03 May, 2013

A Neutral View

I'm unable to recollect when/ where I saw a hijra (transgender) for the first time. But, I do remember one incident that left me terrified of them for a long time.

Sometime in my late-teens.... I had almost reached IB's (Iyengar's Bakery) for a quick snack. A hijra was harassing the maama @ IB's for money. Simultaneously, she was also chasing the customers away by making obscene gestures.......

Another time, I was on a train journey. Somewhere near N.K'taka, a group of hijras had entered the compartment and had harassed the men - quite successfully. Looking back, where was our guard? In cahoots with the hijras? Probably.....

To date, these two incidents remain my only real-life experiences with the hijras. The sole local transgender keeps to himself - when he is in town, i.e....
 In our films, of course, they are always portrayed in a crass manner - even when they are supposed to be blessing people during auspicious occasions.

I have often wondered why our movies love to misrepresent facts. In most movies, a typical farm-girl is dressed quite skimpily. In real life, it is the other way round! A farm-girl takes good care of her skin & hair and is always fully covered from head to toe when she is slogging outdoors.....

Coming back.....

One afternoon last year, I was lunching alone. I dislike dining alone, and when I have to, I turn to IB (Idiot Box) for company. While surfing channels, I chanced upon a documentary on NGC about hijras. Soon, I realised that the film featured hijras from B'lore (my hometown) and decided to watch it.

The highlight of the film was the annual festival celebrated by the hijras at Koovagam.  But, it gave me my first real peek into their lives. The film removed some of my prejudices, and, my fear was replaced by sympathy towards the hijras.

Some months after the movie, I came across this book - "The Truth About Me" - an autobiography by a hijra called A.Revathi .... the first of its kind.



I recognised the author (the person on the cover) as one of the hijras featured in the documentary and was interested.

Revathi's life begins as a boy in a normal middle class home. By the time the boy is a teenager, he realises that he has strong feminine feelings within him. The rest of the book is about how he joins the community of hijras, learns their rules, lives by the rules, and, sometimes, breaks the rules.
Revathi takes us through many of her traumatic, very personal experiences. Each experience makes her a stronger person, and as we take leave of her in the book, she is working for an NGO that caters to sexual minorities.

The book tends to be a little repetitive at times, but, I appreciate Revathi for coming out with her story and wish her well.

You know, the hijras have very rigid hierarchical rules within their community. It is taboo to break those rules. Many among them dislike their traditional professions - begging/ harassing/ prostitution..... and desire to come out of the stereotype. But, once they come out of it, it is very difficult to go back the group. It is a neither-here-nor-there situation if the regular society does not give such change-seekers a chance.

 Once in a while, one comes across news items where hijras have contested and won elections, passed post-graduate exams, etc. and one wishes that more of them are inspired. They will be inspired, I guess, if most of us drop our prejudices against them.

One of the most talked about issues when the Aadhaar Card registration forms came out was that the 'gender' column had three options - 'Male/ Female/ Transgender'. At last, the hijras are being counted -  and I think, that's one step closer to being accepted.....

 

The Story of a Seed

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