Wednesday, 16 October 2013

My 'Baqra Eid Eve' ordeal

I went to the shops earlier this evening. The town was like as if it was Xmas eve. Total chaos. To my disappointment I found out that my regular shop had run out of chicken. This meant getting chicken from some other shop.

After a bit of driving around I found a 'local' meat shop. I parked up and walked in. The first thing that hit me was the mixed stench of chicken feathers, beef and mutton. After a few seconds, when I was able to regain consciousness  I looked around. There was a cash counter to the left where a fat bearded man was sitting. To my right there were three service windows with butchers behind them. 

There were a few people in chaotic queues at the windows so I joined them and stated edging in from the wide. As I got closer I was able to see the chickens in the cages behind the butchers. The poor chickens were cramped together and had this frightened look in their eyes which only asked one question, "Who is next?". 

When I eventually managed to stick my head through the window the fat butcher asked me what I wanted. I asked for five chickens. The butcher repeated my order as loudly as he could for the whole world to hear. Out of nowhere a minion appeared, opened one of the cages, stuck his hand in, grabbed 5 birds, tied them all together with their wings and tossed them on to a weighing scale. All this in less than a minute. Then he yelled,"9 kilos." The butcher asked my if that was okay. By this time I was already in a trance and I must have said yes because they were briskly passed on to another guy who apparently cut their throats, bled them and pulled their feathers/skin off. Thankfully that was out of my sight. 

Two minutes later the once alive chickens reappeared, naked, without any feathers, head or skin, next to the chopping board (which was almost half a tree trunk), to the same guy who initially took my order. He wore a grey t-shirt with DKNY written in big (what were once white) letters. I bet if Donna Karen was able to see that t-shirt she'd quit her designing career altogether and probably commit suicide. The bottom half of his t-shirt, his hands and lower arms were all drenched in a combination of dried and fresh chicken blood. 

He swiftly sharpened his knifes by rubbing two knives against each other and started slicing the chicken away like a highly qualified heart surgeon. Once he had chopped the legs and thighs off, with one chop he sliced the chicken in two through the sternum, looked up and asked me, "three or four?". I was still frozen by what was going on so he yelled again, "Saab, 3 or 4? Hurry up, its Eid, we all have to go home and there are people waiting.'

This brought me back to my senses. I, kind of, realised that he was asking how many pieces of each breast I wanted. I said four and probably that was his cue. It sent him into an auto pilot mode. Chop chop chop. One by one he started piling the chopped chicken pieces in front of him on the giant wooden chopping board. Once all of the 'whole' chickens had been converted into 18 pieces he expertly shoved them into plastic bags. One chicken per bag.

As soon as five bags were ready he yelled to the guy, who had initially slaughtered and skinned them, "Giblets for the five chicken order?". Suddenly, out of nowhere, a plastic bag came flying and landed on his chopping board containing the giblets. With his bloody hands he pulled a plastic career bag from the hook, shoved the 5 bags and the bag containing giblets into the career bag and thrust the blood stained career bag in my hand. Reluctantly I grabbed it, failingly trying to miss the blood stained areas and headed towards the counter. No sooner than I had reached the counter I heard another shout from behind, "9 kilos." It was meant for the fat bearded guy behind the counter who seemed engrossed in a thick filthy diary. He was apparently discussing who owed him what with another fat bearded guy who sat next to him. He nodded once to acknowledge the 'chopper' and returned to his diary and discussion. I waited and waited and after about five minutes he eventually noticed me and asked, "9 kilos?" I said, "Yes." He then picked up his rather large calculator and madly tapped on the keyboard. He looked at the figure that the calculator had revealed and brought the calculator closer to his eyes. Probably not satisfied by the answer, he punched the numbers again, once again looked closely at the answer and without making any eye contact said, "1350." I had my wallet open in my hand and it must have been the fastest draw in the world. Within a micro second I had 1500 Rupees out that I shoved in the guy's hand. Unfortunately I had to wait to get my change, which the fat bearded guy at the counter counted 3 times. As soon as he gave me the change I legged out of the shop, took a deep breath in the 'not so fresh' but 'without any chicken stink' air and dived into my car. Immediately I turned the ignition on which was followed by the air-conditioning at full blast, shut the door and flopped on the driving seat.

That was my 'Eid Eve' ordeal here. And I'm never doing it again. Superstore for me, any time.