Of the many varieties of beauty, perhaps the least mentioned is the ‘beautiful’ man. He is present in our city, too.
On occasion, you can find him flanking cars and rickshaws on his red and black motorbike, acrobatically balancing the computer whose nuts and bolts he has been commissioned to fix while simultaneously cradling the tiffin in which resides the malnourished pittance of a lunch packed by his dutiful sister or mother.
The droplets of sweat running down his itchy forehead attract pollution — such that though they provide cooling relief in the present, the mixture of sweat and toil will leave a pimpled trail of acne on the young man’s face.
And yet his mind is elsewhere, far from the road, at the gate of the house in Gulberg where he has to deliver this computer in the evening. He wants to look at the youngest maiden of that house profusely, long enough to permanently etch her image on the lens of his mind’s eye. But alas he will avert his gaze when the opportunity presents itself out of embarrassment — or perhaps ‘manzoor hai purdah tera’.
Then there are those who are unambiguously ingratiating to look at. They sit in cafes dressed in monochromatic yet inviting black from head to toe. They glance around longing to meet the gaze of that one girl in the blue tunic that sits across from them. But even though her desire to lock eyes may be greater than his, she knows better than to give in to his sway so easily. In the end her virtuosity outweighs her sins, and he leaves with only the crumpled receipt that he has politely stuffed in his front-pocket for this is an upscale café.
But lest you think his cleanliness is affable enough to grant him the status of a beautiful man, let me tell you that beautiful men are often vile and dirty too. They crouch at construction sites, their hind legs supporting their skeletal masses. Their hamstrings have been so out-strung by years living on a daily wage that they find this position comfortable.
Their limbs are a study in contrast, weak and coarse to look at, but in their constitution resides an unmatched strength.
Like our motorcyclist friend their minds too are far away from their immediate surroundings. Far from the brick and mortar engulfing them, their thoughts take them to their villages far from the urban sprawl, to the cow patties that slowly dry on the mud-walls of their humble abodes. They can only lust for their wives, for they have never truly learnt to love. But now that their break is over — invariably spent mindlessly looking at the arches of the Mughal-style shopping mall near the site — they must straighten their knees and get back to work.
When the humdrum of the evening traffic mixes with the call to prayer as it moves from minaret to minaret like an undulating wave and Lahore becomes an audible city, you will find them all.
When the traffic slows down to a tectonic pace, take a moment to notice in the car beside you the young man dressed in black with a crumpled café receipt in his pocket. When you catch him trying to cure the redness of his eyes with eye drops, you might find beauty in this attempt to maintain for his parents the illusion that their son still resides within their authority.
Look in the mirror of your car and you will catch a glimpse of our pimpled friend. You might see on his face the look of a weary traveler, but rest assured his heart is racing with innumerable thoughts of her.
But whatever else you do as you approach the straits beyond which is the promise of an open road, I suggest you avert your eyes from the man holding a shovel squatting immediately outside your car. For in him, though beauty resides in abundance, you might not be able to see it so easily. At a glance you might mistake it for pain — pain in his wrinkled brow, pain in his tired countenance, pain in his lustful thoughts. But in the hardy expression of his eyes too you will find beauty.