The path was narrow, but not straight. We climbed up and down as if walking in the old quarters of a hill resort. The people who inhabited the ancient houses in these streets looked suitably decent, making it difficult to believe we were approaching a red light district.
The Ground Beneath Their Feet
Some more steps, then a right turn, and we walked under an open sky. "This is Heera Mandi," Mian Naeem declared.
A crowd of boys cheered in a dimly lit tin-shed where a snooker table glowed under a bare light bulb. There were carts selling bananas, biryanis, and flowers. Brightly lit eateries with used chicken bones strewn on the floors were filled to the brim.
There was no lady standing under the lampposts soliciting clients. There was no man acting like a lady's agent. The shaky, frail-looking structures rising up on both sides of the street ahead were gloomily submerged in darkness. Their doors and windows were closed and the balconies were sullen and quiet.
We walked ahead and noticed an alley to the right. Two women stood a short distance away, whispering to each other. Their faces were cloaked with shadows. A thin man with a garland of chameli flowers wrapped around his wrists appeared from behind and overtook us with drunken steps.
Gradually the darkness began to lose its sheen. The street became livelier. As we penetrated deeper more doors were found open and more windows gave view to the lighted spaces inside. Mian Naeem pointed across to a room jutting out into the pathway. It had a large window and a most beautiful creation was peeking out from there.
She looked divine and more beautiful than the Indian actress Aishwarya Rai. With a pimple-free fair complexion and fine shaped lips, her eyes expressed eagerness and her hands signaled invitation. Her steps were as light as a bird as she hurried from the window towards the door.
Dressed in a white lehenga (a long embroidered skirt) and her anklet bells jingling music every time she moved, she looked all set to burst into a mujra (traditional dance of the courtesans). There were no creams, rouge, eyeliners, and powders disfiguring her face. A mild shade of maroon suggested the promise of a kiss from her slightly pouted lips.
Tempted by a Dancing Girl
Our eyes met and her face simmered of sentiments that suggested my walking away would break her heart. She looked pure, gracious, and yet highly amorous. It seemed as if I was the wine she was thirsting for all her life.