I have a friend. A Muslim friend.
When I was small, the street in front of my house was categorically divided into three parts: the heritage, yet decrepit Hindu, Bengali residence area, complete with thakurdalans for Durga Puja; the multicolored, arch-shaped Muslim houses and mosques, and stretching into the last part of the lane were the Gothic-structured, dingy, wooden-stair buildings inhabited by Christians.
So, we, as children, had the best feel of all the three religions and often forgot which religion we were supposed to follow. During Christmas the entire street was illuminated with huge paper-star lights, balloons and decorated with statues of Jesus and Mary. During Ramzan (Ramadaan) and Id (Eid), the same street would be dressed up with lines of colored, triangular flags, fluttering in the autumn sun. Young boys would run up and down the street wearing skulls caps and vibrant new clothes. Right after the flags begin to start tearing and the young boys have had made aeroplanes from them, strings of mango leaves and colored thermocol balls would be hung over the street, heralding the advent of Bengal’s greatest festival, Durga Puja.
In fact, in my home, the soil of Devi Durga was diligently brought from the forbidden areas of the society, the red-light zone, by none other than my gravely conservative grandmother. This soil was the first soil to be applied on the scaffolding of the goddess.
I grew up hearing the litanies of both ‘Azaan’ and ‘Mahalaya’ permeating in through my sleep, and learned Christmas carols and hymns from childhood in school. They were just festivals for us and not religions. We bought new dresses and ate awesome food almost on all occasions. Biryani for Id, Nahoum’s cake for Christmas, completing our celebrations with a small Santa Claus and an artificial Christmas Tree on our window that my dad brought from New Market, Kolkata, and of course, at least half-a-dozen new dresses for Durga Puja.
Hence I never knew the religious differences. Though my forefathers may have believed in ‘meat religion’, I cook and eat everything except snake and octopus. Also spiders. I’ll not be able to eat a spider.
I’ve eaten beef-pork-goat-chicken-fish all my life. Caused enough pandemonium in the “sinning” area. Particularly beef, and made my “Brahmin” son eat it too. Since the only religion I believe is ‘Humans’. Now my son is old enough to form his own opinion and thinks I am right.
Yet I am sure God will forgive me. And Allah and Jesus will too. Because I treat people as humans and animals as animals. If you’ve eaten one animal you’ve caused so much pain. Be it a chicken, a goat, a fish or an elephant. So unless you give up eating animals totally, I don’t think we can get pardoned with butchering and slaughtering in the name of religions.
Killing a cow for Id or killing a goat to satisfy Ma-Kali’s thirst for blood mean the same to me and my Muslim friend. So both of us, with both our Gods as witness, ask you to give up “religious meat”. Have meat of your choice, definitely,… but please… not in the name of religion.