'The secretary asked if I would give in writing that I would not slaughter goats inside the building compound during Bakri Eid.'
Syed Firdaus Ashraf highlights the travails of a non-vegetarian family in a predominantly vegetarian housing society in Mumbai.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
I had never encountered the 'militant vegetarian' attitude of some Mumbai housing societies till 2010. It all changed that year when I decided to buy an apartment in a 'vegetarian' housing society.
It was purely by chance that I liked an apartment in northcentral Mumbai that a Muslim family wanted to sell. We agreed on a price and the deal was done. Soon the bank came into the picture for a housing loan and they told me to get a 'no objection certificate' from the building secretary, a pre-requisite for getting a loan.
I approached the building secretary to get the NOC. For more than a week, he avoided me, giving some excuse or the other. After 10 days, fed up, I asked if he was interested in giving me the NOC at all. I had already paid a huge advance to the seller and the bank would not disburse the loan without the NOC.
The building secretary admitted there were some issues in giving me the NOC.
He asked if I would give in writing that I would not slaughter goats inside the building premises during Bakri Eid.
'Is that the only issue?' I asked.
'Yes,' he replied.
If that was the case, I said, he could have told me this 10 days earlier rather than making me wait so long.
'I don't perform any rituals and neither do I nor my family sacrifice goats during Bakri Eid. So I will give you this letter right now,' I told him.
I signed the letter and then asked, 'Is slaughtering a goat during Bakri Eid that big an issue for you?'
He smiled and said, 'Why don't you find out from the seller of your house? He used to slaughter a goat on the terrace every year during Bakri Eid which caused tension in our housing society.'
I later asked the man who sold me the apartment, 'Is it true that you slaughtered a goat during Bakri Eid in the building when the rest of the housing society members were opposed to it?'
'Yes,' he replied. 'But why are you asking me this question?'
When I told him that I had given the housing society a letter assuring the members that I would not slaughter a goat at Bakri Eid, the apartment seller grew annoyed and said, 'You should not have done that. They have no right to tell you that you cannot sacrifice a goat on the building terrace.'
'Why did you sacrifice a goat when the entire housing society is vegetarian?' I asked.
'This building was constructed in 1998,' he said. 'My family was the first to move in. Later the vegetarians bought apartments.'
'These vegetarians dry their papads 364 days on the terrace,' he said. 'I never go to the terrace and use it for just one day a year, and that too to slaughter a goat on Bakri Eid.'
'I slaughtered goats every Bakri Eid under police protection. They (members of the housing society) complained to the police. A policeman came to the terrace when I performed my rituals,' he added. 'A police van was stationed outside the building to prevent trouble. What is wrong? I was just slaughtering a goat according to my religious beliefs.'
'But there is a huge difference between slaughtering a goat and drying papads!' I exclaimed.
'The goat is my dish and the papad is theirs, I don't see any difference.'
Two days after I took possession of the apartment, I received a frantic telephone call from the building secretary. 'You are needed in the society,' he said. 'An urgent matter needs to be discussed.'
I rushed to the building and discovered all the housing society members assembled there.
'What is the problem?' I asked.
'A machiwalla (fish seller) had come and thrown fish water inside the building lift, the place is stinking,' the building secretary told me. 'No machiwalla can ever enter your house! This is a strict vegetarian society!'
I was appalled and asked, 'Do you know what the two most essential things needed for eating fish are?'
He said he had no idea.
'You need a refrigerator and cooking gas,' I said. 'I have neither because I have not moved into my home yet. How can you then blame me if some fish seller had entered the building?'
'You must ask the watchman if he saw any fish seller coming to my house,' I added. 'If the lift is stinking, someone must have come to the building for sure, isn't it?'
There was total silence. The watchman was summoned. He said he had not seen any fish seller enter the building.
'Someone obviously wants to create trouble for me because I am a non-vegetarian,' I said. 'It is the job of the society to find out who it is.'
Needless to say, the mystery was never solved.
More than five years have passed since I bought the apartment. There are rules that non-vegetarians like me and my family have to follow. 'No chicken, mutton or fish bones in the dustbin outside.'
And yes, no machiwalla is permitted to enter the building premises.
Is this not vegetarian militancy?