Lahore

Lahore has a beauty, that isn’t shrill

and crystalline,

like soaring Hong Kong or skybound Dubai

Nor does it have the regal charm of Rome and Vienna.

It’s a nighttime niqab for the daytime squalour. It’s the overlit carriage of a kinnuawala,

stocked with celementines, or in the Caravaggian chiaroscuro of a straight road in the dark as you switch off the headlights and see the dust kick up from the furious tires into the dim low lamplight.

It’s in the unblinking brinkmanship of the driver working the wrong way up a one way underpass, looking you in the eye as if to say “so what” yet all the same winkingly mirror the grinning wrinkles in the corner of your eyes.

It’s a conversation about corruption that segues in all directions; a place of possibilities only if you have connections.

It’s just a junk shop orchestra without a conductor, a morass of instrumentalists trying to tune to the key of life, muddled in a plosive peal of dissonant concertos and aubades.

But when you strain at times and in places, unwarningly and at a whim, its better nature can bloom, though concealed by all the din.

Play along with all its absurdities,

try to keep an attentive ear,

and fleetingly you’ll catch

the opening notes of a symphony.

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