Too Close for Comfort: Introduction

Karachi Scribbles II

Bakra Eid is not my favorite. I have some snippets of memories associated with it that are flashed at the back of mind every now and then, five-second holographs, tugged into motion by some unaware association:

A still image of bright red blood streaming into the drain outside our gate, just the grey-tiled floor and the sliver of red (because I would keep my eyes trained to the ground on slaughter days).

The large, smooth spheres of cattle intestines that would line the backstreets of Islamabad, I can see them at the edge of my vision, as my cousins and I walk down to the market nearby. (That must have been at least 12 years ago, when the walk to the market itself was the treat rather than the few rupees we’d spend on sweets.)

I remember the goat that stepped on my foot, sparking a lifetime grudge. I was wearing open-toed slippers and was actually in a sweet mood, offering green stalks to the heavy-hoofed creature and he just came too close for comfort. And the thing is, I felt it was very deliberate. So I was hurt physically and emotionally. I’ve never really warmed up to the animal as a species after that.

Then there is an audio memory. It is the pained yell of a goat that sees its death flash in the silver of the knife, glinting under the sun, accidentally exposed a second too soon. I woke up to the sound one Eid day many years ago, and that ruined it for me. I can still hear that scream every now and then, and it makes me lose my appetite not just for meat but even cereal.

So, needless to say, I prefer staying indoors on this Eid. I don’t like eating meat in general but I swear it off completely on the three Eid days and the month following it for good measure.

This Eid-ul-Azha we had the pleasure of having a cattle market right next to us.
Ever since I can remember, there has been an empty plot adjacent to our house. All the other spaces have been filled up but this 500sq. yards of land remains. Sometimes it serves as free parking space for the neighborhood but largely its left alone, you know, seeing that it doesn’t really belong to any of the people living on the street.

Till the house on the other side of the plot was built. This blog post (and a few others in the future) is dedicated to our neighbors in the House of Jerks.

Their house took a couple of years to build and really, it’s nice looking from the outside. Who lives there is a mystery because Fahad and I are both introverts so we don’t really care. We don’t really see the inhabitants as much as the cars that drive these inhabitants.
At any point in time there are always at least two vehicles parked outside, taking over half the road. (They are always being cleaned. As are the windows of the house.) Is it nice to permanently take over the road, especially if your house is right at the street corner? No, not really, but it’s okay, I guess, at any rate it doesn’t bother us too much.

Then as Bakra Eid rolled closer, a large canopy was put up, a rugged carpet rolled out covering the entire land space between our house and the House of Jerks. A few chairs and a small stage or two at both corners which was somewhat confusing. Is this for cattle as the troughs indicate or for an event as the chairs and stages suggest?

The animals came slowly, almost magically because every time I came back home from work there would be another massive cow – imported from Australia was the rumor – chewing dry grass in the plot. Some five cows, a goat or two, a sheep, and a camel, all came to populate a very bright cattle market lit up with strings of white bulbs that swung in the Karachi night breeze. The three days of Eid saw the end of the market, with the camel being left for last.

The third day of Eid, we were getting into the car for a dinner party at a relative’s when Fahad turned on the headlights. The misty ray of light fell on a bloody carcass, more apt for the set of a horror movie than a nice neighborhood in DHA. “Ew!” I shrieked, “turn it off!” He did and the image disappeared, but then he turned it on again for that is somewhat amusing to a 28-year-old husband, and there was the all too real blood and gore remains of the poor camel.

The next day a strange smell had invaded our home. My ammunition of candles and fruity sprays proved futile.
What is this smell!?”

It was the camel’s head and hoofs, pleasantly tucked into our side of the plot, right by our wall. Our kitchen window actually faces this plot and the smell there was not exactly conducive to cooking.

The next day it was even worse, for obvious reasons. This is Karachi and its hot – imagine the dried blood and bones and fat and muscle rotting in the sun, crows pecking away at the shredded leftovers and the disgusting scent of meat and death hanging heavy in our entire house.

So we finally complained, get this mess picked up. And kindly so, after two and a half days of living next to a camel corpse, I came home from work one day to find the plot empty save for a white powder scattered along the space, hopefully an antiseptic of some sort.

Needless to say, I’m not sending over any kheer to these neighbors.

(Note: House of Jerks  will be featured in at least one more entry due to their incredible daftness and disregard for human life)


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