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OPINION

Cursed Beauty

Sometimes a lot of ugliness lies beneath beauty
Ajaz A Baba
Srinagar | Posted : Aug 13 2017 1:33AM | Updated: Aug 12 2017 11:39PM

In a small dingy room the courtesan, dressed up in all finery, tried to gently untangle her fingers from her feverish son’s grip. The child’s eyes fluttered opened, his fever-cracked lips barely moving as he pleaded, “Don’t go Mamma! Don’t leave me!”

“Please darling…,” the courtesan-mother’s voice broke and though she bit her lips she couldn’t quite suppress her sobs. With an effort she regained control, “I have to go. I will be back in no time till then bhaiya will take care of you,” she said nodding towards a fat pimply youth with a vacant stare and a stupid grin on his face, a thin foamy line of spittle dribbling from the corner of his mouth. Bhaiya was the mentally challenged son of a famed courtesan of yesteryears; a product of some profligate encounter, the usual flotsam of such houses of ill-repute. “Now you be a good boy and I will tell you a nice story when I am back and also sing the fairy song for you.” She kissed her son on his forehead which felt so hot that although he did release her fingers she still lingered, regarding him anxiously. For a moment her son’s eyes met hers and as he read the concern and pain in her eyes like always he tried to reach out to her even managing a wisp of a smile. Then out of exhaustion or maybe just to break the spell he closed his eyes.

The door of the dingy room opened, letting in stray notes of music, as the musicians in the big room at the other end of the corridor tuned and tested their instruments. “Hurry up! They are all asking for you!” Madame entered the room and spoke in a loud whisper. 

The courtesan looked at Madame with a mute appeal in her eyes. Madame frowned and then seeing the anguish writ large on the courtesan’s face her face relaxed in an unctuous smile. “He will be alright. These fevers are normal in children of his age. Come! They are waiting!”

The courtesan uncertainly followed Madame to the large room where ‘guests’ reclining on soft velvet cushions waited expectantly. Entering the room the courtesan, her head and face covered tantalizingly with gold embroidered gauze, curtsied and lifted her upturned palm to her face by way of a greeting. Almost on cue the music started and she gracefully glided into the room matching her steps and her words to the music as she sang in a voice that complemented her beauty. The assembled connoisseurs broke into gasps of admiration, swaying to the rhythm as their lewd glances devoured her charms.  At times there would be a momentary pause in music as the composition demanded and the courtesan would cock her head as if she were trying to hear something, a faraway look appearing on her face. The connoisseurs made gestures of appreciation taking these momentary lapses into reverie as a symbolic yearning for the beloved, a role they appropriated for themselves in their inflamed imaginations. 

No sound came from the room where her sick son lay for the moron with the vacant stare and stupid grin had been suitably primed with sweetmeats by Madame to ensure that no discordant note escaped the dingy room. Snapping back to the present the courtesan would flash a sad smile setting pulses racing as the beneficiary interpreted it as confirmation of his self-appointed position of the yearned-for beloved. Flitting from one connoisseur to another she fluttered her eyelashes here, cast a coquettish glance there, flashed come-hither looks at someone and shyly cast aside her eyes as he responded with a leer. All the while a seductive song played on her lips made all the more alluring by the sad notes that welled up from within her heart. At times her eyes would swim with tears but this fuelled the passions of the assembly even more, for pathos too has an aesthetic dimension translating into vulnerability as it does. 

The mehfil came to an end as twilight broke. The connoisseurs showered the courtesan with offerings, stealing lascivious caresses in the bargain. She finally managed to make an exit and rush back to her sick son. It was here that her passion erupted as she hugged and kissed the by now stuporous child singing snatches of lullabies set to the tune of sobs… 

Just a day in the life of a courtesan… 

The pathos that underlies this beautiful but unfortunate wretch of a courtesan might yet be a parable of cursed beauty. Why it reminds me of this land called Kashmir! A land whose verdant valleys camouflage the dirty red of congealed blood…whose lofty peaks wear a cloak of weary sadness, weighed down as they are by the knowledge of shallow anonymous graves down below…whose rushing waters attempt to muffle wails of misery… whose children grew to hate each other and while some of them ended up as bloodied corpses and lie buried within her bosom, there are yet others who pine for her in a forced exile…

Alas the picture perfect beauty of this land is just a façade…so very much like that of the beautiful courtesan…

(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at snp_ajazbaba@yahoo.com)