Emaciated bodies a common sight, their remains everywhere, blood flowing on dirty streets across the city — the “spillage” leaving behind a crimson trail, and the smell of freshly cut flesh…
These aren’t the streets of a war-torn city. This is a glimpse of any city in Pakistan on the first day of Eid al-Azha or Bakra Eid or D-Day in sacrificial animal circles.
It is a day when goats wake up to exclaim, “Oh bhains!”; a day when people from all walks of life are exposed to violence of the most epic proportions; and a day when skins of dead animals become the most precious commodities.
But the effects of Bakra Eid are felt days before the celebrations begin. It starts when you step out one fine day and your nostrils are greeted with the oddest of stenches, till you detect the actual source of the smell: the wail of the janwar (the sacrificial animal) that your neighbour bought a day earlier, and tied within your residential block. And while closing your windows and curtains, to block the sights, sounds and smells from entering your place, you start praying, “Dear God, I hope he sacrifices the animal away from my house.”
I have been told that the janwar buying process is an experience, especially if you visit specialised mandis for this purpose. It is an open secret that visiting these mandis alone is never recommended, especially given “sheher ke halaat” when roadside muggers may be on the lookout for cash-carrying buyers, and random sellers may rip you off. People would also be familiar with “bakra beauty pageants” and the ensuing auctions. Then there are those people, whose fascination with bakras borderlines on disturbing levels.
“Yeh dekho, ye du / teen daant wala bakra hai.” (Look, this goat has two / three teeth.)
“Bohot haseen bakra hay.” (It is a very beautiful goat.)
“[Post slapping the animal on its rear] Iss janwar kee raan kafee sakht hay.” (This animal has a solid ass.)
You repress your urge to mutter, “#dudeplease”. No matter what condition the animal is in, please remember, that at the end of the day – it is only a bakra, folks.
Now introducing the true stars of Bakra Eid: the kasai (your resident butcher). If you are lucky, your butcher will show up on time providing you with a seamlessly smooth sacrifice. Well, as much as is possible.
No matter what condition the animal is in, please remember, that at the end of the day – it is only a bakra, folks.
The kasai business is possibly the most lucrative of all businesses during Bakra Eid, where everyone claims to be an expert butcher – any quoted credentials are usually disregarded. What matters is how early they come in, the price they quote and their deemed confidence level with the animal in question. Whether their confidence subsequently waivers somewhere down the line – is a separate story.
I tend to be anti-public sacrificing during this festival and my having preference for white meat is completely beside the point. My issue is not with meat consumption, but with how it is dealt with on Bakra Eid.
Our faith dictates that livestock be sacrificed without being subjected to physical or psychological cruelty. Unfortunately, there are plenty of both in Pakistan. For one, teachings suggest animals be “privately” slaughtered so that they are not overcome with fear, yet most animals witness others being painfully butchered, as if they were captives of militant groups. What makes it worse is that these butchers are often hired by people interested in low-cost solutions. Unfortunately, they can be brutal, increasing the agony of one’s sacrificial animal manifold; some animals, instead of being mercifully killed in seconds, die in needless pain after bleeding to death for several long minutes. Particularly disgusting is the way larger cattle is slaughtered in Pakistan. Typically, a wound is punctured in the animal’s neck, after which the beast sometimes runs around screaming as blood gushes from the cavity.
Yes, there is a reason why my vivid narratives do not go too well with friends. This story about that big animal slaughtering I just mentioned, once attracted the oddest of looks – only to be told to withhold all further details.
And with that, let’s hope for a truly blessed Zilhajj and Eid-ul-Azha this year, inshaAllah.