“Abbu jan, we will buy a goat this time,” Farman said.

“No, this time, the cotton-cheeked dove will come,” little Ayan protested, while making the dove fall asleep in his imagination.

“Hey, why are you two fighting? I am the eldest, I am the one who takes care of the animal, so I have asked Abbu to bring me the heifer cow this time,” Zaman shook his collar and said, trying to appear bigger than his 13 years.

“The three of you have started arguing about animals again. Hurry up and pick up your tuition bags,” Ammi jan called out after listening to the kids’ chatter.

These days there was no focus of the kids on studies, since they were always discussing about animals. The three brothers then left for tuition with a frown.

Zameer Sahib’s family didn’t have a lot of money, but he still sacrificed an animal every Eid. In the past, they could afford to buy a heifer, but now with increasing prices, they could only manage to buy a goat or a share in a cow. This year, the children were really excited about the sacrificial animal. The eldest wanted a cow, while the younger ones wanted a goat and also a calf. The children were very enthusiastic, but their father couldn’t afford to do more than one sacrifice. The children didn’t understand the financial difficulties of their family, and were looking forward to Eid and being around the animals.

Zameer Sahib did not want his children to worry about money problems, so he started working overtime at his office.

One Saturday, Zameer Sahib met Naseer, a young man in his neighbourhood. During Eidul Azha, Naseer would purchase animals from rural areas and sell them at reasonable prices in the city.

“Is everything okay?” Naseer asked Zameer.

“Actually, I want to perform sacrifice this Eid, but I am not sure if I will be able to get even one animal,” Zameer replied.

“Yes these days, the animals are very expensive. But I’ll try my level best to get you one at a reasonable rate,” Naseer replied.

The next day, there was a knock at the door early in the morning. Zameer opened the door and saw Naseer standing with a weak heifer.

“Here, Zameer bhai. This is priced within your range, you can have it,” Naseer said.

“But Naseer, this is a very weak animal,” Zameer said while looking at the cow.

“A fat and large animal cannot be found in the amount you have, Zameer bhai. If you go to the cattle market, they will loot you or give you a healthy looking, but sick animal,” said Naseer.

And he was not wrong, so Zameer agreed and brought the heifer inside and tied it to a tree. As it was Sunday, the children woke up a little late. When the three kids came out, they were shocked to see a frail cow standing there. Zaman was the most disappointment. He had desired a good-looking and well-built animal, but this was the opposite.

Their mother noticed the dull expressions on her children’s faces, so she thought of a way to cheer them up.

She called out, “Children! Come and bathe Mano.”

“What? Mano?” all three looked at each other in amazement.

“Yes, dear! The name of our dear, delicate little heifer is Mano,” said mum with a smile. “And it is our duty to take care of her. There are still many days left until Eid. Take this as an opportunity to feed it well to make it healthier.”

The boys agreed, but Zaman still seemed reluctant. They started giving Mano a bath, and then gave it fodder and water. The young cow seemed really pleased with the attention it got. There was a clear difference between the cow that arrived in the morning and the one standing in the corner now.

“Now that you kids have fed her well, see how Mano has bloomed within a day. I think our Mano will be fattened up in a week, just in time for Eid,” Mum said positively.

“I don’t think so Ammi. I know my friends will laugh at the sight of this weak cow,” Zaman sighed.

“Why? Don’t you know why we sacrifice these animals? Let me remind you that we do it for the pleasure of Allah and not to show off,” his mother said angrily.

Zaman felt ashamed. He realised that he was overreacting. So soon he started playing with Mano along with his younger brothers. In the evening, when Zameer Sahib reached home and saw the kids playing and tending the cow, he felt satisfied.

Finally, the day of sacrifice, Eidul Azha, arrived. The three brothers were teary-eyed. But then, their mother explained to them the significance of the occasion and the sacred deed they had to perform.

The brothers understood that parting with Mano, whom they had grown fond of, was a test of their faith. With heavy hearts, they performed the sacrifice, honouring the traditions of their religion and the teachings of their beloved Prophet.

Published in Dawn, Young World, June 15th, 2024

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