This Eid, trust Raja and his goat
“This doesn’t look like it belongs to our goat,” she told him. “I think Raja Bhai got the boxes mixed up.”
“Abba, when are we going to get our goat? It’s so close to Eid now.”
Majeed’s three children excitedly ran up to him as soon as he stepped into the house. Over the past two weeks, their insistence for a qurbani (sacrifice) animal had gained momentum.
“Yes, we’ll get it soon enough. Let me catch my breath first.”
Majeed replied as he slumped into the sofa in the simply furnished family room.
“But Abba, it’s getting very late,” Sameer, his 14-year-old son sat at his feet. “My friend Amjad was telling me that the animals are getting very expensive.”
“Yes, my friend Gul was saying the same thing,” added the 12-year-old Amira. “And also if we get our goat sooner, we can take care of it longer and show it around like all the other kids.”
“Enough of this animal talk,” Tahira, their mother, entered the room with a cup of tea.
“No sooner does your father enter the house that you all surround him like flies. He’s looking for a good deal and when he finds it, you’ll get your goat.” she retorted.
Sameer, Amira, and Ahmed got up with glum faces.
“I think you’re just going to keep saying that until the last day like always,” said eight-year-old Ahmed in a disappointed tone. “And then not get the animal after all.”
“No my dear,” Majeed patted Ahmed’s head, saddened by the despondency in his son’s voice, “I’ll definitely get your goat this time. Just you see.”
Ahmed’s eyes lit up with expectation.
“Promise Abba?” he asked gleefully.
“I promise,” Majeed smiled at his son.
Despite his average earnings, he tried his best to fulfil his children’s desires. The three children left the room happily.
“Why do you make promises you can’t keep,” Tahira sat next to him. “You should have told him how expensive goats are and how we cannot afford them any longer.”
Majeed sighed heavily.
“Eidul Azha is all about animals and the fun of qurbani,” he said. “I hate not being able to afford even one small goat for my children to experience the true essence of Eid.”
“Why do you worry so much?” Tahira asked him. “The older two are old enough to understand our monetary situation now. Ahmed is young, but I can handle him. Buying a goat means a huge dent in the children’s educational saving.”
“Tahira, I was thinking about calling my friend Raja,” Majeed said thoughtfully.
“The one who lives in some village?” Tahira was surprised. “What can he do?”
“Many people at my office who have families in the towns and villages get Eid animals from there, since it is very cheap,” Majeed told her. “Maybe Raja can help me too.”
“That’s a good idea,” Tahira sat up, a little excited. “But you don’t know the name of his village.”
“I don’t need the name of the village,” Majeed replied. “I think I have his number.”
He was already going through the contact list in his cell phone. Tahira fervently hoped Majeed had the number. Though she never told Majeed, but she too hated making excuses to friends on the street for why there was still no goat outside their house on Eid.
Majeed not only found the number, but also called Raja right away. The result was most encouraging. Raja not only had very good priced goats available, but was also willing to give some additional discount to Majeed.
“I’ll deliver the goat to you since I have to deliver three more tomorrow,” Raja told him.
Majeed was ecstatic. This was better than he had hoped.
“So have you booked a butcher for the goat?” Raja asked him.
“Book a butcher?” Majeed was bewildered. “Why would I need to book him? I’ll ask whoever I see on the street to come and slaughter the goat.”
“No my dear naive Majoo,” he said, “That’s not how it works nowadays. Butchers are a hot commodity on Eid and unless you book one ahead of time, you’ll end up paying a king’s ransom just to get your animal sacrificed properly and in time.”
For the past several years, Majeed and Tahira had taken a share in a cow and hence had no idea how to handle their very own goat. Majeed was therefore quite thankful to Raja for giving him all these tips.
“I’ll see what I can find,” Majeed replied.
“The other thing you can do if you want to save money is to let me butcher it for you,” Raja suggested. “I have my own butchers here. On Eid afternoon, I’ll pick up the eight or nine goats I have delivered in the city and bring them back here, butcher them at a far cheaper rate, and then deliver your cut meat back the next day.”
“But won’t the goats get mixed up?” Majeed was apprehensive.
“My dear Majoo, trust Raja,” Raja reassured him. “I personally supervise the qurbani, put the meat in boxes with the owner’s name, and deliver it right back to them. There is no question of mix up. Plus this will also eliminate the usual mess of blood and gore in front of your house.”
The deal was too good to refuse. Tahira was elated beyond words. Getting an animal on Eidul Azha did wonders for a household’s social status on the occasion.
The next afternoon, a robust, plump goat was delivered to their house. Majeed and Tahira were taken aback to see the healthy, large animal with a clean shiny coat and sharp, bright eyes. It was a steal for the amount they had paid for it and priceless for the joy it brought their little family.
In comparison, their goat was far better looking than a lot of other animals on their street that their children had been so envious of. With their necks stiff with pride and gleeful smiles, the three children promptly took their good looking goat for a show-off walk around the street.
