☛ Submission for October, 2024 issue (Vol. 5, No. 2) is going on. The last date for submission is 30 September, 2024.




-        Manas Bakshi (India)


They are seen often in and around the crowded crossing points of Kolkata and its outskirts. Two to three in number, they enter the bus, minibus as also local train – clapping boisterously to draw the attention of the passengers. Most of the commuters hesitatingly part with them offering one or two rupees. Luck favours they accept such a small amount; otherwise, especially in case of youngsters, they insist on something more. In case of travelling by a taxi or private car, they want the glass to be lifted; if bothered not by the fare, they go on knocking from outside till the signal remains red. And as they leave disappointed, they hurl indecent, if not lewd, remarks towards the apparently well-to-do people able to hire a cab. They are the transgender community commonly known as Hizra.

       Sandipan, aged around 32, employed in a private farm was in a dark mood – though he was jubilant just three days back when he got the news of birth of his male child. It was his brother-in-law who communicated the news over cell phone – “Good news dada, you are now father, and the baby – a bonny one looks like you; when are you coming with packets full of sweets?”

       “As soon as possible. Thanks for the good news”.

       It was March and there was year-ending workload. His wife was in his father-in-law’s house before delivery; because at his residence, there was none other than his old mother to take due care of her in the post-delivery period. His in-laws were very accommodative, so he had no reason to be worried over the issue; but the moment he was informed over mobile by Monika, his wife, today that a group of Hijra had come to perform on the occasion of child-birth playing on the tom-tom, singing, dancing and clapping their cymbal-palms to bless the baby, Sandipan was awed into some sort of a fearsome silence. He was neither eager nor disinterested to know what happened afterwards but Monika continued – “You know, we were only three persons present at that time when they were hurtling across our courtyard to say – ‘Where are you, bring your baby – we are here’. I felt a bit shaky but my mother said – ‘There’s no reason to be afraid – it is a tradition that they will perform their ritual.’ So, I came out with my son and they started performing a bit. But at the end, it was more than stupefying that they demanded Rs. 50,000/=”

       “What do you say?”

       “Yes, it is.”

       “Why didn’t you call your neighbours?”

       “Who cares? My mother gave one new Sari, 3 kg rice. Even then they were pertinaciously unyielding to a lesser amount.”

       “In that case you should have consulted the local P.S.”

       “We were afraid – lest they curse the new-born.”

       “To hell with their curse – do you belong to the Sattva Yuga?”

       “Please don’t be angry with me.”

       “What else can I? Why should I bear with their torture?”

       “Cool down please – it has been arranged somehow – but that is also an irritating episode.”

       “What’s that, please complete the episode”

       “When my parents requested with folded hands to settle for Rs. 25,000/=, they said they were not to budge an inch from Rs. 30,000/=. It was already 1 p.m. And you know my father, diabetic and hypertensive taking regular medicine, had to rush to the bank, 2 kms away, to draw money but there too misfortune followed – ‘No link!’ We had to manage it with whatever was available with our neighbours. We have to pay it off as soon as possible.”

       Sandipan could not make out what to do – because his monthly salary was a little over Rs. 30,000/=. And he took salary advance of Rs. 15,000/= to meet some urgent requirements at the time Monika was admitted – because his father-in-law was a retiree; who else was there he could ask for some financial assistance at that stage? While thoughts of running away from an uneasy – if not discomforting – feel was perturbing him, he decided to rest for a while in a city park instead of loitering here and there.

       Not surprisingly, almost all the benches were filled up mostly with young lovers. Mosseying for a while he got a chance to share a bench with a couple sitting at a distance. Unmoved, they were gossiping; but suddenly appeared before them a group of three Hizra. As usual they asked for money. The couple retorted – “we are husband wife”.

       “Then where is the cinnabar?”

       “Are we answerable to you? Nowadays how many married women prominently display it to look loud? Please go.” As they still kept on nagging, the couple left the place in a huff. The immediate reaction from the other side came one by one : The first one said – “Bloody swine”. The second one – “They can spend a lot on their fiance but not a paise for the needy one.” The third one – “O Malik, don’t spare them!”

       It was then Sandipan’s turn. They smilingly asked – “You too seem waiting for your lady-love.” Disturbed and disgruntled over everything happening to him so far, he could not express his ire but smilingly said – “No, I am waiting for you three”.

       Stunned, they could not decide what to say – but one of them touched his cheek uttering “O really? How sweet is our Glaxo baby.”

       Sandipan turned his face away. And there was silence for a few minutes. Then one of them occupying a seat by his side broke the ice – “Hey youngman, why keeping mum? Come on, speak out, we are not that ugly to look at.” Sandipan mumbled – “But I am not in a mood.”

       “Look – I’m Rakhi, she is Saira and the last one is Sonu, and so long as your fiance is not turning up, you can ......”

       Sandipan burst out – “Why are you disturbing me? Take this ten Rupee note and be off”.

