You have seen them in their stained vests and lungis, sweating profusely, a concentrated look under their large moustaches as they hold their weapons and attract squatting flies. They are the men without whom our bowls full of meat wouldn't have been possible - the butchers, or as we know them, the koshais.
You've probably never wondered what makes a koshai tick. Think about it, how do you know a good koshai when you see one? How do they know a good cow when they see one? Interestingly, the great man who drives our car happens to be a part-time koshai. You can guess for which time of the year. Talking to him provided some insight into the world of the men behind the blades.
Most koshais decide to go full-time due to the fact that they feel they can use the skills to earn a living, feed their families. Our part-time koshai, however, uses his skills only when they are most appreciated. It started out when the family couldn't find a pro and he offered his skills. “I have been doing it ever since. I enjoy the festival, and this is a big part of it,” he says.
And what about the blood and gore? “We grew up in the villages; we always enjoyed seeing these. It's nothing I find disgusting to handle,” he says. By the expression on his face, it seemed as if he enjoys being a part of what is repulsive to many and he looked lost in the thought of the approaching Eid and doing the work again.
What makes a good koshai? Apparently, koshais can hardly go wrong. Sure, experience definitely helps because a koshai who has been at it for a while will work with more finesse. But experienced or not, all koshais will provide us with meat. And that's mostly what we care about.
Money is their main motive and according to our koshai, Eid is not the time koshais make the most money. This is because in normal days, they have to buy the cows themselves, do the chopping and cutting, and then sell. This costs more. During Eid, their earning depends on the size of the cow. This is why koshais prefer it if your cow is a large one. Since they charge their fee as a percentage of the original price you bought the cow for; the greater the cow, the greater the revenue.
How do they determine if a cow is profitable? According to them, a good cow means a cow which will provide the best yield of meat. Fat, large, enormous, gigantic - the bigger the cow, the better. Size definitely matters because an ill, thin, anorexic-looking cow means mostly bones and less meat. We can't have that now, can we?
“The hump on the back can also tell us if the cow is worthy,” says our koshai. “If you see a cow with any less than a visible, big half circle on its back, it's not worth it.” So be sure to notice the back!
The conversation carried to the question I wasn't sure how to ask. If being a koshai is such great work and it's profitable, why did he prefer driving while others preferred the chopping? “To each his own,” he smiled.
So, there you go. Enjoy Eid, but do take some time to wonder about the man who provided you with the best part of it - the meat. And if you are braver than me, you can of course go and talk to him while he is cleaning all the blood up. Good luck and have a great, meatfilled Eid-ul-Azha!
...and how they've been awesomely wrong
Generally it's a really bad idea to say “never” in today's world. Over the years, the use of the word has declined significantly, as human progress continues at an exponential rate. However, one has to look back only fifty years or so to find extraordinary examples of smart, educated men putting a cap on the extent of human technological progress, only to be proved wrong beyond any doubt in the coming years.
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” It is astonishing how a man so involved with computers (as an office tool) could have been so ignorant about the applications of a computer at home. As everyone knows, Ken Olson, founder and president of Digital Equipment Corp (DEC), would be proven wrong by a certain Steve Jobs when he showcased a personal computer no larger than a suitcase to an ecstatic crowd in Silicon Valley. Even Bill Gates, a pioneer in computer software tech, once said that Microsoft would never make a 32-bit operating system. In a few short years, he would present the 32-bit Windows NT in 1993.
Move over from computers for a bit and there's still a lot of unbelievable ignorance. “With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself,” boldly proclaimed an article in Business Week, on August 2, 1968. In the next 15 years Japanese manufacturers would overtake their American and European counterparts with advanced tech, superior performance, better overall quality and, despite being better in every conceivable way, they were less expensive. Now, the US auto industry is in utter shambles, with billions of dollars spent already by the US and Canadian governments to keep companies like General Motors afloat. Karma, maybe?
The above example seems very tame compared to the educated “prediction” coming in next: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.” This is how the president of the Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., in 1903. A couple of years later, Ford would be the first automobile brand to mass produce a car, in the process making Henry Ford a self-made millionaire.
For every technological innovation there has been a million critics saying it has no place in modern society. None, however, has been mocked as much as human flight. When one of the Wright brothers (considered to be the first man to fly mechanically) said no man will be able to fly for another 50 years, little would he know, two years later, in 1903, he would be flying successfully over the skies of Kitty Hawk. Indeed, even after showing the world powered flight was possible, skepticism followed. “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value,” Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, as he said it in 1904.
We can go on and on, about the radio, the telephone, rockets and televisions, but our point is made. In a span of 60 years, man went from believing human flight is impossible to seeing video footage of man walking on the moon. It took only 25 years for computers to shrink from room sized to palm sized. The telephone needed 108 years of evolution before the clumsy wires were cut.
Next time someone talks of outrageous tech, like a shapeshifting-pet-robot-dog-that-transforms-into-a butler-who-cooks-your-food-and-cleans-your-room, all in exchange for microchip doggie treats, stop to think of this article before you shake your head with utter disbelief. If the past is of any indication, you might just be proven wrong within three or four years time.
Many have speculated on why the late Steve Jobs never put a license plate on his cars. Was it because he preferred to pay whatever fines he incurred just so he could "Think Different"? Nope. He got away with it - legally - thanks to a California loophole.
According to ITWire:
And so, Jobs - with help from a very accommodating leasing company - would trade his silver Mercedes SL55 AMG (or whatever car he had) for a similar one on the sixth month of his lease. Problem solved. No plate needed.
Cow fact #371
A cow usually spends 6-7 hours of a day eating cud and around 8 hours on chewing it. Similar to teens and chewing gum.
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