The signal was green. The traffic started again. Everyone was in a hurry. The loud honks and the sudden hustling were creating a cacophony piercing through the city’s tone. It was one of the busy days. The people were queued up one behind the other in the signal mocking the way they exist in the society.
The more fortunate ones who were sitting in their fat cars showing off the society their economic status were not happy waiting for their turn. They were the most impatient of the lot. The somewhat less fortunate, decked up as death riders, on their fancy bikes were gazing at the closed windows of the cars beside them, trying to get a reflection of their self. Fixing their posture or sunglass, they would eye at the driver, envying him inside and cursing the sun and the heat. They all want to be in that car beside him someday.
The even less fortunate were the ones on public transport .The sweat, the foul odor of the man standing with his armpits exposed, the man who had been drooling in his sleep and the unbearable heat inside the bus, would make them petulant. The bikers would swiftly overtake the bus from one side and go ahead in the race. They would envy him, cursing him inside. They all wanted to be in that bike riding faster than him someday.
The entire city was in a hurry. Living itself was a competition. There was time for no one. Even the 120 seconds red signal would make them peevish, honking, gearing the accelerators like wild bulls in captivity standing at the brink of getting free.
Among all of them, she stood. She was not one of them. She was no competition and she was in no hurry. As the signal turned green, all the vehicles started to honk at her trying to make their way. She slowly walked to the other side of the divider towards the footpath. The vehicles rushed passed her as she crossed the road. Some even hurled abuses at her for being so slow. She didn’t mind anymore. 30 years she had been doing this.
She came to the other side of the road and stood near the big tree. She had to wait for the signal to turn red. It would be just a few minutes of wait. She looked at the sun. It was right above the head. The tree provided a shady shelter.
She was Lakshmi, a middle aged 50 years old human being. She was a woman trapped in a man’s body. She was the third kind. She was a transgender.
Laxmi was not keeping well these days. She was having this constant fever for the past 10 days. Devi had been asking her to see a doctor for some time now.
“You should not neglect didi”, Devi would say.
But even Devi knew visiting a doctor was not easy. They are not welcome anywhere. Doctors, although treated them sometimes but always with disgust, a treatment they are very familiar to.
Lakshmi was feeling weak today. The fever, the hunger and the heat was making her nauseous. But she had no choice. The little that she earns from this traffic signal was all she had.
Life had been so different she thought. As a child, she wanted to be a doctor. She wanted to earn money, be a cardiologist.
“Stupid dreams”, she murmured.
Lakshmi was born to a middle class Tamil family as Laxman Iyer. Her father worked at the RTO office as a clerk in the city. Her mother was a housewife.
Right from his childhood, Laxman had different choices. He didn’t like playing outside with the boys. He liked dancing, a trait he got from his mother’s genes who was a trained Bharatnatyam dancer. He would imitate her ‘mudras’ in front of the mirror. When his parents would be out, he would cautiously sneak into their room, take out a ‘dupatta’ or a scarf and drape it around his tender body. He wanted to look pretty, trying out the cohl or the new shade of lipstick his mother would possess.
His feminine approaches and behavior made him the easiest target for the bullies. School was a nightmare for him. Every day, during the lunch time, the other kids would tease him, calling him with dirty nicknames, sometimes touching him inappropriately. He would run to the washroom and lock himself in the toilet. Sometimes he even had his lunch there. Each time he complained about this to his mother, she would say,
” Don’t cry son. Be a man. Tell them to back off next time”.
He never wanted to be a man. And never could he express this to his mother. He wanted his mother to understand him. And somewhere he felt, she did understand but pretended as if it was nothing.
“You are a disgrace “, shouted his father once when he found him in one of his private moments dressed up like a girl in his room. He never spoke to him after that.
When he was 15, his mother gave birth to a baby girl. They named her Shruti.
“How adorable she was”, Lakshmi thought.
By then, he was pretty sure that he wanted to be a woman. His baby sister was the love of his life. He would cradle her in his arms, feed her, and sometimes sing to her. Shruti was like someone Laxman was never going to be.
The sudden dissonance of the traffic brought back Lakshmi from her train of thoughts. The signal had turned red again. The crowd was getting impatient. She went in the traffic clapping her hands at the people making faces in disgust, standing in the signal. She went and knocked at the window of a car. The people inside the car chose to ignore. She left the car and went to a biker. Bikers were an easy target.
“God will bless you son, give me something!” she clapped her hands as she demanded.
The rider took out a ten rupees note and handed over to her.
She took the money and blessed him with her hands. The people behind her started honking again.
The signal had turned green.
Lakshmi crossed the road again. She checked her day’s collection. It was ninety rupees in her pouch. She was not feeling well. She thought of going home for the day. Ninety rupees was less; “Guru Ma “would be angry.
Parvati was the head of their colony. She was the eldest of them all. She was the “Guru Ma” or the “mother” of their group. She had seen it all. From begging to prostitution she had gone through all of that hell in the sixty five years of her lifetime.
Everyone would bring their daily collection to “Guru Ma” and she would keep some amount for the daily grocery, food and shelter and return the rest. The colony was about 2 kilometers from the signal.
It was already a hot day. Lakshmi started walking towards the colony. The colony had three rooms, two common bathrooms. It was on the other end of the slum near the dump yard where the city would dump their waste.
“How ironic was it! The society’s waste residing near the city’s dump yard”, Lakshmi thought.
While walking her way back, Lakshmi got indulged in her wave of thoughts. She remembered the day she left the house.
Laxman was 20 and he had just dropped college. His father wanted him to get married to a girl and take up a job.
“I don’t want to marry a girl father”, he told.
His father slapped him and for one last time uttered the same words he used five years ago
“You are a disgrace!”