Tahira, just as proud as the children, made it a point to ‘hint’ to her friends and close family that they too would be doing a qurbani for Eid. A whole goat was an impressive piece of news given the soaring prices. Given the financial crunch, most of her friends and family were relegated to taking shares in a cow. However, Tahira took care not to reveal how they had procured the animal. No harm in letting people think that she and Majeed had spent so much on a whole goat.
“So should your brother and I expect a whole leg from you after qurbani?” Tahira’s sister-in-law unsuccessfully tried to keep the envy out of her voice.
“Of course Saira bhabi,” Tahira replied sweetly. “I will have Majeed tell the butcher to leave the legs whole.”
Indeed, Eidul Azha was a real celebration only with one’s own qurbani animal.
On the day of Eid, the kids were more excited about qurbani than they were about their new clothes. Early in the evening, Raja arrived in his Suzuki pickup, collecting all the qurbani goats. This was an added perk for Tahira; not having to deal with cleaning the mess left by the butchers who did the sacrifice at home. She made it a point to convey this little piece of news to her neighbours and family too.
They were impressed; Tahira was getting her goat butchered on order reliably through Majeed’s very good friend, who had a trustworthy business of doing so. Plus the cost was far less than what the local butchers were charging.
The next morning, the family got up excitedly, ready to receive their boxes of cut meat. Majeed and Tahira had made a list of friends and family to whom the meat would be getting distributed. As punctual as he had proven himself to be, Raja’s Suzuki arrived at their house in the afternoon to deliver the three cardboard boxes of cut meat. The red meat looked fresh and had a strong smell.
“Smell the meat, Majeed,” Raja held up a piece near Majeed’s nose. “Notice the smell? This is from all the fresh grass and natural ingredients the goats in the village eat. Not like the junk they feed the city animals nowadays.”
Majeed was most admiring Raja’s experience with animals.
Refusing offer of tea and sweets, Raja rushed off since he had more deliveries to make. Sameer and Ahmed helped Majeed bring the boxes inside where Tahira had plastic bags ready to start packing. Since the children were so eager to distribute to their friends in the neighbourhood, she made six or seven bags quickly and put them in a basket.
The two boys rushed off excitedly. Amira and Tahira continued to make the remaining bags. Suddenly Amira exclaimed loudly. Startled, Tahira look up to see her daughter holding up a half-cut, grey coloured ear.
“Ammi, our goat had dark brown ears!” Amira said in a loud voice. “This doesn’t look like our goat’s ear.”
Tahira quickly took the ear and inspected it closely. She then yelled for Majeed, who was at the gate keeping an eye on the boys.
“What is it?” Majeed came inside.
In response, Tahira held up the incriminating piece of evidence. Majeed felt his feet go cold.
“This doesn’t look like it belongs to our goat,” she told him. “I think Raja Bhai got the boxes mixed up.”
Majeed didn’t reply. He had grabbed a polythene bag and was scooping large portions of meat from each of the boxes into it. He then snatched the grey ear from Tahira.
“Where are you off to?” Tahira asked him bewildered.
Amira was also watching her father in surprise.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” Majeed replied hastily. “And don’t send out any more meat until I get back.”
Majeed arrived at the meat store and was relieved to find Afzal the butcher there.
“Eid Mubarak, Majeed Bhai,” Afzal greeted him cheerily. “Have you brought my share of qurbani?”
“I have a question Afzal,” Majeed ignored the greeting and handed Afzal the meat bag. “What do you think about the quality of this meat?”
Afzal took the bag and opened it. First he took a deep whiff of the meat and then carefully inspected several random pieces from the top and bottom of the bag.
“Where did you get this?” he asked Majeed.
“Someone sent it to my house as qurbani meat.”
Majeed couldn’t possibly tell him it was his own goat. He then handed him the grey ear.
“This was also in it. It seems like it belongs to a very sick goat.”
Afzal laughed loudly.
“I don’t know if the animal was sick or not,” he said, “but it was certainly not a goat. Majeed bhai, this is a donkey’s ear and donkey meat.”
Majeed felt his legs turn to rubber. He leaned against the counter, stunned. He had desperately hoped he was mistaken and it was a case of swapped goats rather than a different breed altogether.
“A…a…donkey?” he stammered. “Are you sure?”
“My three generations have been butchers Majeed bhai,” Afzal said. “Even if you hadn’t given me the ear, I could tell by that certain smell and specific grain of the meat. I hope you haven’t eaten any of it?” Afzal was suddenly concerned.
The white faced Majeed quietly shook his head. His family hadn’t consumed it, but he wasn’t sure about the families to whom his sons had already delivered the meat bags.
Telling Afzal to get rid of the meat, Majeed hurried home. On the way, he took out his cell phone and dialed Raja’s number. There was a recording at the other end.
“The number you are trying to reach is no longer in service…”
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