Friday, October 26, 2012

Shock & Awe Talk: The 'Hum-bah' Essay!



by Mac Haque

“It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him.” The Quran (S22:V37)

There are few creatures on earth as innocent and beautiful as the hum-bah, and try as we may in terming them Bull, Cow, Ox, it remains oblivious to these categorizations made by the human species. While we make a big deal out of comparing the eyes of a doe to those belonging to ones we are madly in love with; never ever, even in the worst of C Grade movie or natok dialogues, not even as a joke do we hear lovers stating: "But darling, those eyes of yours are as beautiful as the hum-bah"!

What is it that we find in the eyes of the doe worth beholding, and not those of the hum-bah? Because deer's live in real jungles as opposed to the concrete jungle we dwell in, we rarely get to see up them up close, other than in a zoo, or maybe at somebody's 'private collection'. Conversely, only because the hum-bah is within our easy reach, access and exploitation, we have made it a habit of making this poor creature the butt of all our rancor, contempt, jokes and unutterable profanities, with the much abused distortion of the term 'ox-feces’, being the supreme insult invented by the human species!

We Bangladeshi's eat…..sorry…'digest' hundreds upon thousands of hum-bah, and we are surely a 'blessed' lot, in that 'beef' reaches us blood dripping fresh.  It may not be a huge error in calculation to conclude that conservatively 100,000 of these poor creatures are digested by the 120 million strong population of Bangladesh EVERYDAY? Therefore 365 TIMES 100,000 = a staggering 36.5 million hum-bah's digested each year? Other than our daily consumption, around Qurbani time, an additional 10 to 15 million hum-bah’s are per force 'martyred'?

Question: Do we produce as many hum-bah's in Bangladesh in the ratio we slaughter them? No we don't - which should lead us on to surmise that to reach a state of equilibrium, we ought to be 'producing' 10 times more hum-bah, to counter the menace of our reckless 'digesting'! "So, where on earth do we get that many hum-bah's from?"

“From India of course” and it is neither a dark secret, nor something we worry too much about. In India the killing of hum-bah is 'cardinal sin' and few people there have to indulge in this macabre hum-bah meat digestion ritual. Not unsurprisingly we often see captions in Kolkata newspapers under pictures of herds of hungry and skeletal hum-bah’s:  "You cannot eat them, neither can you feed them - what do you do with them?"

Leave it to 'fundamentalist' Marwari smugglers in tandem with Muslim Maulana's cohorts to bail you out in answering the question. "While digesting hum-bah is cardinal sin, nowhere in any 'Holy Book' does it say you cannot sell them - especially when you can't feed them?", provides just about the right theological tempo for hundreds upon thousands of Indian hum-bah's making 'illegal infiltration' into Bangladesh with the human species providing a 'push-in' of sort, which on the flip side when inflicted upon its own kind, leads to days after days of endless and useless political bantering.

All that is needed after you have 'liquid' hard cash on hand, is to assemble the hum-bah herd across the Indian frontier and in unison do a 'hurrrrr, hurrr, hai, haiiii' and a neat border-crossing to be received as 'favorite food' of the Bangladeshi Muslims is completed. There being no fuss about Passport or Visa requirement, or demands for “transit facility" the hum-bah does not have a 'nationality', and is outwardly a “secular” creature. More on that later.

Which brings us to the question: How do we know that these hum-bah’s are 'illegal Indians' and how on God's earth do you sort out their 'difference' with their Bangladeshi counterpart? No easy answer or 'flag meeting' here for us.
To be on the clear, let us put it this way:  hum-bah smuggling is an 'economic' activity and completely 'non-communal' and 'secular' in character, for whenever the creature enters Bangladesh from India, it comes laden with a 'hide' on its back. While beef industries have proliferated in most countries across the globe, the Bangladeshis passionate obsession for 'fresh' hum-bah meat has not seen similar "industries" develop in the region. So, if inextricably eating hum-bah flesh were not a 'cardinal sin' in India, Bangladesh would have been left with no choice but to import container ships full of frozen beef at prices higher than GOLD from Australia or God knows where else.

However, on the flip side, millions in the Bangladesh population earn a livelihood working in tanneries, leather and shoe industry designed to profit from sale of hum-bah hide, illegal or otherwise. Organic fertilizer, even paper is produced from hum-bah bones, hoof and horn off-takes. In particular, hum-bah hide collected during the Qurbani bovine-icide is extremely valuable. Unlike professional 'butchers', ordinary citizens take extra ordinary care in extricating skins off the back of martyred creatures, and since most of them are 'young' their hides are soft and pliable - huh?

Traders in the tannery business wait in anticipation to make a huge 'killing' in profits this time of the year. Security all across 'cattle markets' are appropriately 'beefed up' and to keep the  exercise hazard free, extortionists and other hoodlums join force to employ huzurs (read bearded mullahs) to maintain serene calm and justify that their earnings are kosher or 'halal'.

