It was when I was returning home today from office that an abrupt desire to protest erupted in me and I ended up shedding a tiny teardrop. I wasn’t in a difficult situation; I was just alone and thinking.
I have often found myself uttering words of protest ceaselessly when people have mocked homosexuals in front of me. I have often found myself talking over phone or discussing about the miseries of being a woman (or man, at times), of ill-treatment towards women/men/children, etc.
What disturbed me today was my realization that my concept of an “egalitarian” society didn’t have the third gender in it? Even when I wrote the article Are you a lesbian? (Published in the Good Times of the North-East), transsexualism didn’t even cross my mind. I was a little ashamed, a little broken and a little angry when I realized this fact while reading a recent article on the e-magazine Fried Eye about the third gender and their ways of life.
Thinking “Probably, writing this blogpost would help me get some sleep tonight in peace (I usually sleep at 11:30 pm and now it’s past 1:30 am)”, I sit to pour my feelings out on this blank page.
I was probably in class five when I first overheard the word “Hijra”. A boy in a senior class was cursing another to be a Hijra. I must have heard the word earlier too but it was then when I went to my mother asking about the same. I have this habit of asking the meaning of every slang expression that I hear (no wonder, I have a good vocabulary :-P), but thankfully, my mother clarified it to me that it wasn’t a cuss word. She has this habit of explaining everything scientifically (biologically, for this matter) rather than explaining the way our society takes it (if that were the case, probably, I’d not have been writing this), which, now that I think of it, is commendable.
I have not seen many of them in my life, for reasons unknown. It was only in my second year of B.E. when I actually saw one, on my train to Delhi; I tried not to stare or make her (I am using the pronoun her because she was clad in a saree and wearing make-up, which made me assume that she prefers to be called a “she”, my apologies if it is inappropriate) feel uncomfortable. But, thanks to the various documentaries I watched on Doordarshan, and my elder sister who would always give me some really good moral lessons, I knew they too were to be treated with as much respect or disrespect or whatever way we treat other people we see, meet or talk to.
But let’s face it; it is difficult when it is your first or second time. I eyes followed her, although I tried hard not to, as she walked by. But she didn’t seem to be bothered by a petty creature like me; perhaps she was past getting offended by these silly actions or perhaps she was just used to these actions.
People might argue that they are now accepted in the society and are given equal privileges, especially after the Supreme Court of India ensured the mention of a third gender in legal documents, last month. But will it really change their lives and our perspectives? I sincerely hope so, having known the fact very well that nothing changes overnight.
We might be disturbed when we see Hijras asking for money on the roads, traffic signals and on trains, but the sole truth is that they do not have much of a choice. Some beg to eat a day’s fill; some sell their bodies each night in order to survive in this world that runs after the green notes.
Imagine yourself sitting next to a Hijra in neither a local train nor bus stop, but in your office cabin equally being involved in the meetings you attend, in the work you do. Imagine your child playing with a Hijra and attending the classes sitting next to him/her in school. Imagine toilets in public places for the third gender too. Imagine beauty parlours by them; imagine them running saloons, business firms, auto-rickshaws, corporate offices.
And if this is too difficult to imagine, then imagine yourself being castrated one fine day and then, leaving all your goals and ambitions behind, living the rest of your life begging, involving in prostitution or singing songs and dancing when babies are born in rich families, and then getting jeered at, feared of or simply avoided. And this imagination, which might seem impossible in your reality, is their reality which they live each single day.
If the last month’s enforcement of the law favouring them is a ray of hope, we need a number of such rays so that a trace of light falls on them.
The so called “educated” people have to be educated, not only about the importance of Hijras in the Mahabharata or other ancient scriptures and equality, but also about compassion for the present condition they are living in. NGOs may have been working in their favour, some of them may have been doing social work for more people like themselves, yet it is unjust that they hide in slums and trains and streets while we go to schools and offices and work towards our respective goals.
Mere mourning won’t help though; there’s something that is/was wrong in our understandings that has to be changed, at least for the future generations.