narrow streets, eating whatever they can find and generally being a nuisance. At night time, they said, it is far too risky to leave them out because of the dogs. Although there didn’t appear to be much of an issue in Varanasi where dogs, goats, cows and children all sleep together. Sometimes some dogs would come upstairs too so, as with many of the things I tried to understand in India, I really didn’t know what was going on.
Just before sunset, Gaffar would send out his children to locate their goats (they were all unmarked, so I have no idea how they knew they were theirs) and bring them back home to safety. Each child carrying one animal through the house, past the kitchen where it would be added to a curry at some point in the future, up two flights of shiny stairs, and onto the rooftop for some evening cuddles. Presumably they were given pyjamas if there was a chill in the air, and they did have a handy toilet they could use.