Carcasses everywhere, blood flowing on the dirty streets in a foul crimson colour, the smell of freshly lacerated flesh in the air... these aren’t the streets of war torn Baghdad. No, this is the face of any bustling city in Pakistan on the first day of Eid al-Adha, better known locally as Bakra Eid, and rumored to be referred to as D-Day in cow, goat, sheep, and camel circles.
It is a day when every cow wakes up and exclaims, “Oh bhains!”
It is a day when every Pakistani child is exposed to R-Rated violence well before his first Quentin Tarantino film.
It is a day when many Pakistanis hand over the valuable skin(s) of their dead animal(s) to major political parties wordlessly, partially because watching their goat killed earlier made them weary of receiving the same treatment.
But the effects of Bakra Eid are felt a week before the horror celebrations begin.
It starts when you come home from work one fine day, and as you turn onto your street a stench greets your nostrils similar to what you’d find in a ghusul khana at a truck stop. Agitated, you ask, “aaj kisnay cholay aur lobia khai thay?” (Who ate chickpeas and beans?)
Here, you're introduced to the true source of the smell when the wail of bakras hits your ears: “Baaahhhh.”
In many cities of Pakistan, there is at least one empty house or plot on every street, usually in the care of a live in caretaker and his family. On Bakra Eid, this location transforms into a Holiday Inn for cows and goats when the impoverished caretaker seizes the opportunity to earn some extra money by hosting the whole neighborhood’s livestock.
Upon smelling and hearing this congregation of bakras you immediately think two thoughts: the first is, ‘boy, I really need to close these windows,’ and the second is, ‘damn, I forgot to get a bakra.’
The bakra-buying process: not for the faint of heart
So the next morning you set off to purchase your goat.
Thankfully, in 2016, there are several convenient ways to conduct a sacrifice. Charities such as The Edhi Foundation offer affordable services where they will slaughter an animal of your choice and distribute a portion of the meat for you. Then, there are companies such as Meat One also offering the same service for a significantly higher fee.
Meat One will hand you the full spoils of your slaughter should you so desire. Both the butchery and the quality of the meat offered by Meat One are excellent, though this isn’t a surprise considering the names of the company’s founders.
As you may be aware, the owners of Meat One are former Pakistan international cricketers, Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq. Now I don’t know about you, but I sincerely believe this man knows his meat:
If you would rather purchase the poor animal yourself, then you could buy from the enterprising men who take up residence in street corners with goats, looking to make a profit. For buyers interested in better deals, most cities have bakra mandis (livestock markets) located on the outskirts.
Going to one of these bakra mandis can be an interesting experience, especially at nighttime, when beauty pageants starring livestock are in full swing. Yes, this actually happens.
Visiting a bakra mandi alone is never a good idea. Your best bet is to take along your creepy uncle, yes, the one whose fascination with bakras borders on creepy levels.
Visiting a bakra mandi alone is never a good idea, especially when highwaymen are ready to pounce on cash-carrying buyers, and unscrupulous sellers have no qualms about ripping you off.
On my only visit to a bakra mandi, I took my uncle who was supposedly well-versed in the characteristics of healthy goats. Now, I believe every family has such an uncle; a man whose fascination with bakras borders on creepy levels.
“Yeh dekho, iskay daant bohot achay hein.” (Look how nice the teeth of this animal are.)
“Iskay hont bohot surukh hein. Bohot khobsoorat bakra hay.” (This one has remarkably nice lips. It’s a beautiful goat.)
“[After slapping the animal on its rear] Is bakray kee kafee sakht raan hay.” (This goat has a nice firm ass.)
You repress your urge to mutter, “Uncle, I think you are at the wrong mandi.”
Introducing the true stars of Bakra Eid: the darzi, the kasai and the imam
Having arranged your bakra and scheduled your kasai (butcher) for the next day, you are sitting at home in serenity the night before Eid. Unbeknownst to you, a crisis is brewing. It is a crisis every Pakistani man with a sister, mother, girlfriend, or wife has faced.
It is the darzi (tailor) crisis.
During Eid season, every darzi in Pakistan gets more business than he can handle from customers wanting a new outfit to wear on the special occasion. Ideally, the clients want their dresses a week before the big day so they can have the dress modified, because as every woman knows, busy darzis never get it right the first time.
Whenever a customer inquires about their clothes from their darzi, the answer is always kal (tomorrow). Finally, after a frustrating week, tomorrow comes on the night before Eid. Interestingly enough, the only time the darzi’s answer is aaj (today) is when they are asking for payment.
