At noon, hour seven of our trip from Srinagar to Leh, much of which had already been spent not moving, we stopped again. In an enormous dirt lot we would be waiting up to 3 hours — along with every other eastbound car, truck or bus — for the terrible roads to open in our direction.
When we jumped out of the bus, Steve spotted atop the roof of a truck what he thought might be a goat. On further inspection, it was several, on the rooftops of about four trucks in an apparent mutton convoy. Hesitant to irk the napping drivers, we snapped our photos from the ground. “Do you think they’ll care if I climb up?” Devon asked. “I don’t know… ask them,” Steve suggested. Turns out they didn’t, and our boys clambered up to find plenty more goats — and sheep — where those came from. Each truck had two stories filled to the brim with animals pissing and shitting on each other, packed so close they could hardly lie down.
Although Steve walked off, disgusted by a goat corpse hanging from a bar, the Kashmiri goat haulers soon joined Devon up top, sparking friendly gesticulation-based conversation (coincidentally, the only Kashmiri word we knew was saurput: baby goat), and then proudly posing for photos next to their commodities.
Minutes later, there was a commotion around one rooftop sheep. One boy communicated that it was sick and that they would have to kill it. “Right now on the truck?” Devon asked, disguising his shock. “No!” the boy clarified. “At 3 o’clock when truck leaves.”
Steve and Devon wiled away the next few hours wandering around, complaining about oppressive Islamic societies with a Danish man, shitting on a riverbank in plain sight of at least one disgusted old man, and walking around some more. At 3, word came through that the vehicles would be allowed to depart any time now. Responsibly, Steve returned to the bus, while Devon swung by the goat truck to see the carnage.
“Did you kill the sheep?” he asked his earlier buddy. The man looked concerned and apologetic. “No. No kill…” “Ah! Too bad, man. Well, see ya later.” Devon turned toward his bus. “Wait!” called the man. He gestured to follow him, then to climb up the truck. He gathered his colleagues, met Devon up top, instructed another boy to push the other animals out of the camera’s way, climbed down onto the top deck, unfolded a crude wooden-hilted blade and seized the invalid sheep by the scruff of the neck and got to work.
It was unclear if they really needed to do this, or if they were simply beheading this goat for their western audience’s benefit. Devon didn’t ask.
Strangely, that soft, wooly exe-cutie-pie made no noise and put up no resistance, as did its friends and family. By the time the goat-cutter had his patient’s head nearly off, his blade raised proudly to Devon’s lens, Steve and the other busriders were calling out. The bus was about to leave.
Capping his lens and tossing around some hearty “shukriya”s Devon scrambled down the ladder and over to the bus just in time.
Check out the photos! If you don’t enjoy seeing animals killed with dull knives, flip straight to the end for a beautiful image of a Frenchman and a caveman-haired German united in urination, instead.