Animal Language :a short story from Pakistan, pre-‘jehadi’ times. needing translations..

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Animal Language
by Lok Raj on Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 12:31pm
I translated this story from Preetlari few years ago (hope Muhammad Mansha Yaad ji won’t mind)

Animal Language

Translation of an Urdu short story by Mansha Yaad

They are about to issue a ‘fatwa’ against me. They suspect that I have changed my religion. But this is not correct. I have only stopped eating meat. The world is full of people who are vegetarian and

don’t eat meat. There may be many reasons for them to be vegetarian. One of my friends connects flesh eating with primitive man’s uncivilized life. Another friend had a very bad cold during childhood because of which he would have a very bad smell from everything. He was fed some soup forcibly by his family members, the smell of which induced vomiting and since that day, he became aversive to meat and became strict vegetarian. But my case is different from all of them. I was very fond of non-veg since my childhood and roasted meat was my all time favorite. Though, because of raised level of uric acid in my blood, doctors had advised me to stop eating meat, but I could never comply with their advice. But since some tome, I have stopped eating meat altogether. This is not because of any change in my religious belief or practices. I think, time has arrived that I should explain the underlying reason so that I may not have to face a fatwa.

Since my childhood, I was always interested in learning new languages and in fact I did learn a few, but I never intended to learn the language of the cattle or lambs and goats etc. I just learnt their language because of continuous association. In those days, we used to live in a village. We used to sleep on the open terrace of our house which was surrounded by fields from all sides and there were herds of sheep and goats. I was always listening to their voices…whether I was studying or just trying to sleep. I would study till late night, and the cattle sheds were exposed to wolves and other wild animals. In fact, wolves had attacked several times and dragged away many lambs. Darker the night, more fearful would be the lambs and would cry even louder. I would put the lamp off and try to sleep, but the voices of the lambs would not let me sleep. I don’t know how and exactly when I started understanding their language. The lambs would talk like this throughout night:

“Mother, I am afraid…..I am hungry”, “ mother, when will the day start?”, “I am feeling cold”. And every mother would tell them fictitious stories as usual, trying to make them feel strong.

My father fell ill. The indigenous doctor gave him few pills and advised that those should be swallowed with goat’s milk for forty days. For few days, milk was purchased from the neighbourers, but then he purchased a goat himself. The goat was accompanied by two kids. One of them was black and the other had black and white patches. We became friends within few days and I had good opportunity to learn goat-language. After the school, I would keep playing with them for long and would read stories and poems to them from my books. They would accompany me to the fields in the evening. I would pluck branches from trees for them. They would eat tender leaves while I would be memorizing tables. They would keep running around, compete with each other in jumping from the sand mounds. We would keep conversing while doing all this.“I am big and grown up now”, one would say. “I am stronger than him”, the other would say. The goat would become sad upon listening to their stories of becoming stronger and bigger and growing up, would murmur, “may you always remain small and never grow up”

They would fail to understand why did the mother think like that! They would become angry and would not speak to their mother for hours. Even I would feel very uncomfortable to tell them that what could their growing up lead to.

Then , one day, the patched one got lost. We tried our best, but could not find him. The goat moaned in bereavement for many days. Me and Blackie also kept talking about him for many days, but gradually everything became as usual and we forgot him.

Blackie had really grown up now. His horns had become longer and sharper and he had started smelling like grown up goats. Elders would open his mouth and count his teeth and would grip his muscles and flesh. My friends would feel afraid of him, though he had never hurt anybody. After the school, I would roam around with him. We , not only understood each other’s language, but gestures as well. He would follow me wherever I asked him to and would recognize me from a long distance, though he got fooled once.

Shekhu barber’s mother complained to my parents that our Blackie had run after him. When she had expressed her anger and gone, I asked Blackie what the matter was. I was unable to control my laughter when Blackie told me the reason. Actually Shekhu had wrapped a similar coloured shawl around him as I used to have, so Blackie thought that it was me and he started following. I laughed a lot. Even Blackie tried to laugh, but could not, and remained sad because of the fact that he did not know how to laugh. But the next day, when it was known that his mother had hurt herself when she slipped from the bridge of the canal and was being made “halaal”, both of us became very tense and worried. I tried to console him and distract his attention, but he was too much preoccupied with his mother’s fate. Next day, when he came to know that I also ate his mother’s flesh, he started becoming anxious and fearful in my presence and started avoiding me. Whenever I tried to show affection or tried to touch him, he would feel that I was about to bite him. I tried to convince him that I was human, not a wolf. Humans don’t eat a living animal. They first kill the animal, and then bake the flesh on fire because they can not eat raw meat. Gradually, his fear went away and he started behaving as before and started having confidence in me again.

After passing middle school, when I had to go to city for joining high school, he became very sad. I was also feeling it hard to separate from him, but it had to be. I was very excited to came back to the village during Eid holidays, but when I came to know about he is being sacrificed, I was devastated. I prayed to the family members to spare my Blackie and purchase some other goat or sheep. But nobody listened to me. Poor Blackie had no idea what was about to happen to him. I also did not reveal this to him to save him from the anxiety. He was so happy, playing with me after many days and was running around merrily. He would express his love by rubbing his horns against my legs. When they put him to the ground and started to put knife to his throat, he started calling me anxiously. I could not see him being made halaal, therefore, hid myself in my room. But his cries and wailings were audible to me. He might have been under the impression that I would save him, may be, that is why, he kept calling me till his last moment. But I could do nothing except shedding tears. I had thought that I would not eat his flesh, but when the cooked meat was served, I could not resist and ate to my fill.

