The ‘Barri’ Eid is upon us with the usual conflict between the official, ‘not so official’ and the nonofficial moon sighting committees creating a mess out of what should be a festival celebrated on the same day throughout the country. This year we may be witnessing two or maybe three Eids in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province, thanks to mindsets and a refusal to understand that technology is now available that can say whether the possibility exists of sighting the moon. Notwithstanding the above discord, EidulAzha will be celebrated this year, spiced with the presence of the two dharnas in Islamabad.

One of the core rituals of this particular festival is the sacrificial slaughtering of a goat or ram. There was a time when this sacrifice was performed by male members of the family and not by professional butchers or ‘qasais’. Then things changed and a burly looking man with a pair of apprentices toting a wooden block and an assortment of sharp edged knives entered the picture. With time, this trio grew from strength to strength, till the relationship between the ‘client and the service provider’ became topsy-turvy. Today it is the ‘client’ (that is us) which bends backwards to patronize the service provider (i.e. the Butcher) and on atrociously one sided terms acquires the latter’s services. In fact the business has become so profitable that ‘freelance butchers’ sprout out of nowhere on Eid Day to fill the desperate public demand for somebody, almost anybody, to do the slaughtering. Some years ago, an old friend fell prey to these ‘free lancers’ out of sheer desperation with the result that the end product appeared not as neatly carved pieces of meat, but gory remains from what appeared to be a bomb explosion.

Last year the young men in our family decided to take matters into their own hands. One look at the ‘raging bull’ was enough to douse their enthusiasm and so began an epic panic stricken quest to find a professional butcher before the sun went down. Many hours and litres of fuel later, we were able to get in touch with one individual, who ‘interviewed’ us with a line of questions that could put a police detective to shame. Totally defeated, we submitted ourselves to the mercy and goodwill of the man and finally managed to perform the ritual as dusk was falling.

Like everything else, the activities on Eid ul Azha have undergone an evolution or in the words of my older sister, a “mutation.” In days gone by, we washed and dressed in our ‘Eid Best’; drove to the Badshahi Mosque (our traditional prayer venue, where we were joined by family members from the Walled City); returned home to offer the sacrifice; went to the graveyard to offer ‘fateha’ for departed family members and from there proceeded to call on the living ones; returned in time to receive callers and finally went to bed dog tired, to rise around eight o’clock next morning. The modern family’s Eid itinerary begins with half the members proceeding to the nearest mosque for Eid Prayers, while a few young men and women continue to catch up on lost sleep. The return from the mosque is followed by a phone call telling ‘so and so meat shop’ to proceed with the ritual slaughtering of the animals that were bought a night before and kept in custody there. A return phone call dispatches the driver to collect the meat that has been prepared to suit the expected items on the next few days’ menu. The visit to the graveyard is dispensed with, while a few close family members are called upon. Afternoons are designated as siesta time to prepare everyone for the big barbeque party that goes on well into the night when youngsters suddenly decide to head to the nearby Cineplex. Needless to say, the next day the house does not stir before well past noon.

Someone may turn round and say that the ‘mutated’ itinerary in my piece fits a well to do family, which by any standards is a poor social sample and in minority. I accept this criticism as justified, but I have deliberately used this sample to stress the notion that Eid is a traditional window to celebrate and bond with one’s near and dear ones, for herein lies the beauty of our belief, culture and values.

The writer is a historian.