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     Volume 4 Issue 41 | April 8, 2005 |

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In Search
of Respite
after Death

(Sequel to 'The Taming of a Beggar' 25 March 2005)


The man at the restaurant has just been served his meal.
'Waiter', he shouted with the two rawgs of his neck gaining prominence, 'Why does my chicken have only one leg?'
The waiter remained calm and tried to appease the customer by saying, 'Do you want to eat the chicken, sir, or dance with it?'
If that be fiction, it has now become the truth.
Indeed shoppers are now behaving more like would be fathers-in-law, some insist, of the yesteryears. Debatable, but more on that issue some other day.
Paranoia, you could say. And you could be forgiven for your innocence, which may be the result of you not having read the papers the past week, or for being a devout vegetarian.
'Please ask the chicken to walk', one buyer was heard telling the vendor at New Market.
'My chicken cannot speak, sir', pleaded the man.
'Tell it in ishaara then,' was the man's departing remark
The man with the hem of his punjabi flowing beneath his knees was more demanding. 'Can your chicken croon a line or two from a song, any song, not that it has to be our sangeet,' he put it so melodically and with such hand and body gestures that the chickens began to get restless.
'I'll take two,' said the shilpi.
At Gulshan one Michael Jackson fan, not convinced after watching Sky TV's daily reconstructions, and the forward walk of the chicken, had even had a bet with a seller. 'Can it walk backwards?' he asked.
To put the misery and doubt of the customer at bay, and more importantly to bring some of them back into the habit of eating out, one owner put it up in black and white in front of his restaurant in Mirpur, 'NO CHICKEN'.
On seeing the hung notice one paramour jubok turned back swiftly on the steps leading up to the restaurant He was held firmly and pulled back by his lady companion who said angrily, 'Not you!'
The notice thing caught up, as is the culture in this country, and one honest restaurant owner put up, 'We serve live chicken'. People who noticed the singular form stayed away.
To meet demands of originality and plurality, another said 'Our chickens do not die'.
Another banner proclaimed on a rather religious note, 'Reincarnated chickens available here'.
The matter had grown into one of such grave concern that a large meeting was convened. Said one chicken of union parishad level, 'There is no peace even after we die'.
'We have to try to do good things in this life and then only we shall be properly slaughtered and consumed; otherwise it is hell after death,' commented one representing the right of the centre.
'We do nothing that much wrong,' defended a mahila chicken, while making an 'S' with her eyebrows.
There were some sniggers in the chamber, but those were put to a stop by a chicken pakhya worker. She was livid with anger and made no pretence to hide it. 'You men think only women shall be put into gunny bags after death. The way you lot are going about your individual pieces shall be sent by courier.'
The chair appealed for clam and invited proposals.
'Let us build more hospitals to curtail the mortality rate,' was one.
'Nawww! The employees' union will take them over,' opposed another.
'Let us establish a cultural centre to teach our children how to walk backwards, if that be the demand of the society,' opined another.
'Is this the way to hold on to our heritage barely 35 years after our swadhinata?' yelled the opposition.
'Let us resort to falsehood. We shall pretend we are dead, and when the customers make the queries we shall come alive,' was one proposal.
The house burst into laughter. The chair silenced them by showing a knife.
'Let him finish,' he said.
The prostabak went on, 'Thank you manoniyo chicken. (Dips his beak into the bowl of water and takes a dhok) So when customers shall know that chickens which look dead are actually alive, they shall not know the difference between life and death.'
'As if they know now' said an anonymous voice from the back. There was more laughter, but not as loud as before.
The chair waved him on and the prostabak went on. 'They shall ultimately get tired of asking the seller to make us do break dance…'
He pauses for laughter, but no one responds to his comic relief. This was definitely a very serious matter.
'…And then they will buy dead chickens from the seller thinking that they are alive. No chicken shall end up in a gunny bag. There shall be no more humiliation.' He ended his speech to a round of loud applause. Only the chickens that had both legs stood up to give him a standing ovation.
'But the humans shall still be eating dead chicken' said one when the noise subsided.
'Yes! But they will not know. It is the knowing that is upsetting them' volunteered the chair.
'Chicken-o-chicken! You stumped me there. Now you are talking like humans' said the inquirer.
There were lots of cheeping and tweeting of happiness all round.
After some more deliberation on the framing of the resolution the meeting resolved in unison to live by falsification. This was the decision of the chicken nation.
PS. In the media:
'Dead chickens being served in many hotels in the capital, organised group involved, red-handed arrested' --Dainik Janakantha, Dhaka, 29 March 2005
'Woman held with 21 dead fowls'--The Daily Star, Dhaka, 3 April 2005.

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