Walking the streets with the DahtaLahore’s phosphorescent guts are blurred at night in Novemberbut in this night Jomay raatthe Dahta walked in green neon and around his marble epitapha thousand beggars beggedin a unityinsured by a completeselfishnessonly Hujwiri walked among themin wide-fingered benevolence; sight was half-playedon the retina as ofa half-blind man. Incessant petal-dropsspectrumingan opulent rain thatdrapes inShalimartranslucent muslinswaftingaround a lung-seducingmusk-incense: the heat-scent of the devoutas he gapesin cup-palmed awe and a littlelove. Some beggars swayedgnarled dying tree-trunks meanly clothed inwinter leaves through which dim-glowedthe night-lights of bazaar nocturnality;some beggars dressed in tiersof foreign suiting and fat of Lahorigheerolled one eye to Arabic calligraphyone to Swiss watch;some eyes shone in kahjal darker thanthe effacing black burkhabut the lights danced in theirbrief pupils. One crawled on fours—up my hairy calfin grotesque impossiblecontortions of the human mindthat still blinked the misplacedsanguine smile—so beautifully irrelevant.The flies had gone for the seasonthe dogs perennially unimpressedand didn’t care anywaysoft-nosed they proddedwarm smoky dung;they had seen it all before:the dazzling lightsthenthen the dazzling darkall the professional beggars re-actingtheir roleswith first year RADA earnestnessthe much-moneyed, heavy-vehicled beggarssure of their goodnessin this visit to the Dahtawho walked among them allpalm-humoured and lightequating all, elevating all. He wasn’t frown-mindingthat some were deadly seriousit was all in the gameof love.Not for him—he knowfor when he walked inhis many-varied neons healso mixed in the mindsof his pilgrimsand amongst themthere were also somelike the whore of the red titof the next door mandihanging from low garish-painted doorwayscrepuscular livesso like his own localebut he was contended this evening A happy child urinated with abandon;a lal-bearded villageralmost in orgasmof his onanisticreligious frenzy;a group-man grown holywas seriousas serious as Alamgir at Friday asrin a Ramzan in the Deccan. “Na koi banda raha na koi banda nawaz.”Iqbal should have known betteras the cane-waving policemansmiles at meand takes care to reply in his Englishbut the Dahta is unequivocal in his careand perhaps the false beggarreturns from him richer.Fires that explodelike festive crackersat the pit of my stomachup through meto a Christmas ringingin my earsI sense but do not smellonion and sweaton the tongues of the massespressing each other through the bazaar’sintestinesthat creak with indigestion The Badshahi now rosedated splendourin black lumpy papier-mache.Blind tangah horses chilled andblackly farting into the mists;idle men with fierce moustachesidling with one handinto the idleness of their shalwarsand static between risingpyramidsof salt-white batashassit active pharaohsin ready expectation ofanother Moses—who never comes. They were all there:love remains lovehowever crudely exhibitedfaith turns to lovehowever clumsily expressedlove creates faithfrom whatever quarter coming. I came back that eveninglevitated on the horns that tossed meacute-feeling the goodness andfriendshipof the Dahtaflowing in the streets of his Nagriand in mewhere it mattered.