When the darzi does a horrible job on Eid night, there is little you can do. One can scream at the darzi all they want, bring their weird uncle, even, but nothing will wipe the smug smile off the darzi's face.
There is now only one solution for the desperate lady in your life. Yes, you guessed it… Khaadi.
On the night of Eid, every Khaadi outlet in Pakistani is jam packed, bursting at the seams with customers hunting for the perfect top. There is a reason why these buyers, as they sometimes scream at each other while engaging in a tug of war with the last remaining jora, look so miserable. It is because their darzis let them down at the final hour.
When Eid officially begins, every Pakistani heads to their roof to play Rambo. Every year, countless people celebrate Eid with aerial firing. Sadly, Rambo never hurts himself.
Should you happen to be out on chaand raat, it is a wise idea to return before midnight. When the clock strikes twelve, and Eid officially begins, every Pakistani heads to their roof to play Rambo. Every year, countless people celebrate Eid with aerial firing, with stray bullets often hurting innocents. Sadly, Rambo never hurts himself.
The next morning you wake up at stupid o’clock in the morning for Eid prayers. As you sit in the mosque groggily waiting for prayers to commence, you wonder why the imam is giving a sermon on the state of Muslims worldwide on Eid day. Soon, he is talking about the glory days of Islam from an age older than Westeros, and finally he mentions how we should pray for some dude whose evil daughter apparently ran away with a boy. Here, you wonder if you should bring up your uncle, when the call to prayer fills your ears.
“Finally,” you breathe as you stand up.
The imam quickly runs through the format of the special namaz in a speech that barely registers on your sleepy brain. As prayer begins, through the corner of your eye, you carefully watch others praying in the next row so you can copy their moves.
Little do you know, they also came home late from Khaadi, and are equally disoriented.
Usually, it all works out fine unless someone being copied mistakenly clasps their arms around their waist when they should have left their appendages hanging by the sides, which causes a domino effect where several rows copying the person in the incorrect position also get it wrong, leaving those who have it right extremely confused.
Sometimes, an imam is in a good mood and reads a small verse, but occasionally he is prepared to recite the whole Quran. Having held your legs upright for so long, your ankles may start to feel itchy, and it is a challenge to scratch them without being observed by the bearded fellow next to you.
Eid prayers can be unpleasant if the carpets haven’t been washed since the glory days of Islam. Making physical contact with these stinky rugs during sajdah, you are convinced your nose will go the way of Michael Jackson’s.
Of course, the biggest advantage of arriving to a mosque early is being able to pray within the building rather than on the pavement, but this can sometimes be unpleasant if the carpets haven’t been washed since the glory days of Islam. Making physical contact with the stinky rugs during sajdah, you are convinced your nose will go the way of Michael Jackson’s.
After prayer finishes, the triple man hugs begin. In the early morning, the hugs are easy, but as the hot day wears on, you wonder if you should leave a bottle of deodorant at the door for visitors.
Should you be so fortunate, your butcher will show up on time providing you with a smooth sacrifice.
Well, as smooth as it can be.
Whenever I object to the way the sacrifices are conducted in Pakistan, someone asks me if I am a vegetarian or if don’t eat meat all year long, which isn’t the point. My criticism is not of the consumption of meat, but the method with which we acquire meat on Bakra Eid.
Livestock is supposed to be sacrificed without being subjected to physical or psychological cruelty according to scripture. Unfortunately, there is plenty of both in Pakistan. For one, the teachings suggest animals be killed away from each other so they are not overcome with fear, yet most animals witness other animals being painfully slaughtered, as if they were captives of militant groups.
Eid is big business for many, and part-time butchers who are clueless about what they are doing are often hired by people interested in low-cost solutions. Unfortunately, these part time butchers are brutal.
Eid is big business for many, and part-time butchers who are clueless about what they are doing are often hired by people interested in low-cost solutions. Unfortunately, these part time butchers are brutal, increasing the agony of an animal tenfold. 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 a camel is slaughtered in Pakistan. Typically, a small wound is punctured in the camel’s neck, after which the beast runs around screaming as blood gushes from the cavity.
Ahem. Yes, there is a reason why my anecdotes don't go over well at Eid parties. This particular anecdote about camel slaughtering above once caused an entire Eid meal to be packed away uneaten.
Anyway, it certainly beats the standard query, “aap nay Eid kee namaz kahan parhee?”
Eid Mubarak everyone!
Thumbnail photos courtesy: globalmeatnews.com/Mustafa Hussain Photography/Manal Khan