Hijras: The humans behind the mask

She had moved on before the reality of the ‘blessing’ broke through the walls of my preconceived notion of what to expect post my refusal — either a tirade of offensive language or moving away from me with a look that is meant to make me feel like the lowest creature existing on this planet.

Depending on my mood and the money in my purse, I usually give something to the ‘hijra’ or acting to be hijras at the traffic signals. My rationale to making this exception to giving to beggars is that I had rather be a cause for keeping in place begging than push the transgenders in to more offensive and dangerous professions of sex and drugs.

The first time I saw a transgender at close range in our office. I had been speechless and quite honestly, felt uneasy — not knowing how to interact with them. If any body has seen or been anywhere near ‘Laxmi,’ they would immediately understand my plight! And for those who have not, a quick google search by the words ‘Laxmi Tripathi’ should do the trick. Theirs is a strange world — characterised by loud behaviour, drama, non stop chatter, bitching, heavy in your face make up, gaudy colours, the signature clapping and the pouting lips ready to run a volley of non sense and abuses. This outer defiance usually hides an individual who is in pain, fully aware of the stares people throw at them either in disgust, fear or curiosity, insecure of his/her future, struggling to earn a decent livelihood and above all trying to survive in the strong guru-chela systems existing in their world.

Change in outlook

The group had come for securing a project funding at our office. My dazed state of mind must have been quite blatant. For an assistant (who was also a friend) came to my chamber and shared that “they are all bark and not much bite”. Also, that they valued any gesture that is physical — a handshake or a hug — for them matters to a lot. The reason is simple — nobody bothers to treat them with the respect one bestows upon another human being. That really made me sit down and do some fast data entry about transgenders into my mind.

Till that time, the only emotion they evoked in me was ‘fear.’ Later in the day when I met them, I shook hands not out of formality but with a very different feeling. Next moment, we also hugged and I could see the truth of what my friend had shared earlier. There was a joy in their eyes which I have seen only in children when they are truly delighted about something special.

After that I had a number of opportunities of working with them closely once their project got funded. There were a lot of hiccups that needed professional assistance. I visited their homes too and got an even closer look at how their existence really was beneath the glamour exhibited in the public.

Blessings

Laxmi has done quite well for herself. She has the gift of the gab and also the communication skills to propel her to international forums. Once I got married, Laxmi did the ‘blessing’ with words and gestures that reflected a caring soul. Each time she would come by, there would be a regular enquiry about my marital life in her unique style.

If a refusal to give alms can still evoke a ‘khush raho’ from a single transgender, then may be something is changing in their world, may be they are now realising their personal worth beyond the label of ‘hijra’ and are truly becoming empowered as individuals... and realising the power of blessings that inherently is a part of their living since they almost always come to Indian homes to bless a new born child or where a marriage has taken place.

I’d like to believe so, hope so and pray so too...

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