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There comes a day in a person's life when they have to stand up and take responsibility. At least that's what they tell you.

They lie.

You have been swindled as surely as if you had mailed that Nigerian Princeling all of your hard-saved lunch money. Your naive attitude towards life has blinded you to the harsh realities of life. To cure you of your delusion, your parents have pushed you into doing something that you are not supposed to do. That, and your dad wanted to take a nap.

You are to dismantle the cow. Congratulations! You've just taken a shortcut to vegetarianism. Believe us when we say that it happens.

So, without further ado, let's jump in the RS manual for taking apart the cow. We'll warn you of the pitfalls you'll face. Of course, that won't do a damn thing to help you. You'll have to jump over those gaping chasms anyway. Knowledge is power. Ignorance is bliss. Take your pick.

Step One: Plan B
This is the most important part: make sure there is something other than meat to eat. Preferably something you can eat with a spoon. Because the whiff of blood and gore will encapsulate your hand and while that might sound cool on paper, it is hell on appetite. The stink of slaughtered animals does not smell like victory in the late afternoon.

Step Two: Don't try to be cool
A surprising number of people need to be reminded of this. Probably because neighbourhood ladies are in attendance and wrestling down a tied-up domestic animal with six other guys evokes the Neanderthal in us. We glory in the toil, in the hunt, in the camaraderie. We roar our appropriately Banglish-fied, “Hey-yo” to the skies and bring the descendant of the bison down. Obviously we keep an eye out for the gorgeous Morjina's reaction to this monumental, prehistorically heroic feat. The cow usually takes this lapse in focus and concentration to break a shin or two as a form of genetic vengeance.

Step Three: Don't do someone else's job
Puking all over the Qurbani animal does not convey the right message to the Almighty. Wait for the Imam to take care of the actual Qurbani. And if you must do it, brush up on your biology and figure out where the jugular is for a cow. Also, wear your best set of clothes. For luck.

Step Four: Look around helplessly
This is where the kosai comes in and skins the animal. Unless you are an actual kosai, you have absolutely no active part to play here. However, if you don't have tarpaulin sheets, jute sacks, appropriate knives, cutting blocks, sitting blocks and a big jhuri for the guts, this is the part where you curse your parents and start sweating. Morjina will of course snigger and leave you to your misery.

Step Five: String 'em up!
They say there's an art to stripping the meat from, say, a leg. As usual, they are full of fertiliser. If you do anything enough times, you'll raise it up to an art form and perhaps intone that there is a beautiful symmetry in the pieces you have made and that they are simultaneously mathematical, philosophical, spiritual, physical, existential and quite a few other als.

Yes, you won't be doing much during this step either. Unless you want to make a couple of experimental swipes with the cleaver [which is totally the wrong knife for this sort of activity] and hear the butchers scoffing in the background.

Step Six: Divide and Conquer
Here you'll sit around with a whole lot of botis and cut meat into relatively small pieces, wondering why there's so little meat and asking yourself where that gigantic cow went [hint: it's in the jhuri]. After that, you divide the meat into three parts, one for the household, one for relatives and one for the poor folks that come looking for some meat. They will not hesitate to sneer at you when you tell them that it's all finished. Shrug and move on.

By this time, the smell on your hand is pretty much permanent. But you have come this far, might as well finish it. If you are in the village, you'll be running around house to house with either a gigantic bowl or a bucket filled with meat. If you are a not in a village, you'll be doing it building to building.

Step Seven: And on the Seventh Day...
Go home. Take a shower. Don't bother scrubbing your hands until you feel the skin peeling. It won't help. Eat dry cornflakes with a spoon. Try hard not to feel jealous or nauseous of all the people feasting on polao, biriyani, rejala and other such once-heavenly things. It's Eid after all.

By Cowzim Ibn Sadique

The tiny spark

They were asleep once more. He tip toed his way out of his room - careful not to make any sound. He was afraid the beating of his heart would wake them up again. What would he see today, he wondered? This time of the day, the uncertainty of it all and the promise of colour and splendour was what kept him going. It was pitch dark inside, but he knew just where the floorboards creaked and where to turn left without bumping into the wall. The narrow passage felt all the more suffocating, now that he could almost taste it. And then there he was.

The doors were never opened. He knew he would probably never be allowed outside, they always remained within. The small key hole was all that connected them with the outside world.

He looked back just one more time to make sure no one was there - and then he peeped through the hole. It took some time for his eyes to adjust to the light, and the vista of colours and sounds that hit him were overwhelming. For someone who till now considered the dismal air of his dark, musty room normal; the outside was to be marvelled at and feared. He longed to go out because his instincts told him to, but his commonsense told him to stick to his known, defined and predictable world.

The outside was said to be a dangerous place, where you would never live to be a thousand. They said if you went out you would become unclean, the light would burn you and the sounds deafen you. When he was younger, 'outside' was the bogeyman from his nightmares.

The fragments that got through the key whole stirred up something; he started to dream. The shouts and laughter that penetrated the doors were music that haunted him. Why were they laughing? Why did the children outside pretend to be something they were not? Why all the running and throwing of balls? His personal kaleidoscope made him smile.

He hadn't noticed when they came. He was too engulfed until there was a hand on his shoulders - a reproachful, cold touch. And he knew this was goodbye to the colours and sounds.

When he tried to explain, they stared at him wearing a condescending smile. What he told them sounded empty, the feeling he had was alien to them. Delusions, they said; traps to lure him out. He knew his arguments would be in vain but he still kept going. His uncharacteristic obdurate nature made them afraid. He was shut off.

That night the walls were closing in on him. Suffocating him and reminding him of his confines. A monochromatic, immutable state of being. But in his ears rang the shout of children and a fragment of something he heard. “…then the traveller in the dark; Thank you for your tiny spark…”

Never mind, he thought - one day.

By Moyukh


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