Sunil was bored. The ‘saas-bahu’ serial his wife had on the television was silly.
Still, he watched it. What else was there to do, after all? The shop had no customers at the moment. It had been a slow day.
Then, as if in response to this thought, there came 3 young men into their establishment. He recognized one of them. He was one of the regulars. Sunil vaguely recalled that he belonged to some ‘nasha (drug) centre’. He had never proven to be problem before, however, so Sunil didn’t let that bother him. Customers were customers.
They ordered a fresh kilo. Sunil got to work while they sat down and chatted. The ‘saas-bahu’ serial finally came to an end and so he now finally got use of the TV. He switched the channel so he could watch the female wrestling championships.
Pulling out a bird at random, he casually slit its throat. Then he stood with his feet planted on top of the dying creature as it bled out. He didn’t bother looking down at it. By now, he’d long since absorbed how long it took them to drain.
He was vaguely aware that one of the men had walked over and was watching him work. Sunil didn’t care. He was still bored.
Shankar watched quietly as the chicken bled to death. He felt the nausea, but suppressed it and continued watching. The man had never taken his eyes off the TV. Not even while slitting the birds’ throat.
It didn’t struggle….much. He doubted the man was putting his full weight on it – it seemed unnecessary and risked crushing it. Instead, the creature merely twitched, shaking its legs in semi-regular intervals while the blood oozed out of its neck. He hadn’t cut its head entirely off, but it was close. If the man raised the bird, Shankar was sure the head would simply have flopped back completely, attached only by a small sliver of tissue at the back of the neck. There was not a sound from the creature during this whole process – no flapping wings, no rasping breaths, nothing. How long it would take to die?
He never got to find out.
Before the twitching had ended, the man knelt down once more and began the skinning process. He smoothly sliced off the feet and tossed them aside. He then made deft cuts on the body that enabled him to simply pull off the majority of the skin, feathers and all. The bird had stopped twitching now – the shock had probably done it in.
Shankar continued to watch as the man sliced open the chest to take out its innards. He easily pulled open the rib cage, exposing the inner organs. With practiced skill, he removed the stomach contents and other unwanted parts. Tossing them and the head aside, he then slammed his butchers’ knife across the remainder of its body in regular intervals, cleanly chopping it up into more manageable prices. These he put into a bag for weighing.
1.07 kg. He wondered how much the original bird had weighed. The one that had been alive. They paid the man and left.
Shankar knew he would be eating that bird in a few hours. He was usually ambivalent when it came to the veg v/s non-veg debate. As far as he was concerned, the vegetarians had a bullet-proof argument, but would nevertheless never win. As such, it paid to be flexible. He was an omnivore in more than just a technical sense – he really could get by just fine in a world without non-veg. But it paid to be flexible…
Of course, another creature also paid…
He wasn’t going to change. He’d do that if and when it looked like it made rational sense to do so. Also, he would eat the chicken tonight. But this time he wouldn’t be ambivalent.
He would remember it. He would picture it as it died even as he consumed it, twitching helplessly as its life drained, leaving little trace but a red puddle on the floor – easily washed away. Not out of sadistic pleasure, but as a mark of remembrance.
No one had even bothered looking at it, save him. Not his companions, not the shop owners’ wife, not even the executioner himself. It was just another day, another chicken. He had not been the one to pay for its death and dismemberment, but he might as well have been. Allowing death and torture is almost as bad as causing it. That particular principle had been established as far back as the Nuremberg Trials. And there were far more than 6 million chickens killed in the world.
But at least he’d cared enough to look. And not look away. Small comfort as that may have been for the dying bird itself, at least it signified that its life meant something to someone. That someone had noted that it was once a living, breathing being. That it was more than just a nameless, faceless, even number-less sack of meat.
Not it, him! Carrying its now-dead remains in his bag, he christened it ‘Quirrel’.
“What is deadlier than hate, and flows without limit?”
“Indifference”, said Harry.