I am a girl and I love going to the mandi

Published: October 6, 2014

It’s strange how these men, who are there to buy an animal for a religious ritual, seem to forget all boundaries when they see a woman. PHOTO: ABDUL GHAFFAR/EXPRESS

It is considered a universal fact that a cattle market (mandi) is no place for a woman.

“It’s a guy thing”, they say.

“What would you do in a mandi?” They ask.

“Are you sure you want to spoil that dress of yours while going there?” They ridicule.

However, it wasn’t until I was physically present in a cattle market that I understood why the mandi was no place for a woman. And no, it had nothing to do with the animals. It had more to do with the people who were there to buy and sell. For me, they were the real animals, with their stares and roving eyes and the occasional groping.

I was 19-years-old when I, along with my family, visited a mandi for the first time. I was very excited to go there and see all the animals. When I reached there, I was ecstatic. The animals didn’t scare me at all. In fact, I loved seeing so many animals in one place. I was not frightened, not even a bit. However, that feeling soon changed.

It was all fine and dandy while I concentrated on the animals. But after a while I realised that almost every other man who walked past us was staring at me. Some had a look of surprise, seeing a woman touching a goat or a cow, while others kept staring at me, my sister and my cousins. There was an animalistic look in their eyes, and it was ironic, because the actual animals that we were touching had more humane eyes than them.

And then the comments began.

Kiya mahoul hai yaar!”

(What an atmosphere man!)

Aaj ki tou mandi kafi rangeen hogayei hai

(Today the market looks very colourful)

Needless to say, I felt terrible after listening to these uncouth comments. My entire experience was ruined because of this. And even though I kept going to the mandi in the years after that, it was never a very pleasant experience.

My question is why can’t a woman enjoy such an experience as much as a man does?

It’s strange how these men, who are there to buy an animal for a religious ritual, seem to forget all boundaries when they see a woman. What good is such a sacrifice if you can’t even keep your eyes to yourself? I was resilient and hence I kept going back, but many women aren’t, and such men don’t know how their actions and comments often scar a woman for life.

Same is the case with taking care of the sacrificial animal.

When the cattle are bought and brought home, they are often kept in tents or a specific area is reserved for them. One would think that while we are in our own neighborhood, one can easily go down and feed the animals and spend time with them. But that’s not how it works.

Even at home, you need to stay put, be careful while getting out, and make sure that you are appropriately dressed, because all the guys from the neighborhood can be found lingering near the animals at all times. And these guys also have the same sickness of staring at women, like as if they have never seen one before.

Therefore, women can’t take care of these animals without falling prey to this viciousness. Even if some women, like myself, are resolute to ignore the stares and go feed their animals, they are discouraged at home for doing so. I’ve had multiple fights with my mother on this issue.

So as a result, neither do women go to a mandi nor are they able to take care of the animals. Because of these issues, many believe that Eidul Azha, on the whole, is a guy thing. I mean, sure, men get the sacrificial animal, take care of it the few days before Eid and then deal with the whole ordeal with the butchers and handling the meat.

However, many people ignore the fact that women too have their fair share of work cut out. And if the situations were a little more accommodating, women could even go out, get the animal from the mandi, take care of it and then proceed with the work on Eid day.

And let’s not forget the contribution women have in the kitchen. They deal with the meat, make portions, distribute it in neighbors, relatives and the poor, and also cook delicious Eid meals without which this Eid would seem bland.

Men and women are equals in every single aspect of life. At a point where the world is moving towards equality amongst genders, I think it is high time we start thinking about how we make it hard for our women to equally participate in matters, albeit religious, ceremonial or otherwise.

Anam Fatima

Anam Fatima

A student of Philosophy at the University of Karachi. She tweets as @anumfatimma (twitter.com/anumfatimma)

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