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First Published: http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/qurbani-eid-then-now/
Date: Sunday, October 13, 2013

Standing at the long veranda of our family home in old Dhaka, watching men of the house getting the cows in through the main gate marked the beginning of Qurbani Eid, when I was a child. Everyone would gather either at the courtyard or the veranda and make observations about the cows.
quarbani EidOf course the elderly people would scrutinize and provide running commentary on the cow being too thin or something unsatisfactory about the teeth. The women of the house would instantly start booking pieces of the cow for nehari, kebab, roasted cold cuts and meat loaf/pies. The kids would be just excited to have a short term, limited edition zoo in the house. Kids would be feeding the animals and cleaning up after them, under the supervision of the guard of the house. The cows would be given names. We, kids, would rush to the backyard after returning from school. As it was a joint family, every year we had more than five cows and several goats.
On the eve of Eid, we used to get dreadful insights into the psyche of the cattle from the guard or the help. They used to tell us things like “these animals know they will be slaughtered tomorrow morning, look they are crying, all of them are saying goodbye to each other”. Listening to such gut-wrenching stories, we used to get strange feelings, and I remember I couldn’t eat meat for a long time. I was convinced that the cows were aware of their fate.
Then came the morning; all dressed up we used to stand at the veranda, watching the poor animals being slaughtered. One of the boys from our family would do the honour of making the first cut, then the Maulana would complete the formalities, and finally the butcher would get to work. By afternoon as the kolija or brain would get all spiced up, ready to be consumed, at the upstairs kitchen, the yard would be cleaned with bleaching powder — leaving the entire house smell weird. That was Qurbani Eid for us. The entire city smelling of innards and bleaching powder for days.
After getting married I went to the rural home of my in-laws to be with them during Eid. There, all the cows are taken to a particular field and the rest is taken care of by the people in charge. The one-third of the total meat that is for the house would naturally arrive, another share would be for the relatives, and the rest would get equally distributed among the poor households who can’t afford a Qurbani. It isn’t like what we see in the city — the same people asking for meat and getting more than they can consume, and on the other hand some not getting any.
As I’m supposedly a “grown-up” now, I stand in my mother’s shoes — thinking and planning, browsing the recipe sites, deciding on a menu focusing on beef, stocking up spices and making all preparations. I haven’t noticed this shift so thoroughly until I started writing this. The men still talk about the market price, which haat to go to, and the kids are again partly excited and partly traumatised.
Have a great Eid!

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