Don’t hate me because I am beautiful

Published: August 12, 2013

I’m beautiful because I respect myself. PHOTO: REUTERS

Azaan’s over. Everyone has gone back to their rooms. The street’s a mess. I smile as a jalebi floats in a puddle nearby. People rarely treat food with respect anymore. I take out a cigarette and begin to light it. Bloody cigarettes; they’ve started costing me more than my clients pay me to begin with! One of the girls, Razia, walks out the curtain-door and sits next to me.

My lighter isn’t working again! Damn it! God bless Razia for handing me hers.

We both stretch our legs over the stairs, lean back and take long drawls of our cigarettes. We barely ever talk. We just bond over the sunrise, a good smoke and some time off from work.

I look at my feet; chipped nail paint. I’ll probably scrape this off. I need to save up for a new paranda. Damn my life to hell! Ramazan really slows down the business.

When was the last time I observed a fast?

Was it five years ago? Or maybe ten?

This habit of smoking has really affected my memory. I scrape some plaque off my teeth and scrub my fingers against a brick nearby.

Razia is speaking.

“I think we need a new sink.”

I nod.

“Baji, how long have you been here?”

“Long enough.”

“Does it get better?”

“It would; if they made good cigarettes”

She laughs.

“Baji, how did you come here?”

I love this story. It’s the kind of story I’ve told everyone. My friends can empathise with it; my employers acknowledge it; my housemates understand it; my juniors worship me for it, and my peers respect me because of it.

“I’m tired. We’ll talk another day.”

“Baji, I’ll braid your hair.”

I’m sold to that notion. I love being pampered. Without another thought, I undo my hair fling my locks in her face and begin to talk.

“I came here when I was five. My Amma dropped me off one day. We lived right there, outside Lahore, somewhere near the river. I think Islamabad. I was very posh, you know. No, no, I think it was Karachi. I don’t quite recall. Sigh! Let it go. Amma told me I was with new siblings. I was five, but I adjusted. The Baji before me was kind. She told me I was a beauty! Believe me, larki! I was fair as the moon! The wretched Lahore sun has burnt my beautiful face! Anyhow, you see my hair? They were like a fairy’s – so long and light! And my dance! Wah wah! People loved it. Do you know? A minister came to me once! He loved my dance so much that he sent pocket money for a year! That is how your Baji bought her home.”

I lovingly look at my dilapidated house. I just recently had it painted yellow and blue on the outside. What’s Lahore without a bit more color?

“Anyway, you see my hands? They were as supple as a baby’s bottom! Days and days of hard work ruined them. But they are still very beautiful, you see. I moisturise them with bleaching creams every day. I’ve worked hard, larki. I’ve seen people you haven’t; I’ve seen Lahore like you never will.”

Razia gazes down and draws circles in the mud.

“Baji, ever since I came here, I’ve always respected you.”

“Of course, you have!”

“I want to be like you one day.”

“Your hair isn’t as nice. Your hands aren’t as soft and your features aren’t as smooth as mine.”

“Baji, am I beautiful?”

“Obviously, but not as beautiful as me!”

“I think I need a walk.”

“Bring me some gutka.”

With Razia gone, I begin to think. My whole life, I’ve been flawless. I haven’t been accepted. I haven’t even been told I’m pretty. I’ve been ridiculed, I’ve been shamed. People have laughed at my dances; they’ve laughed at my way of life. Yet, I know, I am beautiful.

I’m beautiful because I respect myself. I have the sort of dignity you wouldn’t believe. I can shut you up and you’d laugh. But you’d know; you’d know better than to mess with Baji again.

A couple of young boys walk by. They look at me, whisper something and snigger. I know what they’re thinking, all too well. I throw a slipper at them and shout.

“Arey o launday! Don’t call me a khusra! I’m a Khawaja Sarraah.”

Noor Ejaz

Noor Ejaz

An LLB student currently studying at the University College of Lahore, Noor loves Urdu Literature, Pakistan, the Walled City of Lahore, Bollywood, women rights and food. She tweets as

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Syeda

    well written article. I don’t know why we people don’t respect Khawaja Sarraah. Its very dark side of our community. very sad Recommend

  • KAY

    @Syeda: Perhaps you will get answer in Islamic studies about Khawaja Sarrah or Gays.Recommend

  • Taher

    Breaks my heart to read. I wish we, as a nation, could get better…much much better at taking care of our children from the very early age.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Simple…..straight forward……..and beautifully done.

