I am a woman, a woman no less than the millions around me. Maybe not recognised, maybe forgotten, maybe not placed on a high pedestal, without a name, but I am a woman. I may not have borne children but I’ve nurtured one. I love her and I’ll narrate about it.
My day starts early, earlier than most, 4:00 am. I visit the temple near by before the crowd trickles in, to avoid the sneers of the masses. I come to what I have now accepted to be my home for I’ve lived close to three decades here. It keeps me well hidden, like people want me to be, hidden and silent.
I wear the mask after that, a mask I show to the world, it’s painted, painted bright and gaudy. I seek refuge in this mask, it gives me a new personality, a personality to survive the society that rejected me long ago. Wearing this mask I confront them, everyday, every minute, and then return home to my safe haven, to hide and remain hidden.
My unyielding unchanging burden of life was dragging on, when one morning I spotted street dogs pulling at something, dragging it out of the drain. I heard what sounded like meowing of kittens. Curious, I shooed them away to check if a cat litter was there and if I could save them before the dogs devoured them. As I went near I saw the black garbage bag torn at places and on closer scrutiny saw tiny little limbs of a human child. An abandoned girl child, my fears came true.
I held the child, few hours old, a , a survivor, just like me, in my arms and began walking home, missing my temple prayers. She could barely even manage to cry, with the plastic bag her sole covering. I quickly wrapped her in a shawl, while checking for injuries. Thankfully there were none. I warmed up little milk for her and fed her with the spoon. She stopped crying and I held her close to me, to let her feel warm. She fell asleep. I sat there with her in my lap. My tears wouldn’t stop, as hard as I tried.
Sensing my absence, my friends, colleagues if you may, came to check on me, all of them. Adversity has a way to create unbreakable bonds among people, bonds that go beyond words, bonds that understand silence. They saw me with a child, they understood, they were shocked, they were sad. It was a nemesis for all of us. All of us, who were counted among society’s bête noire.
We decided to keep her. She filled our lives with laughter, her cries, her innocence, made us all forget the masks that hid us. She loved us unconditionally. I was going to educate her. She was not to grow up to lead a life of ignominy or opprobrium. I was never going to let her grow up with guilt. Guilt of her birth, guilt of not being accepted, guilt at her own being.
I too had to change myself. I had to become stronger for my daughter. I had to fight the system that made me hide and feel ashamed of me. I had to rise above all the disdain and claim my rightful position. My first fight was to adopt her legally. I won the petition for adoption rights for transgenders. Thereafter I put her in a residential school to keep her out of the pervasive negative vibes around the place we called home.
She had given my life a new meaning and purpose. I decided to help others in similar predicament as me. I set up an NGO to educate transgenders so they didn’t have to go through hell like me.
I saw my daughter growing up in pictures and photograhs, for I was scared to go meet her, till she was sixteen and I got this letter from her:
I know you will not come, however hard I try. Principal ma’am wants to honour you on woman’s day but you believe “mother is beyond gender”. You are right. You are my mother and I love you unconditionally. I wanted to tell you this in person but I think you are scared of rejection. The society has let you down too many times. They have their own ideas of boxing people into male or female. Life with dignity is your birth right, but you were denied this right at birth, yet you protected mine. You were rejected at every step, yet you accepted me. You were unable to find love yet you opened your loving heart to me.
The world calls you many names, they shy away from your presence, your being, your clapping your hands at them, unsettles them, perhaps you touch a chord deep within them that they do not want to acknowledge. They keep you silent, invisible, but you have proved that you are a formidable force. You’ve chosen to be a woman, not everyone has the courage to be a woman, to raise a child with love.
I’ve seen you emerge, phoneix like- scarred from zillion battles you fought within.
Each scar a winning story, of love you embraced yourself in.
They called you sin, they called you bliss. Negating passion, emotion, beauty
Vulnerable yet serene.
Danger, darkness, fire brewing like a storm.
Undaunted Resolute Audacious A Goddess took form
I hope I can be a woman like you some day. I am coming home and I will be part of you from now on.
I was silent. She understood the woman that I am, the woman that she’ll be. I am a woman who never quit. I am a woman, who could love. I am a woman who believes I am a woman because I chose to be one.
This piece is dedicated to Shri Gauri Sawant whose petiton recognised transgenders as third gender and Laksmi Narayan Tripathi: who was the first transgender person to represent Asia Pacific in the UN in 2008. And hundreds of other women who are silently fighting a battle against ignominy everyday.