Muslims around the world mark Eid-ul-Azha with strict reverence and Pakistan, being an Islamic republic, is no exception. Every year, large cattle markets are interspersed throughout Karachi, in a bid to attract customers to purchase cattle for the religious sacrifice. The cattle market located at Sohrab Goth on the outskirts of Karachi, is perhaps the metropolis’ largest and most popular one.
As one drives down the highway, you can vividly make out where all the hullabaloo is taking place. The approaching tents and glaring LED lights make that very clear. There’s plenty of space for parking motor vehicles, bikes in particular.
For one who aspires to undertake the journey to the outskirts of Karachi just to purchase cattle, there’s plenty of options around. The tents are laid by each farm, with its unique and distinctive farm name such as 786 Cattle Farm, Jinnah Cattle Farm and ATM Cattle Farm.
The names assigned to the cows and goats serve as icing on the cake.
If there’s one thing you can count on, it is that Pakistanis love to be wooed when it comes to purchasing livestock, be it goats, cows or bulls for that matter. Inside the large tents, numerous livestock are tied to wooden stumps and pillars with overhead spotlights putting them on the spotlight, literally!
Also, the cattle were specially decorated to give off a splendid, extravagant look to the animal, with coloured ornaments fastened around their mouths. These ornaments of sorts were to restrain the animals and show them off to prospective buyers, at the same time.
The strategies adopted to put the cattle on display in a unique manner, seemed to work. This was evident from the oohs and aahs of the observers, who never hesitated in clicking selfies with the animals, stroking their ears or patting their backs.
Every farm owner is proud of their merchandise and almost come off as braggarts. “I feed my cows healthy food, which consists of makhan (butter) and doodh (milk),” said Riaz, an owner. “They eat as many as 5 kg, but that is the cost that I have to put up with if my wares are to attract the right buyers,” he shrugged.
The prices are exorbitant, to say the least and another cattle owner tries his best to justify it. His tent housed around 50-60 cattle, cows, bulls and goats of every kind. However, the prices at which he was willing to sell his cows were not modest either.
“My cows go for Rs 550,000 each, on average. I had 60, I’ve sold 38 so far. So you can see, I’m doing business the proper way,” he said. When asked as to why he charged such an astronomical amount, he shrugged his shoulders and pointed out that nurturing such an animal did have a financial toll on the owner.
Another cattle owner spoke comprehensively about the costs of maintaining cattle and the sorrow at parting with them. “I’m selling my cows from Rs 80,000 to Rs 800,000,” he said and motioned for us to take a look around and see for ourselves at his array of cows. “Price depends on the upkeep of the cattle and annually, taking care of my cattle costs me around Rs 250,000 annually per animal, at times.”
The government also charges them around Rs 250,000 per month for renting the space for their tents. Also, bringing the livestock into Karachi has a charge of Rs 1,000 per animal, which they must also pay.
A food court had also been set-up near the cattle market, for buyers who had become weary and wanted to grab a bite to satiate their hunger, before continuing the search for their sacrificial animal of choice. Plenty of stalls and eateries were operating inside the food court.
Interestingly, there was also a huge space allotted to an eatery which served shisha as well. However, the manager of that place was hostile and did not divulge into much details, at first.
“It is because of media personnel like you, that we have lost our business,” he said in a disgruntled manner. “We used to offer shisha to the public along with food, so they could experience the hookah with a unique ambiance. However, we were reported by the media and refrained from selling shisha to consumers. Ab ham kabab tikkay khilatay hain logon ko, par chalta toh hamara shisha tha sirf (Now we only serve kababs and tikkas to customers but shisha used to sell the best).
All in all, if you still haven’t purchased a cow, goat or bull to sacrifice for this Eid or are simply an animal lover, then this is the place to be. One thing is for certain though. A trip to Sohrab Goth’s cattle market can be anything but mundane!