"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan

Radhumai watched the television with a little more attention than usual. Normally she sat the whole day crouched in front of the idiot box either cutting vegetables or sewing torn clothes. The television ran mostly in the background while she focused on her errands and spoke to the maid in the kitchen. Today she was squeezing cotton swabs into wicks for her lamp. They were showing scenes from the Gadhimai festival - countless rows of cows being beheaded by volunteers with one swish of their sword for each head. The scenes amused Radhumai.

"I find it funny, these traditions of offering animal sacrifice," Radhumai told her maid, "they want to say thanks to their deity and they offer some dumb helpless animal. What has the animal got to do? Have they given birth to it? or even fed it for a day? Why is the animal in the picture at all? It is a matter between God and devotee isn't it? Why should some third party shed blood for them?"
"It has always been like that madam," said the maid, "our bishop tells us in the sermon that Abraham had offered a ram to God, and God was very pleased with him."
"So these things have been happening since the beginning of time.. who are we to question it?" remarked Radhumai as she proceeded to dip the wick in oil, lay it in a brass lamp, and fill oil into the lamp.
The scenes of slaughter continued on the television, with chants and slogans praising God filling the air. Some of the cows that tried to wiggle away were grasped tightly by the volunteers and pressed back in line. Sometimes in between one could hear the hiss of warm blood as it squirted out of the headless body that slowly collapsed to the ground.
Radhumai folded her palms and as a prayer to her God began to light the lamp. The wick refused to light up. She grasped its tip, pressed it into shape, and tried again. It lit up this time, and burned with a faint hiss. Radhumai proceeded with her prayer, which was basically an appeal to God's benevolence with her diya as a mark of gratitude in exchange.
Prayer done, Radhumai came back to her television. She changed to a news channel, where they showed breaking news of a college student who had immolated herself at a protest rally. The policemen chased her, trying to douse her fire as she ran around frantically.
"Finally!" remarked Radhumai, "now that is someone sacrificing themselves instead of something else..." she grinned as she proceeded to chop the vegetables.