They deliver unkindest cut at work

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A butcher at a meat shop in Chinthadripet.
A butcher at a meat shop in Chinthadripet.

Meera Srinivasan

CHENNAI: Their job is clearly not a pleasant one. They have to endure the sight of a lot of blood and pain besides suffering the stench at times. Butchers toil all day to make someone else’s meal healthier and tastier.

“Initially, I found it very difficult to cope with this job. Gradually, I realised that this, like several other professions, has its own grammar and meaning,” says R.K. Vijayashankar, who runs a chicken stall. He has been in the profession for nearly two decades.

“A lot of care and attention go into the process of cleaning, cutting and slicing meat. My father taught me the nuances,” he says.

They maintain good personal hygiene and easily spot an infected animal amid healthier ones.

While ensuring that the animals they sell are not infected, the butchers also have to take care of their own health.

“Those dealing with chicken are prone to asthma,” Mr. Vijayashankar points out.

There is a lot of technique employed in this profession. “There is a particular manner in which you cut the animal…you have to spot the right nerve, so that all the blood oozes out at once,” explains C.A. Ghousudeen, who has been selling mutton for over three decades.

His family has been in the business for generations.

“There is a prescribed manner in which we have to work…we follow that. A prayer is said before we actually cut,” he says.

It is no easy task to be a butcher.

Even when the technique is right, there is always a risk of injuring one’s hands and fingers, as the knife used is extremely sharp.

Even among non-vegetarians, many avoid going the butcher’s stalls, because of the pungent smell and ambience.

“But, this is our job and we have to do it,” says G. Arulanandam. As someone who sells chicken, beef, mutton and fish in both wholesale and retail markets, he finds sales have dropped quite a bit in the last few months. “Our sales have fallen after the price rise. When people decide to give up eating meat, we will have no other go but to close down our shops,” he adds.

Mr. Vijayashankar, on the other hand, feels those fond of meat will continue buying some no matter what. “I can see that the daily sales have fallen marginally, but my regular customers continue to buy regularly,” he says.

And when the customer smiles feeling content after a yummy plate of chicken or mutton biriyani, the butchers know their hard work is certainly worth it!




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