A Chicken Story

this is a story about the side-effects of going vegan without a moment of consideration.

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1. Every chicken has a story to tell. And the ones associated with eating chicken have even more stories to tell.

Back in where I come from, Chicken Days- the days when we are served chicken for supper, unless one is vegan, who, instead is given paneer and potato chips- unlike Lays and more like Kurkure- and the round white sweet ‘meat’ called either Rasvari or Rasberry (I don’t know which; in fact who cares as long as it tastes good?)- are more of states of festive celebrations than simply alternating days. True that the students at my school, which is entirely boarding by the way, love Chicken days more than Nepal Bandhas, perhaps it is so because our school runs even during Nepal Bandhas that it simply doesn’t matter if there is a strike outside. Every Mondays and Wednesdays and Saturdays, children are over the moon, waiting for the most anticipated days of a week (for they are the coveted chicken days that no one wants to miss). As the clock nears the supper time, hearts race; unable to bear the wait any longer. Students gather at the foyer half-an-hour prior to the supper time, the purpose of which even they do not know. Yes, it is our culture, more like some of our values which we simply follow because we are told to, without bothering to question the logic behind it. *** The white doors opened. We ran into the dining hall like in a stampede. What a sight it was! We would hurriedly go and sit at our tables; the first one to reach would already be choosing the best piece for him. Then slowly the bowl would travel around the table, and the last one would be the most unfortunate to receive more bones than flesh. And just as the paradox goes, ‘the most beautiful, the most delicious things are the ones that are the scarcest’, we would never get another helping of the chicken. Time was indeed really bad for the last one. Winter 2011: some dais from the maintenance department killed Tony. He had been sighted with a bunch of unrecognizable jackals. Poor Tony, he must have never thought that his small meeting with distant cousins would cost him his life. Talks would surround us, about how he was murdered. I heard he was poisoned. That was when I decided that I would go veggie. The fact that Tony had been more than just a dog in my life pushed me into taking that giant leap- I would now boycott all types of meat and animal products, for Tony. The result? You wouldn’t want to hear about it. The next morning during breakfast, as I poured down tea into my glass, Manasbi pointed out, “Milk!” Fine! I pushed the glass aside and started to eat my bread. Just then Sajal said, “Practically, you’d have to let go of bread too, because of its connection to yeast and all that, you know.” I looked around at my friends at the table. They were all giggling. “Okay,” I said, “to the cornflakes then.” “Without milk!” added Bikash. “Without milk.” I copied, with a very heavy heart. I loathe cornflakes, with or without milk don’t matter. That morning, I had that disgusting bit of curly wooden shavings for the first time in many years. And I was determined not to do it again, no matter what I turn into; vegan or non-vegan. It was Wednesday that day-Chicken Day! For a moment I had completely forgotten about my new resolution to go veggie and abstain from devouring any form of animal products. Bikash was just too clever to kindly remind me: “Hey Ashis, its Chicken Day today, right? Oh yeah, you are now veggie. Sorry! Chips khayera moj garnu (Enjoy eating the chips)!” As we neared the dining hall, my nose caught the most extraordinary smell ever. Perhaps I had been too ignorant to notice the aroma before which was now was shooting up my nostrils like a rocket and exploding in my mind like fireworks. I was paralyzed. I so wanted to go right away and gorge at the chicken that was swimming in those bowls of soupy delight. That exotic smell of spice and capsicum and tomatoes accompanied by the sharp coriander was too much for my poor nose to bear. I held it and entered the hall, struggling hard not to glance at the bowl of the aroma’s origin. I went and sat at one of the veggie table. That evening I ate very little. My love and commitment for Tony was the only thing keeping me from taking a ladle of chicken soup from the bowl which my friends at the table had traded in for chips with a chicken table. I let it be. I was quite thankful that another Chicken day was three days away, and if I could go home on Friday, I would get to eat as much chicken as I wanted away from my friends’ prying eyes, and hopefully, it would act as a stock for another week. Yeah, that way I would be breaking my promise. But if Tony loved me too, which I knew he did, he would surely forgive me. And plus, if I had died earlier, would Tony turn veggie too? But the Head of my House didn't issue me an Exeat Chit to home on Friday. I was distraught. Guys watched Jake Gyllenhaal’s Source Code that night while I lay on my bed thinking about my misery’s ‘source code’. I was visited by a chicken in my dream. “Come, come,” it would call out to me, “devour me, savour me. I am finger licking good!” “No, I have a promise to keep” I said to it. The chicken came closer. The aroma hit me hard. I inhaled deeply even though I was fighting not to. Oh, it was too hypnotizing! “Like my perfume?” it asked. “You’d have to have me to get more of me” it said as if to tempt me. I shook my head. No, I wouldn’t do this. But I really wanted to hold it and kiss it. And it was hard fighting the temptation. It was now a dancing roast. “Come now, I am your tasty lovely chicken.” It held my hands. I couldn’t take it any longer. I dug my fangs into its flesh (I had all of a sudden become a vampire!), and woke up. Dreams can get real bizarre at times. Perhaps it was too early for me to breakup with chicken without actually being in a relationship in the first place. Next day at supper, I told everyone that I had returned back to my old form: a voracious meat eater. Reason: I would give up roast but never chicken mo: mo. No one said anything. But I had this very strange feeling that I could hear them inaudibly smirk, “Told you it wouldn't last long!” *** Boys have traded in another bowl of chicken soup. I have decided to be at the veggie table to honour my agreement with Tony. And to acknowledge my terms with Chicken-from-the-nightmare, we trade in soup with leftover chips. Mukesh puts a ladle of soup on his plate, carefully hiding it from the duty-teacher’s eyes, and asks me, “Want it?” I look at him with a raised eyebrow. “Is that even a question to ask?” The chicken nightmare hasn’t pained me for a year now.

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