This is also the time of the year Madrasas and other Islamic institutions join in as 'middlemen' and we liberals take a respite from abusing them as Razakars (traitors), fundamentalist, Taliban or Al-Qaeda 'terrorists'. The huzurs favor us by not resorting to any fatwas insinuating that hum-bah's originating from Hindu farms in India is 'haram' or 'unbecoming of Holy slaughter' - Allah be pleased!

While there is an element of domestic politics in the hum-bah hide business, and occasional disputes, clashes and even murders; overall, the exercise is festivity positive exemplified by the millions of posters plastered all across the country, in buses, boats, cars, trucks, you name it. Basically any open space that can take an extra poster with one terse sentence reminding everybody: “Qorbanir Chamra Mukto Hostay Daan Korun" - DONATE YOUR SACRED HUM-BAH SKIN.

By that is meant, whatever may be the cost of the 'hide' is not to be retained for personal consumption, but donated to charity and at an average of Taka 2000.00 per skin times 15 million, we are talking about billions going into Islamic charities. Probably explains why Madrasas in Bangladesh can survive without the 'charity' of the Semite Al-Qaeda or the Aryan Taliban’s? A humble hum-bah 'effort' to America’s “War on Terror", a quiet, international contribution if we may…bravo.

Eid-Al-Azha is also the time for great merriment's surrounding the hum-bah. While citizens of the country digest hum-bah flesh daily, this is the only time in the year; they get anywhere 'close' to the creature, for a period of a day or two. Hum-bah’s are fed, bathed, caressed, children get to sit on them, and their necks are adorned with colorful paper garlands, while its sharp horns are covered for unknown reason, with red cloth. Orientation with the hum-bah 'nature' comes hand in hand, with injuries from kicks, butts and shoves taken all in good humor and peals of laughter.

There are of course dangers, and the worst nightmare is a hum-bah going berserk after having snapped and freed itself from the rope that held it to a pillar or tree. The huzurs are quickly summoned, who as a matter of routine catapult to status of Maulanas (or 'knowledgeable' venerated Sir} with apparently the "right knowledge" as how to overpower the "beast". The entire exercise leaves everybody procrastinating, if it is the human species or the hum-bah the ‘beast’ that needs overpowering?

One however need not be a great pundit to figure the secular status of the hum-bah. For example, the hum-bah we decide to 'martyr' every Qurbani is born and reared in a Hindu homestead somewhere in India. For a Hindu who loves "mother hum-bah" and considers it God, knows all too well that individual 'human lives' are in the hand of Bhagwan, Iswar et al, also knows well that it is only this sense of realization that sets apart the human species from BEASTS.

The hum-bah therefore sets out for its journey back to the creator, and for the Hindu, all of it happens without the mandatory obligation of having to see firsthand 'evidence' of how death occurred to 'mother'. The Hindus are not prepared to stand witness to her death, it grips them with fear, and above all this is a bolt on his BELIEF, which ultimately cannot be any fault of the Hindu religion. For a Hindu, leaving 'mother hum-bah' at the mercy of fate, cannot be any fault of God either.

If Qurbani means 'sacrifice', surely the first 'sacrifice' in the entire cyclic process of the food chain, was made by a Hindu cattle herdsmen somewhere in India when he bade a tearful farewell to 'mother', long before it reached a Muslim household in Bangladesh. On the other hand, for the Muslim, witnessing the slaughter of the hum-bah is alike an orientation to manhood, perhaps a quiet reflection once a year that death may not always be as brutal - but then who knows.

By the time this piece reaches readers, the moans of 'hum-bah, hum-bah' must be resonating in chorus across all our neighborhoods. Shall we ask ourselves with all honesty whether we look up to the creature with LOVE, or do we half wonder and drool in our saliva how 'kofta, kalia' and other delicacies we shall surely be cooking out of its 'meat' taste? Shall we put to death the innocent hum-bah to symbolize the 'sacrifice', and butchering of our frailties, or be consumed by the 'taste' of its departed flesh? Really how long these olfactory taste last?

It is time we reflect whether LOVE which is the first condition to the creation of life, merely revolves around consumption, LOVE of the body, mind or the appreciation of a deeper conscience.

Conflicts among our communities are unending, simply because Muslims and Hindu's do not get along. Other than appreciating love, the greatest debacle we face is in our belief system more often than not, friction and conflicts have a tendency to revolve fundamentally around breach of TRUST, resulting in degradation of human values. Hardest in the human species is overcoming broken trust that leads on to the death of love, death of a 'belief' - a belief system no matter how obscure or unexplainable is a belief every human in the planet is entitled to. Whenever a belief is challenged, broken or shredded - Iswar, Bhagwan or Allah is surely left disappointed.

Therefore, as we prepare to sacrifice the hum-bah tomorrow, let us make a pledge to 'put to death' our hate, anger, lust, greed, conflict, sins and importantly - employ a tight leash on our tongues. And never forget that Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of a lamb was to ensure that human’s do not end up as cannibals. Let the human species be humane. Amen

With that, here is wishing everybody a very Happy Eid.

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