After this, I never befriended any goat or any other animal. On every Eid, a goat or a sheep would be brought into our house and then sacrificed, but I would remain away from him. I would try that I may not develop friendship with him because that would make it more painful. My father tried to convince me several times that more you love the animals, more ‘savaab’ you would get, but I did not have the necessary courage. At the time of sacrifice, I would go out with an excuse of meeting some friend or relative and would come back only when the process was over.

Father would opine that this weakens one’s conviction, but I knew that I would not let my conviction become weak. I would help the family members in skinning, cutting the flesh into smaller pieces and distributing the meat among relatives and friends. I would feel pity for the animal only till it was alive and could see, hear and feel. There is one thing more, I am very afraid of the severed head. Whenever I saw a severed head of a goat or a sheep even in a butcher’s shop, I could not face the lifeless eyes. It would seem as if the eyes were looking towards me and trying to convey something. I would also try not to let any goat or sheep know that I knew their language. I would hide this secret even from my family members and friends. Knowing goats’ language had created a very strange and difficult situation for me. Sometimes, I would even feel as if I was transforming into a goat from inside.

My family members asked me several times to perform the sacrificial ritual myself. Meaning that I should cut the throat of the sacrificial goat myself because this is sunnat. The Maulvi also told me the importance of the ritual that how this leads to development of the enthusiasm to shed blood to please Allah and then how one develops the will to participate in jehaad. But I could never do that. Because the way the goats start crying and praying, only I can understand and only I can appreciate how difficult is to kill someone who speaks the same language. A common man can kill a member of the same species and speaking the same language, but can not do ‘halaal’. For this, one needs a prophet’s determination and tolerance. Even he needed to shut his eyes. Several times I thought that how good it would have been, had I not known the language of goats. I would not have been a coward like this. Anyhow, let it be considered a weakness of my conviction, I decided not to sacrifice any animal with my own hands. But I could not keep even this promise last year and this is when the whole problem started.

It so happened that Allah blessed us with a son after many prayers. He was very lovely, with round cheeks, smooth skin…….like a lamb. My father, immediately bought two goats for grand party. When I lived in city, it was quite rare to meet goats……..besides, I hesitated in talking to them. The two goats were tied outside the window of my room for some days till the grand party, which was supposed to be on friday. The conversation of the goats would make me nervous and anxious. I don’t know, how did they come to know about their fate. The younger one was very faearful. One night, he asked, “ how do they kill?” “They make you lie on the ground then cut the throat with a knife”, told the older one.“It should be very painful!”“Yes, I had seen once, it is a very slow death”“Why do they do ‘halaal’?”“For eating”“Do they have wolf’s teeth as well? I feel I will die with fear just now”“Even I feel the same way”“Will they kill us together,simultaneously?”“No, probably one by one”“Who will go first?”“You are more afraid, therefore I will go first”“No, seeing you being killed, I will become even more fearful”“Even I am afraid”“Will they kill us together?”……”No, probably one by one”….”Who will go first?”….”Me”, “ me”, “ no me”……”No me”…..”me” “me”…………

I kept on listening to their conversation for long time, then I closed the window, but I could not sleep the whole night. Next day was a holiday, so I got up quite late. The preparations for the party were going on in full swing. Onions and garlic were being peeled off and other spices were being prepared. Many forms of mutton preparations like tikka, kofte, balti-gosht etc, were on the menu. My father had perhaps gone to call the butcher. I came out in response to the door-bell. A student from the nearby religious school attached with the mosque had come to enquire whether the goats had been skinned or not.

I told him that they had not been skinned yet.“Not skinned yet?” he was quite astonished“How can we skin them alive?”“OK sir, I will come again later”

When it was the time to kill, I wanted to escape from that place quietly, but my father handed me the knife and asked me to do it myself. The younger one was brought first. He was trembling with fear. I felt pity for him.“Bring the older one”When the older one was brought, he started crying loudly and then he addressed the younger one, “ start looking towards the other side”. The younger one became incontinent with fear. I remembered what he was saying last night. I thought, if the older was killed first, the younger one will die of fear only. Then I told them to bring the younger one. In fact, I was not able to decide whom should I do first. When the younger one was made to lie on ground, he started crying loudly.

“Oh I am dying, I am dying, I am being killed”“This is not called dying”, the words escaped from my mouth all of a sudden, “be courageous, you are sacrificing yourself for Allah” The goat raised its neck with a sudden jerk and started looking in my eyes as if trying to recognize me.

Then he took a deep breath and left his neck placid under the knife. I used the knife while reciting “Allah hu Akbar” and he got ‘halaal’. But when it was time to eat, I felt the same kind of odor from the meat, as I used to have from my son. I stopped there and then and ever since, have never been able to eat meat.

Now they are about to issue ‘fatwa’ against me. They suspect that I have changed my religion. But this is wrong. I have only stopped eating meat.

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About preetlari

"Preetlari", Punjab's magazine established in 1933 and published from Preetnagar, Dist. Amritsar. S. Gurbaksh Singh founded the magazine and also the model village, Preetnagar. The magazine is running in its 78th year and since last year is being taken by nearly 20000 primary and upper primary schools of Punjab ,too.

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