My bakra is better than your bakra

Some years ago Eidul Azha or Bakra Eid, as it is commonly referred to, used to be a simple affair. A designated person would purchase the goats/cows for their family and the qasab/kasai would slaughter the animals and remind us of the great sacrifice taken by Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to show his devotion to God. These days however, Bakra Eid is a complicated production, one which involves a myriad of options and it goes something like this.

Pre-purchase: Honed by our various experiences with “pre-emptive” noise and fanfare, be it in politics or talk shows or the war against terror, we now do the same with Eid. This involves talking about meat, jokes about meat and randomly staring at animals while driving. This also includes reminiscing about last year’s BBQ and of course, conveniently forgetting how sick everyone got afterwards. At this point we tend to get blood-thirsty and everything with four legs looks like an option for slaughter. This is precisely why sellers of sacrificial animals have introduced more variety for us, with imported Australian and Russian cows and yaks now on the menu.

Of course there are some who would just go for the novelty of sacrificing something different, something that will leave everyone talking until next Eid; cows so large and heavy that their legs won’t support them and the mutated crushed-almond-eating-used-to-daily-massages-with-milk kind of beasts.

The Purchase: This involves military level planning and execution in two phases

Phase one involves several recon missions which involve going around the neighbourhood to scour other animals purchased. This also includes petting other people’s sacrificial purchases with the customary objection thrown in: ‘Have you seen the mole behind your animal’s ear?’ and ‘Tch tch, one leg is shorter, eh?’ This is but a cover since the real intention is to stroll around and figure out how much these people actually paid for the goat or cow, and how low the sellers are willing to go with other customers.

Phase two is all about finding the right mandi, the negotiations and finally, purchasing the animal. After the seller gives you dirty looks for lurking around as he tries to make his sale to other customers, you realise you need to start the negotiation process but it isn’t quite that simple. It usually begins with small talk – the weather, current government, politics or even the number of animals available in the market. The trick is to irritate the seller so much he tells you the price for the animal you are standing next to without even asking. And so, the negotiations begin. The amount offered to the seller is usually half of what was quoted, hearing which he not-so-politely tells you to get lost. This is when you hand over a wad of notes (usually a little below the final asking price) to the seller’s hand and attempt to take leave with the goat or cow as quickly as possible lest the seller realises what just happened.

The setup

The biggest and the most important aspect of Eid is what the neighbours will say when they look at your sacrificial animal. To get the entire neighbourhood talking, people have started putting their sacrificial purchases outside in full view. It all began with a few shamianas but has now turned into something similar to a mini-circus-like attraction outside certain houses. This is complete with spotlights to showcase the sparkling white canopy so that the entire area can not only see it but there must be enough parking for the steady stream of gawkers passing by in their cars. Also present are a few chairs so that children can get their pictures taken with their favourite animal. Two things must be kept in mind during this entire activity:

a) The price of the animal must be proportional to the number of times people ask about it and must be at least triple the purchase price by Eid day.

b) Myths must be attached to the animal by people who are lurking around. These lurkers casually tell people staring at the enormous cow how the sahib’s sacrificial animal sings like Bon Jovi on a full moon.

After qurbani the next few days are then spent visiting various doctors, complaining of stomach aches and excessive belching during prayers.


As published in THE DAWN BLOG on Oct 15th 2010

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