PTH has received this contribution from Faiz al-Najdi on the sacrifice rites. Hope the readers enjoy this account. Raza Rumi
For Desis Qurbani has never been an exciting affair in Saudi Arabia. For simple reason and it is that the Desis are expected to follow some strict rules vis-à-vis Qurbani here. They cannot do the Qurbani any where at their free will. They are expected to go and visit the designated cattle-pens for purchasing the sacrificial animals and deposit them at the designated slaughter house for the necessary handling of the same. As an alternate arrangement they can engage with the local meat shop men and register with them to do the needful on their behalf.
Frankly, I always dreaded the dust and filth in and around the designated cattle-pens and in fact was never comfortable with rubbing shoulders with the crowds there. That is squarely the reason why all these years I had resisted the invitation and persuasion from all and sundries to join them in the trip and rendezvous at the designated cattle-pens of Riyadh situated in the south in Azizia district. Instead, for years I have been registering with M/S GEO Meat Shop in Hara-Riyadh for the annual Qurbani at a fee that keeps increasing each year. My friend Sajawal at M/S GEO Meat Shop has been extending special services and favor to me always wherein I was never required to fall in the long queues that often take a bee-line for the aspiring clients. In short, my Qurbani at M/S GEO Meat Shop had always been an easy sail through.
But this year was different all together. Even after registering with Sajawal, I finally fell and succumbed to the business-like persuasion and convincing of Ali Akbar – a family friend of long standing. Ali Akbar is in the business of selling educational stuffs and as such is a great salesman. Like it is said, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, Ali Akbar’s mastery in persuasion lies in the fact that he was able to win over me – the greatest antagonist of visiting the designated cattle-pens for Qurbani.
To cut the story short, I called Sajawal to cancel my booking and climbed the bandwagon of M/S Ali Akbar and associates. Ali Akbar and some of his associates are the old folks and have frequented the designated cattle-pens and the slaughter houses for years together. For me though it was a maiden experience.
Alright, on the Eid day four of us – me, Ali Akbar, Ahsan and Danish – arrived at the famous cattle-pen in the south of Riyadh around noon time. Without wasting much time, all of us headed straight into the first cattle-pen in the vicinity and the haggling began. As expected the demand from the owner was way too high. Ali Akbar look frustrated and so did others in our company. I popped in to their help – which for them was unsolicited from someone so naive in the business like me. Nevertheless, I whispered into the ears of Ali Akbar and told him to allow me to confer with a Bondhu who I noticed was lurking nearby. Bondhu is a term used liberally for a Bengali fellow – it means “a friend” in Bengali language though. With little bit proficiency in Bengali language, I was able to bring home to Abdul Mannan – the Bondhu – about what exactly we needed of him. I told him we would be purchasing six goats and would give him some commission for his expert services in getting us some real cheap bargain. It was amazing to see his magical efficiency then after. He pulled us out of this pen immediately and led us into another at a few distance from the previous one. This new pen-owner was a Yemeni and seemed to be in thick-and-thin with our new Bondhu. Very soon we were done leaving Ali Akbar beaming. A great bargain was won for us all by our Bondhu – Abdul Mannan.
This was not the end, in fact the beginning of many more courtesy services from this great new-found Bondhu of ours. After the deal was struck and payments made, Bondhu Abdul Mannan then introduced us with yet another new Bondhu – Qamrul Islam. It needs mention here that purchasing the cattle is only the first step in the long and tenuous process of getting through with your sacrificial ritual. The next step is to transport the cattle to the slaughter house located nearby and to register there. The cattle get fallen in the long and unending queue and a ticket with a reference number is provided for collection of the meat later. The cattle once deposited in the slaughter house first are slaughtered and then the skinning process follows. Then after it is inspected by a veterinary doctor for its suitability for consumption. At the end, the cattle then is cut into four large pieces and handed over to the claimant against the reference ticket provided earlier. It should be noted this entire process would have taken at least 3 to 4 hours and this meant we all would have to be hanging there till Maghreb time which is around 5:00 p.m. here these days.
Bondhu Qamrul Islam was a blessing in disguise for us. He offered us to take us to butchery nearby – a Bengali den in fact – where all of these processes described above, in the slaughter house, could be done in one hour only. Ali Akbar was suspicious and couldn’t believe what he was hearing so he whispered in my ears to speak to this new Bondhu to make sure that the new Bondhu was speaking sense and also that he was not a conman. Responding to this I confronted Qamrul Islam in near perfect Bengali and was assured by him of full guarantee to the effect. I communicated to Ali Akbar with my satisfactory notes and off we set for the Bengali den.
Travelling for a couple of Kilometers further down south we arrived at a desolate locality – a typical Bengali habitat. We were taken aback with mixed reactions of both surprise and satisfaction as we saw the butchery work already in full swing. The facility presented an amateur look with amateur and part-time Bengali Bondhu skills men at work with rustic equipment. Qamrul Islam introduced us as simply Deshis and ordered them to do the job with full attention. There we go. Our goats were treated as VIPs and herded to special corner where they were treated with utmost respected. We were offered concrete block seats and some soda to refresh. Ali Akbar was simply impressed with the Bengali hospitality which once offered is simply matchless; any thing that comes any where closer is the “Pathan” hospitality.
To cut the story short, we indeed were offered the services in full and to the entire satisfaction of M/S Ali Akbar and associates, me included, entirely as promised by our Bondhu Qamrul Islam. The price spent was worth the services received. Our goods were loaded in my Toyota Fortuner and we set o leave. Ali Akbar then tapped my shoulder and asked me to obtain their cell number so we could contact them again for the services required the next time around. I was given a business card instead with full details. The Bondhus bid me good bye with warm hugs from each one of them and also with a courteous and cordial open invitation to visit again.
We all left satisfied and happy specially for the fact that we managed to cut a very good bargain in purchase of the goats and didn’t have to endure the torture and fatigue of going through the slaughter house processes – all through the courtesy of our new found Bondhus in M/S Abdul Mannan and Qamrul Islam. Ali Akbar, Danish and Ahsan remarked that these Bondhus really made our Qurbani a memorable one and a big bonanza for all of us. I simply smiled in agreement.
Faiz Al-Najdi is pen-name (nom de plume) of Engr. Syed Faiz Ahmad. He is a Riyadh based civil and structural engineer and a Columnist. He is also a Middle East Bureau Chief of http://www.prideofpakistan.com.