dead or alive

most eid-ul-adhas, my father decides to leave the country early, so as to avoid the hassle involved in buying a cow, slaughtering it and then distributing the meat. of course, his travel plans never include me, and so i stay in the country while he visits exotic locations. due to the excitable nature of my neighbors regarding sacrificial cows, and the resultant overflow of blood in the sewers, i generally spend most of my time locked up at home, not even daring to go outside to face the stench and horrifying nature of the entire holiday.

at the same time, i’ve developed an ingenious method of dealing with people who want to send us meat. in general, the holiday coincides with the time my fridge decides to die an untimely death. the day before eid, i go out and buy several dozen plastic bags. once the meat starts pouring in from neighbours and other random well-wishers/ass-kissers, i simply take the meat out of the bag they send it in, stuff it in one of my own bags, and then send it back to the person. this way the people think they’ve sent us meat, and i’ve returned the favour. not too many people have figured this out yet.

this year, however, there was no such drastic escape act from the paternal unit. this year, my sister-in-law, resting comfortably in the u s of a, deemed that a cow should be slaughtered. at this, my father, who seems to be bewitched by my sister-in-law in a manner similar to the president of bangladesh and the immediate past prime minister, decided that he would forego his departure and do her bidding. and so off he went to the birat goru chagoler birat haat to purchase a cow for the purpose. (i, fortunately, had developed one of my new on-demand fevers, thus avoiding the ordeal of purchasing the cow.)

now, i am quite opposed to this entire sadistic practice of purchasing cows and slaughtering them the very next day. this opposition arose the last time we slaughtered a cow at this house, several years ago, when i watched the cow being slaughtered after spending quite some time bonding with it (i was quite young then, you see). right before the knife cut its head off, the cow looked straight at me with an age-old sadness in its eyes and mooed once, and i was thus quite horrified at the resultant massacre.

now, i’m no vegetarian. in fact, i love meat. however, when it comes to such occasions, i’m an arthur dent kind of meat-eater. if you don’t know who arthur dent is, shame on you. dent is the protagonist of the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy. when he goes to eat at the restaurant at the end of the universe, the cow comes up to his table and asks him which part of him he would like for dinner. as a result, dent grows nauseous and foregoes dinner, but the cow eventually runs off to shoot himself in the head anyway for the other diners’ orders.

anyway, the conclusion is, i can eat meat as long as i don’t see the creature it came from living, breathing and crapping in front of me. and crapping is what this year’s fortunate cow did. he crapped a lot. and mooed all night, right outside my window.

given the serenade of our cow, coupled with those of the neighbors’, it’s quite a wonder i was able to wake up in time for the eid prayers. but, once the prayers were done, the slaughtering began post haste. an apartment building one door down from my house, in which 14 families live, decided to sacrifice a sum total of 12 cows and 20 goats. my next door neighbor had his usual stock of two cows and three goats. by the time we made the five minute walk back from the eidgah at 9 am, a sum total of 4 cows and 12 goats had already died painful deaths.

of course, the scent of blood and the dying gargles of the neighboring cows did not do any wonders to the temperament of our own beast. quite agitated, it strained at the ropes tying it, and mooed angrily several hundred times. but, given that the butcher would arrive soon, we waited patiently.

and waited. and waited some more.

the clock struck 10, then 11, then 12. it turns out that the butcher who had been hired for the task had asked for 1000 taka, but my father had, in his infinite wisdom, decided that the task could be done for 800. scandalized, the butcher, who actually is a bricklayer the rest of the year, rushed off to seek alternate employment. and so we sent out for another butcher.

the first pair that showed up asked for 1500 taka. the paternal unit quickly threw them out. the second bunch, who turned out to be painters, asked for 1600, which my father finally decided to pay, given that the cow was mooing incessantly by now in one of his ears, and i was yelling about his penny-pinching in the other.

so, finally, at 12 pm, the cow, who by now was thanking his lucky stars for surviving the ritual slaughter, finally had his throat cut. of course, i was off hiding somewhere in order to not watch the actual slaughter process.

three hours later, we had our meat:

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