       One of them ridiculed –” Look baby, a cup of tea costs Rs. 5/= and we are three”. It rubbed salt into his wound, and Sandipan flared up – “How shameless are you! You who exploit ordinary people when you get a chance without caring to know one’s financial condition. Even here, you are nagging ...........

       “Wait, wait. How many children do you have?”

       Sandipan got further annoyed at her effrontery – “Why? Will you look after them?”

       “Not that, I just want to clarify our position – we, the nagging shameless in your eyes!”

       Sandipan was not at all interested to listen to all this but, at the same time, got tired of arguing with her. But Rakhi appeared unblushing with her indefatigable energy – “You know, Lord Sri Ramchandra had blessed the Kinnar clan in the Treta Yuga that they would prevail over the Kaliyug with their dance and musical performance. We bear their legacy, legacy of the celestial female chorister. We dance and sing today to attract people not with glamour but our body language and gesture for a paltry amount just to survive.”

       It could not pacify Sandipan, he thundered – “But extorting money from a middle or lower middle class family man or begging this way is not the solution.”

       “We know that, but tell me one thing – how many of you opt today for more than one or two offspring? And there is another problem .......”

       “Please wait, and listen; we are facing population explosion. Formerly, China was at the top but today, with over 142 crores of people, we have superseded them; we need to restrict population growth if we are to safeguard our future generation. God is benevolent that most of us can still secure two handful of meals a day. Will you still speak of more and more children getting into a scrimmage over a crumb to drag on a life only to be rotten in the bog of wretchedness and despondency?”

       The neuter gender sitting next to Rakhi joined – “No, we don’t mean that. But our source of earning is being reduced to a minimum – you must admit. What my partner was just about to mention is regarding the manipulative increase in our number. I can explain if you please spare a few minutes more.”

       Sandipan hesitatingly replied “Carry on .....”

       “Thank you, perhaps you can’t imagine how painful it is to bear the brunt of being a transgender – known as Hizra. Nobody is born at his/her choice. But the crucial problem begins at adolescence when the riddle of horomon surges up. To me, it became prominent and perceptible at 9 or 10 years of age. It was then I too realised that I was neither a man nor a woman. I got more and more disinterested than disallowed to stay with my family – for it could only bring them worries, hazards and snide remarks of outsiders.”

       “But nowadays when man marries man, woman marries woman, why didn’t you opt for the same?” – Sandipan reacted.

       “Is that life – when I’m sure that, for being one of the third or neuter gender community, I will not be able to give birth to a child? At most, I can cook for someone, can share bed with him but emotional pleasure never lasts long in the absence of an offspring. It is better that I live and enjoy my life as I like with my inmates.”

       “Do you think that’s the ideal way?” Sandipan asked again.

       “I’m not sure but when I find so many persons joining the profession to earn money by undergoing surgery, why I – a born transgender – will not follow that path I am destined by birth?”

       Sandipan was in a tizzy; bewildered to hear all this, he hurled another question – “Is your number on the increase for occupational reason also?”

       “Of course – those who are apparently male but, impotent by birth, undergo a surgery, and a one-time investment of Rs. 40 to 50 thousand earns them lacs per month. It is really a profitable business in big cities like Kolkata, Delhi and elsewhere where several centres have cropped up to carry on such operation in secret. And Noor Islam becomes Noor Begum overnight. What is more, intruders from Bangladesh have also swelled our number – encroaching upon our area of activities.”

       There was silence for a few minutes. The more Sandipan knew about them, the more he got convinced but could not help asking the question he was perturbed with – “Okay, now tell me one thing : isn’t it unkind of you to press someone for a hefty amount when he has not at all the capacity to pay?”

       This time the third one, sitting at the corner, responded – “Look, we ask for money not to save for future but to pull on somehow at present. While owing to family planning, you don’t have more than one or two children in city area, in rural area people don’t bother about us; in semi-urban areas, it is equally disappointing. What else can we do?”

       “Have you ever heard the name of Manabi Banerjee – the first trans-sexual in the country adorning the post of principal of Krishnanagar Women’s College in West Bengal?”

       “Yes, extraordinary – but that is an exception. Honestly speaking, we are also not sitting idle. Some of us are trying their luck as helping hands at beauty parlour, some participate as dancers at the time of puja or similar festivals but how many stand the chance when to be good looking with a sexy figure is the criterion there? Again, we have a leader in our team whose share in what we daily earn is a considerable factor.”

       “Sandipan was speechless, cast a pale look at her when she uttered – “But rest assured – paid or not as per our demand on a child’s birth for dancing or singing – we never curse anybody nor does our shadow cast an evil effect anywhere. Pity is, detached from family, we are rootless and there will be none to look after us at old age; even there is none to think of us rationally. Though we always bless everyone, from a new-born to a young person, there is none to bless us – not even our Creator.”