Eid-ul-Azha AN EXPOSÉ
It has taken two long months, but the citizens of Dhaka city have finally managed to recover from the stupor induced by their Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations. Although, the post traumatic stress caused by the endless traffic jams, the stench of sweat hanging in the air of the overcrowded shopping malls, the empty wallets and the overdose of artery blocking unhealthy food (not to mention the long lost relatives to enjoy it with), is enough to cause a lifetime of deep rooted psychological problems, Dhakaites have rallied well--only to find themselves face to face with Eid-ul-Azha, which was lurking in the shadows just waiting to pounce. A random selection of citizens (and cattle) talk to The Star about how they are celebrating, scratch that- tackling, this festival of sacrifice (hopefully not of their sanity) this year. Most of them seem to be taking it in stride. Let the countdown begin (again).
The following conversation was overheard at the Batpar Gorur Haat (cow market) on 30 October, 2011 at 10 am:
Black Bengal Goat (BBG): What is that?
Pabna Cow (PC): It's a camel chhagol (goat but with a negative connotation). How do you not know this?
BBG: Never heard of it. It's hideous.
PC: It's from the Middle East. You are so stupid.
BBG (outraged): I have never set a hoof outside Tongi till now! How am I supposed to know what animals look like from Middle Eastern Bangladesh? Besides, I know you lived in Pabna all your life. How would you know where it's from? Huh?
PC (sighs): I listen to the news. Besides I've seen the Middle East on TV too.
BBG: The Indian cows told you didn't they?
PC: Whatever. There weren't any camels here last year. Wonder why they decided to bring one this year…hmm
BBG: You weren't even born last year. Maybe they think we aren't good enough for them anymore. You know humans have issues. They can't enjoy a good thing for too long.
PC: Maybe they taste good. Looks bony to me but who knows? Maybe bones are in nowadays! There is only one of him though so maybe he's like a tester before they go all out. Who knows, maybe we won't be on the market at all next year. Besides, I hear that camel thinks it's better than the rest of us “ordinary cattle.” Claims he isn't worried about what's coming. Well you know what? Mr-Superiority has got that one wrong. I've accepted my fate. I'm proud of where I'm going…makes me feel all..Holy.. know what I mean? (Stares off into the distance).
BBG: You got that one right! That ugly brute doesn't know anything! (Laughs hysterically and then suddenly stops). Wait. What do you mean, “what's comin?” And where might you be going? And I really don't get the “Holy” part. Are you feeling okay man?
PC (confused): You know…being sacrificed n' all. My dad did it. I want to follow in his footsteps.
BBG (alarmed): What? What sacrifice? What on earth are you talking about?!
PC: What? Are you serious?
BBG stares silently
PC: Oh…you are serious…oh man this is awkward..did no one give you the pep talk? What do you think this place is?
BBG: I don't know! A farm? Kind of like a petting zoo? It isn't?
PC: You know what. Never mind.
BBG: Whatever (silence). I still think I'm better looking than that nasty old camel.
Interview with Babul Hasa (BH), minister of the Department of Bizarre Accidents, member of the ruling party, The Daughter's League (DL).
The Star: What are your plans for this Eid, minister?
BH: With the elections coming up, who has time to make plans for social engagements? I am busy working for my country, trying to find out why, despite all my hard work and efforts, all the bridges in the country are falling apart, why people are supposedly dying in inexplicable road accidents. Just last week, a train was derailed because a chicken was walking on the tracks and the driver was asleep and he didn't notice he was driving the damn thing on the main road! There was mass panic, two cow trucks were overturned and about 20 trees squashed. Fortunately, (according to the official report) no one (humans or animals) was injured. How am I supposed to explain that? Only thing I can think of is that I am being set up. The members of The Wife's Association (WA) party are trying to make me look bad. They are making these things happen! They dig potholes into the freshly repaired roads at night and destroy my hard work (mutters “lowlifes”). I mean look around you! All the roads and railway tracks look fine to me! What's the problem? I use the same roads and I have never been in an accident! Not that I want to give anyone any ideas.
The Star: So you plan on spending the Eid holidays working on uncovering a conspiracy theory?
BH: Well, my private detectives are working on that. I've paid them a large chunk of the taxpayers' money for their services. The people of this country love me and I know they will appreciate how I've put their money to good use, to clear my name. I also plan to buy the largest cow in the market (some of the detectives are working on finding it), I will spare no expenses, and feed all those supporting the opposition (with a promise of more to come). They should see how generous I can be and maybe they'll come to their senses and vote for me in the upcoming elections.
By the way can you omit the part about me never being in an accident? I really don't want anyone getting any ideas.
Interview with butcher, Ibrahim-ul- Kashai.
The Star: How long have you been in this field of work?
Kashai: Lets see..not very long. I started last week. I am in the training process now.
The Star: What made you decide to become a butcher?
Kashai: Well you see, it runs in the family. My dad was one and so was my grandfather. They were what we call “seasonal butchers.” That is to say, they only became butchers during Qurbani Eid (Eid-ul-Azha). It's very profitable and everyone wants to hire you and there's free meat in it for you too. You should try it. I hear journalists don't get paid much. This is your chance to make some quick cash.
