KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — Ahead of Deepavali, a marketplace of stalls was set up in Little India in Brickfields where Gouri Nowuram sells traditional Indian attire.
She chats often about business with her neighbour, who sells murukku, and talks this year have centred on the rising cost of foodstuffs, particularly mutton.
“Mutton is too expensive! Now it’s like RM55 or RM60 for just one kilogram of mutton,” the 56-year-old lamented.
Gouri Nowuram, 56, jokingly mentions serving mutton exclusively to close family members, attributing it to the mutton price hike. Brickfields, November 8, 2023. — Picture by Raymond Manuel
Mutton will not be available to all 20 of her family members and friends invited to her Deepavali open house this year — only those who are closest to her.
Jokingly, she said that perhaps she might only serve vegetarian meals due to the subsidy removal for chicken meat.
“But I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually happens,” she added.
Along the stretch of stalls in Brickfields, a 41-year-old housewife said mutton has become a precious meat product because of its expensive price, so she plans to only serve it to her close family and friends.
Housewife Mathi will keep her gatherings small and will only invite about 15 family and friends. — Picture by Raymond Manuel
When met by Malay Mail, Mathi was observing henna artwork being drawn on her daughter’s hand, when she said that she anticipates a different “vibe” for Deepavali gatherings this year.
“We’ll be celebrating Deepavali in Phuket this year because my husband is there. But when we get back here on the 12th, I’ll do small gatherings only and will invite about 15 family and friends.
“In the past, we used to do big gatherings but the price of everything has gone up including mutton. I’ll cook and serve it but on a smaller scale only,” she said.
The 31-year-old henna artist, Indra Devi, joined in the conversation and agreed with Mathi.
“I’ll do it (mutton dishes) for my immediate family members only. Cannot lah if there’s too many people. Mutton is expensive now,” she said.
For the first time, Janane says no mutton will be served during Deepavali gatherings for her family. — Picture by Raymond Manuel
A few metres away from Indra’s henna booth was a stall that sells cold Ribena drinks.
In contrast to Mathi and Indra, the seller, Janane, 30, said no mutton will be served during Deepavali gatherings for her family.
It will be the first time in Janane’s family history that mutton dishes will not be served for the festive celebration.
“Chicken (dishes) only for this year,” said Janane while serving a customer on the hot afternoon.
The price for frozen mutton leg on display at a fresh meat and frozen food store in Semenyih, Kuala Lumpur, November 10, 2023. — Picture by Raymond Manuel
“No mutton because we cannot afford it. We will invite about 80 to 100 people over on the first day. If we want to serve mutton, we will have to buy about three to four kilogrammes. We don’t have the budget.
“So we decided to drop the mutton menus and serve chicken only. It will be our first time,” she said.
However, those who sell mutton have little choice in their prices as suppliers frequently raise prices just before Deepavali, Prema told Malay Mail.
The 37-year-old has been selling mutton for seven years in Brickfields and she said that she sees the pre-Deepavali price increase occur every year.
She sells mutton from a small shack with blue walls facing a public car park. The mutton she sells can be seen hanging from hooks outside her shack.
Mutton seller Prema anticipates an annual price hike for Deepavali. — Picture by Raymond Manuel
“Every year around Deepavali I expect the price of mutton to go up, and on my end, I increase the price by around RM2,” she said.
When asked on Wednesday, she said that the current price of local mutton was at RM60 per kilogramme.
Due to cows being seen traditionally and culturally as sacred, Hindus do not consume beef. Because of this, lamb and goat mutton feature prominently in South Asian cuisine.
Hindus celebrate Deepavali during the Hindu calendar month of Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November), which marks the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon king Narakasura.
Deepavali falls on November 12 this year.