That night Laxman had decided to leave the house and look out for his fate. After three weeks of staying hungry and living in the railway station, he met Parvati. Parvati introduced him to the group and to Banno , the then Guru-ma or “Mother” of the clan.
For two years he served them as one of them. It was their law. New members had to worship and serve their fraternity for two years before they were accepted as one of them.
“It was a cold December night”, she recalled.
It was the big hall room. A 100 watt bulb lit around the room. The place was smelling of chlorine and was unbearably cold. Laxman lay down in the cold table, naked and shivering. A picture of the goddess ‘Ardh-nariswar’ hung just in front of him. Guru Ma and a local doctor came in.
There was no anesthesia, no painkillers but direct pain. The surgery went for 2 hours. All she remembers now was that picture that hung in front of her. She screamed, she shouted and finally lost her consciousness as she slowly transformed from Laxman to Lakshmi.
The castration left her weak for days. There would be occasional pain and bleeding. For days she would prefer less liquid intake since urinating would be the most difficult job.
But amidst all the pain, one of her dreams came true; the dream to live in a woman’s body. She was one of them. Her past was like a bitter hangover. She had a new life from now.
This life was over for her to desire anything else, she knew. All she dreamed now was to be reborn as a girl.
When Lakshmi reached the colony, she could see five of the sisters standing near the courtyard, dressed up like princesses.
“Are you getting married pretty ladies”, she asked teasing the young ones.
Some of them chuckled, some of them blushed.
“Only if I could didi, Randeep Kapoor wouldn’t be single still”, one of them chortled.
Lakshmi laughed along with them.
They were the new members of the group, young and immature. The spring of youth had just touched them. They were still trying to grasp their sexuality, exploring new feelings, falling in love and utterly unfortunate.
“There is a baby born in the big house near the signal. We are going there. Come join us. “One of them said.
Invading a house blessed with a baby and demanding money for the celebration and the blessings fetched them quite a lot of money. Although Lakshmi didn’t feel good at all, she realized this was a good way to earn some more money. So, she joined them.
The house was just on the corner of the traffic signal. It was a two storied independent house with a small courtyard after the main gate. The courtyard had a way to the main house beside a well maintained garden.
Lakshmi was the eldest of the five accompanying her. When they reached, the younger ones started to sing and dance in the courtyard. Lakshmi rang the bell.
After a while, a fair and good looking young lady came outside.
She was in her 30s. She looked pale and tired. Lakshmi realized she was the mother of the baby.
The lady however looked very familiar to Lakshmi.
“I have seen her somewhere”, Lakshmi thought “Where could it be? Was it at the signal?”
But she could not recollect.
“There is a new-born in the house. We have come for the celebration”, Lakshmi said.
The lady looked at Lakshmi with abhorrence and asked how much they demanded.
Lakshmi demanded four thousand.
The lady was not ready to budge on that amount of money. After a lot of negotiations and bargaining, they settled on three thousand.
“Let us bless the baby”, Lakshmi said.
Lakshmi was the eldest. She had to bless the new born.
The lady handed the new born to Lakshmi. It was a baby girl.
The baby had the eyes of the mother. It giggled as Lakshmi took her in her arms.
“How adorable she is”, Lakshmi thought.
A sudden chill of emotion ran down Lakshmi’s body. Her heart started to beat fast, her vision blurry from the water in her eyes. A realization had dawned on her.
The mother of the baby was none other than her own sister Shruti.
The baby was Shruti’s replica. Lakshmi realized why she found the lady so familiar.
There was a rush of varied emotions inside her. She just blessed her niece. She felt so happy for her sister.
“Shruti was a mother now”, Lakshmi beamed.
Not even in her wildest dream, Lakshmi had thought of seeing her sister again, let alone holding her child.
In a transgender’s life, there are seldom such occasions when the heart is over flooded with joy. It was one such day for Lakshmi. The long lost hope of meeting her abandoned family just came back bringing a bag full of dreams and desires that she knew was not possible.
Shruti saw the oldest of the transgender in the group wiping her tears. She felt a little bad for being rude to her earlier.
“Do you need some water”, she asked Lakshmi as she handed the money.
Lakshmi smiled as the tears rolled down her cheek and declined the offer.
When she reached her colony back it was already evening. Lakshmi had lost her appetite. It was as if the joy and happiness she experienced today had satisfied all her basic needs like hunger. She had never been so happy in her entire life.
Her body was burning with high temperature. She decided to lie down.
In a life without expectations, such surprises make you desire more. Lakshmi could not forget the baby’s face. That surreal innocence and the broad smile reminded her of Shruti’s infant days.
With the high temperature and a roller coaster of emotions, Lakshmi hallucinated. She was in a state of trance, far away from reality. She dreamed to have a family; to live a life that was respected. In her dream, she stood beside Shruti in that courtyard, caressing the new born. She was a woman in the dream.
Lakshmi could not pass the night. Her body succumbed to the immense happiness and the fever. She died of a heart attack. Happiness was a not only a myth for people like them, it was lethal as well. The train of thoughts slowly transported her to the other world, a world where she was equal and not discriminated.
The early morning rays carefully kissed Lakshmi’s body. Her lifeless body lay there in the room. Her torpid face was calm and peaceful. Streaks of dried tears made a mark on her cheeks. Her life had no ambition, no expectation but always struggle. Though her life could not be happy, Lakshmi had a happy death. She had left this society where she had no place. Her only dream was to be born as a girl again. Death was indeed necessary.
She was not a man, neither a woman. She was the one who lives to be reincarnated as someone accepted, someone loved, someone respected. She was a person who had always experienced the worst of all. Her fate had molded her in to a mettlesome human being. She was not normal but she was way stronger than those who were considered normal by this society.
She was Lakshmi, she was the third kind.