The Star (after long pause): How long does the training take?
Kashai: You see, I'm not training to become a professional. I just want to figure out the fastest ways to chop up one thing so I can move on to the next one. The trick is to be quick if you get my drift. I'm a little worried though. I hear they brought in deer and camels this year. No one I know has ever cut up one of those before. But never mind, as long as I tell them I know what I'm doing, no one will question a thing! (Smiles confidently).
The Star: What do you actually do for a living?
Kashai: Oh I polish shoes. My business is at the corner of Saat Masjid road in Dhanmondi. You might have seen me there.
Interview with Marzina Begum (MB), housewife.
The Star: How do you plan to spend your Eid holidays?
MB: What are you talking about? Eid isn't a holiday for me. As if spending all my time in the kitchen all year isn't bad enough, during Eid, I might as well move in there. This is the season of slavery, especially for those of us who can't afford to hire servants who can actually cook.
The Star: Sorry to hear that. What animal are you and your husband planning to offer as a sacrifice?
MB: I'd like to volunteer myself, but I have four children to think about. My husband somehow got it into his head that we need to upstage the neighbours this year and buy something exotic like an elephant. But I put my foot down. There is no way I'm cooking strange elephant meat for his entire judgmental clan. Besides, we can't afford it.
The Star: Do you usually spend Eid-ul-Azha in the city?
MB: I don't want to, but my husband insists that we show our neighbours how much we spend on the animals every year. I would much rather get away from the disgusting smells and the hellish kitchen and go to my mother's village. I usually make him buy a new sari for me but what's the point? It's not like anyone will get to see me in it. The guests aren't entertained in the kitchen you see. If my husband gets his way, I'll be spending the rest of the year cooking elephant for him. Are we allowed to sacrifice elephants by the way?
Interview with important (the top) City Corporation officer, Iqbal Rahim(IR).
The Star: How are the Eid preparations coming along in your department?
IR: Not bad at all. Eid-ul-Azha is a good time to raise revenues for me.. um.. I mean the city haha. I have granted the tenders for the Gorur Haats (makeshift cow markets) to the highest bidders and am ensuring the highest level of security I can manage for them. The best lighting and layout I would say can be found at the Chora-i-Haat located in Mirpur. The best cows can be found there too, not to mention, a variety of other, unusual animals.
The Star: Sources say that the tender for Chorai-i- Haat was given to your brother-in-law. In fact, the talk of the town is that there was no bidding this year for the tenders at all. They were handed out to your relatives and acquaintances. Is this accurate?
IR: Absolutely not! That is preposterous! I am a simple, honest government servant and have no authority over such things. People are out to malign my spotless reputation, out of jealousy I suppose. It is true, that my brother-in-law received the tender for Chora-i-Haat, but it was only because he bid the highest. I had no hand in it. I know some of the others who won the bids but that is just a coincidence.
The Star: You have arranged for security for Chora-i-Haat and some other markets even though it is not your responsibility to do so. Why is that?
IR: Where did you get that information? It is absolutely false!
The Star: You mentioned it a few minutes ago.
IR: Oh that! Haha yes I did that out of the goodness of my heart. Cows can be easily stolen you see, mine was, last year, I mean the one I wanted to buy….(trails off and clears throat). I have been going out of my way to ensure everyone has a cow on Eid day...you know I'm all about sharing…and caring. Because that is important. Yes. I believe that is all the time I can give you for now.
Interview with Cleaner Babu Mia (BM), hired by the City Corporation.
The Star: You have a very important job during this time of the year. How do you feel about the role you play during this festival of sacrifice?
BM: Yes, everyone keeps telling me that, but somehow I don't feel that important. Do you even realise what I have to do? You people decide to butcher your animals in the middle of the road, take whatever parts you want and just leave the rest of it there. Do you ever stop to think what happens to those parts?
The Star: Please enlighten us.
BM: It's a blood bath on the streets! There's digested cow food from the intestines, hooves that have been chopped off, brain parts, hairs, genitals, excrement..it's a nightmare! And guess what? It doesn't magically disappear like one would like to imagine. NO! People like me clean it with our bare hands because the city corporation couldn't be bothered to give us gloves! I won't even begin to describe how horrendous the cow markets are. Have you ever smelled cow urine? Smells bad doesn't it? Well imagine that and multiply it by a thousand and then add the smell of cow dung to it. Don't look so grossed out, you're not the one who has to roll around in it!
The Star (after horrified pause): Well that was graphic, thank you…you must really look forward to the end of the..um.. festivities. Do you get a few days off after that?
BM: No. I start cleaning the minute all the killing is over and don't stop till every drop of blood has been drained so that when you people step out on the streets to go to Shishu Park, you can remain in your lala land and keep thinking the slaughter fairies have cleaned up after you. Then it's back to cleaning human pee and feces from the streets and believe me I'm still deciding which one's worse.