  • Fahad Zia

    khwaja sira are’nt gays..!Recommend

  • I am a Khan


    Gay is different from Kwaja Saraha. Recommend

  • PakistaniTeen

    Earlier I thought the blog was ’bout prostitution -the end was unexpected.Recommend

  • Osama Sajid

    Too good. Beautifully written (y)Recommend

  • Amit

    Simply spellboundingRecommend

  • Ejaz

    Encourage the writer at least she has a courage to write on touchy topic, Supreme Court of Pakistan has also acknowledged their identity therefore, we should respect them as normal human being.Recommend

  • gp65

    What is a Khawaja Sarraah? Can someone please explain what this was about?Recommend

  • Raisani

    East or West, Almaas Bobby is the Best :). !!!!Recommend

  • suzo

    @kay; gays are ‘ham jins parast’ not ‘khawja siras’. .Recommend

  • Arfan

    Its heart breaking to read it..Recommend

  • Baji Pleases

    Wow, such a beautiful read.Recommend

  • Devils Advocate

    very well written!Recommend

  • sara Bilwani

    Such a groovy and simple article covering the most tensed topic of our society with a grip of calmness without pointing fingers to anyone..I especially love the title ,such an eye catcher :)..Keep the good work :)Recommend

  • http://[email protected] kay rosh

    Everybody know the dark side , it need some light , so they can see their faces properly.Recommend

  • kanza

    beautifully written!Recommend

  • Travel_Tart

    Concept of Khawaja Sara is quite unique to subcontinent.
    It is very difficult to explain to people from other countries. Recommend

  • ABC

    Khawaja sira= HijdaRecommend

  • Parvez

    @gp65: I did venture a reply but it got blown away…………and I worked on it so now I’m a bit peed off. But again in brief a Khawaja Sirraah in my view is a hermaphroditus person ( a male with an extra female chromosome – I think ) one step above a transvestite and some of them are quite hard to distinguish. While a hidjra is a eunuch.
    I am open to correction by more knowledgable persons.
    I hope this helps in appreciating the authors attempt.

  • gp65

    @Parvez: Thank you.Recommend

  • Annam

    A very well written piece – such depth. I am in loveRecommend

  • Kashif Ajmal Malik

    @KAY: Usually, they dont have any identity even they dont have ID Cards in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Saira

    Our country is wasting them by making them to beg or dance but I have met one during a university project who is working on a good post but he told us all he has his parents support and help all along the way. I just wish parents stop giving their kids to Bajis and support their kids… Very well written blog thank you young ladyRecommend

  • Kashif Ajmal Malik

    can you please suggest how can we use them as the productive human resources. I think we can train them sewing, handicrafts, beauty salon work, what do you suggest at your part?Recommend

  • wasi ali

    Very beautiful way of writing. Recommend

  • Saira

    @Kashif Ajmal Malik:
    I just proper education not just vocational or how to make handicrafts and also add them to voting list in my village they are not in voting lists. They are humans or may be better Muslims they deserve the same chance and also one more important thing teach others to not to make fun of them.
    I suggest proper education and jobs too not just sewing, handicrafts Recommend

  • Kashif Ajmal Malik

    @Saira: 445000 grads passing out every year is not making a difference for Pakistan and they can not even find a job so I think technical education is one solution. for me, I dont make fun of them. In fact I had an interview with one and realized about few of their problemsRecommend

  • Saira

    @Kashif Ajmal Malik:
    Education is not just a way to earn better i think our religion also support education. I am sorry but not every thing we do should be for materialistic benefits. I have seen them working in fields time to time but my point is still education should be for all Recommend

  • ejaz

    Congratulations to Noor Ejaz for Successful completion of her first year of LLB(Honours) from UCL.Recommend

  • Fatima

    very sad article !Recommend

  • Stranger

    Err I am not from Pak . What or who is a Khwaja Sarra ?Recommend

  • hasan raza

    well written. stereotypical but has a feel great!!!Recommend

  • Sohail Kamran

    Well completely missed the twist in the tale, good read. Recommend