Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One Monsoon Morning

9.30 a.m. A local bank in Mumbai.
The bank has just opened after a 2 day break and there is a long queue at the cashiers counter. I am waiting for my turn.

Enter: two human beings .To be precise two eunuchs /Hijras/hermaphrodites.
They walk upto the clerk and hand him a form.

Clerk: “Ye idhar angootha lagao.”

Hijra/eunuch no.1- “Main sign karti hain na.”

She signs. She is actually quite nice to look at. I notice her smooth hairless arms with green, red and gold bangles tinkling. She has a gold chain around her neck, a shining diamond nose ring, hair tied neatly in a bun. She is actually neat as in hygienic. The other one is tall, lanky squarish face. Red sindoor,her hair tied tightly in a bun. She notices me staring at them. She gives me a small smile. I smile back and she winks back.

Cashier: “Next.”

I pay the bill amount and just as I turn to leave H. No. 2 asks me-“Ye idhar light bill lete hai”

I : “Haan.”

H.No. 1 to H. No. 2: “Neksht time idhar hee aane ka na”

H.No.2 to me : “Thank you. Bye”

I : ‘Bye see you.”

This seemingly inane conversation draws quite a few glances my way. Some smirking, others disgusted.
I walk out of the bank and realize that this is actually the first time in my life that I have interacted with a Hijra in a bank. I have encountered them earlier only at 2 places. Either a traffic junction or a wedding/mundan or any such celebration. They are always loud and in your face. I have somehow never associated them as fellow beings. They are simply Hijras.
It set me thinking. These people are marginalized and ostracized by the society. If educated urban people like me have never even thought of them as a part of our social milieu how would they be treated in rural areas?
I remember as a kid we grew up thinking that hijras forcibly take away children they consider their own. There were quite a few myths associated with them. For E.G. Don’t mess with them. Inki baddua lag jaati hain.
When I met these two people in the bank I wondered where do they shop. I have never seen any of them at any shopping mall, multiplex, Bazaar, Vegetable market, Retail store etc etc . How and from where do they get their basic nessicities ?
We talk of a evolved society. Here we are blatantly discriminating between people on basis of gender. Forcing them to live in subhuman conditions, denying them dignity that each human being deserves.
Just yesterday I read a small snippet in the newspaper that said Ellen Degeneres marries her partner.
Ellen hosts her own talk show on Star world(2 p.m. everyday India time).I always found her a little boyish .Delicate , pixie like in a pant suit. She has now married her partner who looked really pretty in a white gown with a huge train. The picture stayed with me and I try to fit in Hijra 1 and 2 in the same scenario. Can`t but help wonder…Where would Ellen be If she were in India? Any guesses?


Renu said...

I have also always felt bad for them, they are rude to public because public makes fun of them, and since we dont allow them any means of livilihood, how wil they survive, they will have to beg, they are not given jobs, people normally try to ostracise them, but personally I have found that they are nice if you treat them with the same respect you will give to any other human being. Once I used to run a store, and they never used to haggle with me for money, whatever i gave with a smile, they will accept and give me blessings, while all the other men used to tase them ,make fun of them, so they will aslo trouble them.
Its time we helped them come into the main stream of society.

Piper .. said...

Ellen would be single and unhappy, had she been in India. People just arent ready for legalizing the same sex relationships or even accepting them quietly,in India. We have a long way to go. Fabulous thought provoking post!
Btw, my first time here.

my space said...

@ Renu..its really sad..come to think of it I have never spotted them at any hospital or at a clinic..
@Piper..thanks for dropping by...Hmm Ellen in India would be minus her smart pant suits,talk show, dignity...

Reflections said...

Some yrs back my friend & I were shopping in a well known area in b'lore when we got accosted by 3 hijras. I remember feeling feeling so terrorised. They demanded Rs50 but my friend very cooly bargained & brot the amt down to 20rs by joking with them fearlessly & they also were talking so nicely by the end of the conversation. The whole situation brot home the fact that a small compliment was enoff to melt the gruff & threatening exterior & make them more 'humane'.

p.s: But I do wish they wont wear such garish outfits & talk so "in the face":-P

my space said...

@reflections...I wish so too..most of us are scared tof them and just pay and shrugg them off..but it`s a sad life for them..

Sandhya said...

I have never thought of hijras in this angle. Yes, where do they shop, which doctor do they go to, etc.? I have seen them in front of the shops, begging. I read somewhere that a hijra woman is writing a book about their lives. We don't even give them the job of a house servant.

One tamil writer 'samuddirakani' had written a novel about the way a boy's life slowly changes and how he leaves his home and joins a hijra group in Mumbai. Everything is explained elaborately in that novel. I wish it is translated into other languages also. It is a good novel about the hijras. It is like a tribute to them.

We don't see much hijras here, in Chennai, though. Maybe because,we don't give them money, even during our weddings, childbirth etc. like the North Indians. Begging is the only option for them. They don't even have ration cards,it seems and so no voting rights. Not only the govt., all of us should change our attitude.

my space said...

@sandhya thanks for stopping by. I did`nt know that in south they are not given North and even in Mumbai a lot of people actually call them and give money and saree to ward off evil eye..but dignity they don`t get -nowhere..

DeeplyDip said...

good post. I agree that we do not treat them as fellow human beings.

There is a lot of anger, rejection and unacceptance for anyone who does not think, behave or look like us.

But afterall its the surroundings that force them to be so brutal to us. Afetrall what do we do for them except for occassional mercies financially.

my space said...

@deeplydip...hmmm precisely

Mampi said...

If we had more people like you, who take them as normal human beings, and thus broke their old myths; these hijras would have a normal life.