Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Family and Friends (Eid al-Adha)

Filed under: Notes from Bangladesh — alison @ 07:47

A letter from my father in Bangladesh; perhaps his last, as his work there ends next week.

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Dear Family and Friends,

Friends and Family who do not like to look at pictures of freshly sacrificed bulls and goats bleeding their life out into gutters (You know who you are!), should not [scroll to the images at the end of this post]. The Eid al-Adha festival commemorates God’s gift of a ram in place of Ishmael, whom God had commanded Abraham to sacrifice. In Judaism and Christianity, the child in this story is Ishmael’s brother Isaac. (Wikipedia)

The sacrificial animals began to arrive two days ago. The cattle spent yesterday on display on the street. At my last count yesterday evening there were six bulls and five goats in the parking garage. This probably means that every flat with a head of household remaining in the city had an animal to sacrifice. Not counting the foreigner.

This morning around eight o’clock, the male householders went to mosque and by nine oclock they were all on their way back home. Servants and guards had trussed the animals during mosque. The men assembled in front of their houses near the trussed animals. Hujurs (Arabic teachers) circulated, checking what looked like order books. Then the killing began. The labourers would line up an animal and hold it steady, then a Hujur would step in and with eight or ten strokes slice through the neck. Then the chief cutters begn the work of deconstruction, sending buckets of meat and bones into the garage as they were filled.

An hour or so later we heard a stampede, as hundreds of poor people with thick plastic bags swarmed into the garage. There must have been a signal that our flats were ready to distribute the one third of the meat that goes to the poor. (Another third goes to relatives, and a third is reserved for the master and his family.) Our guards lined the poor people up, then began letting them out out, each receiving a chunk of meat as they passed through the gate. Smaller swarms have been moving up and down the street all afternoon, but now seem to be heading home. There is little evidence of the carnage, except that the street has been washed. We can expect that about one third of the cattle slaughtered during the year will have been slaughtered today.

Sort of like Christmas and Halloween. Now everybody’s eating.

Affectionately, P.

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