My Bhutti Adventure | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 13, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 13, 2010


My Bhutti Adventure

Bhutti Cow at Gabtoli. Photo: Ihtisham Kabir

I love reading about adventurers searching for mysterious animals.
For example, distinguished American writer Peter Mathiessen went searching for the elusive snow leopard in the Himalayas. Without finding it, he nevertheless wrote an insightful book about his great adventure: The Snow Leopard became a travel classic. Redmond O'Hanlon, a British naturalist, boated down the Congo searching for the Mokele-mbembe, a mythical beast populating that river. He failed, too, but his misadventure became the subject of an immensely entertaining book called No Mercy.
I, too, have longed for big adventures involving mysterious animals. The opportunity came when I broke my bicycle's spoke.
The search for a replacement led me to a bicycle store in old Dhaka's Bongshal. While an employee looked for a matching spoke, I fell into conversation with the owner. It was a few days after Eid-ul-Azha, so the discussion - laced with Dhakaiya hyperbole - quickly turned to cows.
“Qurbani cows are so pampered! Some even sleep under mosquito nets,” he said.
I recalled those Japanese cows which are massaged for years. But I was enjoying the Dhakaiya banter and refrained from interrupting.
“But the biggest cows are not the best,” he asserted.
I couldn't let this one pass. “Of course biggest is best. My cow is bigger than your cow - isn't that the game?”
“Ah, but those who really know Qurbani cows get the Bhutti cow,” he said mysteriously.
I thought I had heard him wrong. “The what cow?”
“Bhutti it is a beautiful, dwarf cow,” he said.
Was this a Japanese Bonsai cow? Before I could ask, several customers entered and our conversation ended. I left with spoke in hand and a mysterious cow on my mind.
I waited until next year's Eid-ul-Azha when cattle markets appeared. Searching several of them, I could find no Bhutti. Worse, most sellers had never heard of it. I despaired. Perhaps the Bhutti was a Kutti myth?
There was one last place to search, however. So, just like my heroes Mathiessen and O'Hanlon, I set out on a trek - to the gigantic Gabtoli cattle market.
When I arrived, I smelled immediate danger. It did not threaten my life, just my nostrils. For Gabtoli's cattle market was full of cow dung.
Most people will say, “So what? Just watch your step.” But things were far more sinister, because the sellers, in their zeal to fatten the cows, overfed them constantly. What happens when any animal eats too much? What goes in must come out. So I quickly learned to read the warning signs of imminent flying dung and dodged whenever a tail went up.
After a long search, I found the elusive Bhutti cow. It was just like the man had described: small and beautiful. Mission accomplished, I took photos and started my trek home while my clothes and shoes were still dung-free.
[Kutti: an affectionate term for old Dhaka's people and language.

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