The Arbitrary Goat

No one was quite sure why it had happened or how they decided that this was a good idea. I maintain that I had nothing to do with why Champi, the – well, she wasn’t a local goat, and she certainly wasn’t one we had bought, but the long and short of it is that we had a goat on campus.

I know, you’re all wondering how this qualifies for the theme. But the narrative of Champi the goat is going to be completed, by hook or by crook.

In any case, Champi the goat is the focus of this story. I know why. I certainly don’t know how. Here’s what I know: Champi turned up on campus. It was something completely unexpected, a bolt out of the blue. All I know is that there she was one fine day, hanging out with the puppies and cats.

Quite used to animals turning up arbitrarily, we dealt with Champi’s appearance the way most girls do – by either including her in mainstream society by feeding her leaves of grass (much to Whitman’s chagrin) or by denying them space in the human world.

Champi did not have an easy time. Girls would run away from her, working men would throw stones  to chase her away, and the Animal Welfare Committee controlled her right to food. As a result she didn’t fare that well. On top of that, the garden was a sacred space, magical lawns were not to be nibbled at, and only the social responsibility of petting could make her feel included. Even that was in short supply, since protection against the germs in her fur became a burning issue. Regardless, the goat persevered – she fought for her space in the college hierarchy, nibbling leaves drowsily. She was a good goat, a mascot for the animals because she belonged to the minority community and was small enough to prevent complaints against her forays into grazing. And then Champi decided to take a holiday.

It all changed when the English Department decided to take her on the Department trip for the purposes of the article. Champi had been looking extremely restless for a while, as her attempts to escape campus were frustrated by the lack of space.

Like everything about Champi the goat, this was also shrouded in mystery. The girl who was handling her held onto a thick rope and muttered to herself about how “the whole idea was insane,” and “is this really worth an article?” Champi the goat was smuggled onto a bus and taken across borders for this covert operation to succeed –which, it did.

That was when all of us noticed that Champi had curiously emotive eyes, and in the darkness of the bus, some girls swore they could hear her thinking.

We woke up during the first night in the bus to curious sounds of metallic clunking. This was dismissed at first. After all, we were on a bus heading to the Himalayas – there had to be some amount of clunking around. Nobody suspected the goat.

But the noise continued, and eventually one of us investigated.

Champi was eating the bus.

I know it is quite impossible to believe such a thing, but the story begins with the presumption of a goat on campus. The reader will have to suspend logic for a while for it to function.

Back to the story: Champi had been chewing away at the bus. Some of the chairs had been chewed up, and we could see one of the tires through ghastly eaten metal.  We aren’t sure how she ate metal. She was a miraculous goat after all.

Some of us pondered abandoning her on the highway, while the rest were concerned about how we were supposed to get past the checkpoints with the bus falling apart. Funnily enough, when we did stop at the checkpoint, the man was more concerned about the number of girls travelling alone.

Itni saari ladkiyan akele?” he asked. “Aur kya hoga? Ladkiyan akeli ghoomne jaati hain toh yahi hota hai unki buson ke saath.”

Nobody cared about how freezing and disorienting it was to have the bus half open, but we made it – by another small miracle – to Manali.

By the time we got there, Champi had chomped off half the bus and had decided to begin with the suitcases. We all grabbed rooms to shower, while the same exasperated girl was stuck with Champi once more.

Champi followed us around everywhere we went. She came for the water sports and the hike, and managed to climb up to the corners we couldn’t reach. She came to the DJ night dressed in a red shimmery scarf, and nobody knew where she got that from. She was everywhere. People found her in multiple rooms at once, and most of us were angry at how this goat had been causing such havoc by messing things up just enough to cause a ruckus.

Eventually, we went to the Mall Road in Shimla. This was not a place where goats were traditionally allowed. Hell, even cars weren’t allowed. But nobody said anything about Champi (apart from the antique manager at the antique shop who warned her against chewing the antiques).

All the dogs on the Mall Road strangely avoided Champi They growled and grumbled around her, and made all of us very nervous, but maintained their distance. On the other hand, many eyewitnesses swore that Champi had a red glint in her eye whenever animals approached her.

If you think this story is going to end in a psychedelic goat with glasses, I will have to say no. Champi came back from the trip having traumatized the people who thought that the goat could read minds. Hostellers began to see her apparitions in the mess, calmly nibbling salad. The Animal Welfare Committee which was supposedly handling the problem planted more trees to feed her.

This story is a pieced-together report of what happened afterwards – because all the other animals in college rallied around Champi to demand food, water, and most importantly – holidays.

The animals declared that they were quite done with eating out of dustbins and being treated like second rate citizens. They were aware that it wasn’t a perfect world and they couldn’t get everything but basic necessities were something they deserved like the hostellers, deprived though those girls were.

The Animal Welfare Committee had long conferences with Champi the goat – the spokesperson of college animal rights. Nothing was resolved (which was just at par with usual college business, someone remarked at the Café while buying a sandwich that cost her sixty rupees). People were confused about how the goat was conducting negotiations, and even more about her demands.

The animals (the ones who were on the margins) became more and more of an inconvenience to the girls. The Admin didn’t like the whole affair either, and eventually, Champi the goat and all the dogs left. Like some grand Moses and his flock, they disappeared, searching for places to stay, food, and – holidays.

The cats stayed in the hostel, because they didn’t care for politics, and cared even less for grand narratives. They were cheerful as long as food was being given to them.

Like I said, Champi didn’t disappear randomly. But does it really give us credit, if the story demands her disappearance, for natural order to be restored?

Written by Tanvi Chowdhury

Featured image by Sanna Jain


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