I only recently came across this book when Bindu added it to her ‘to-read’ books in Goodreads. Luckily for me, it was available in my library. Normally, most of the really good books aren’t available there- so, I was quite happy. Although I wasn’t sure that the book itself would be something that I would enjoy but I was curious, to be honest.
Hijras have always inspired fear and a bit of apprehension in me since I was a child. For some reason, they always made me uncomfortable, as long as I can remember. This time, after years of being away from India, they invoked the same sense of apprehension if they confronted me on the roads. Most of the time, I would be in an auto, and would just hand over money. This book, I hoped would tell more about their life and the reason why they do what they do.
The book is Revathi’s autobiography. Revathi was born into a working class family in Tamil Nadu. The youngest of three brothers, she was born as Doraisamy. From a very young age, she enjoyed the tasks that were assigned her sister more than her brothers. She longed to be a girl as long back as she remembers. She feels like a woman trapped in a man’s body. All she wanted was to be a woman, to be considered a woman by society. Slowly, getting more and more aware of herself, she meets up with others like her. Her quest to be a woman leads her to a totally different life. A life where she is taunted for her state of being, where she is not accepted by her birth family, and yet she finds a family of her own. She runs away to Delhi in search of a life where she can be herself. All is not rosy there either. She faces trouble and violence of all sorts.
All she wants is to live a life being true to herself, with a little dignity, to be accepted for what she is but that itself seems like a tall order.
The book is a difficult read. It is an honest autobiography which depicts life as a hijra in India. A community that is feared, ridiculed and ill-treated in so many ways. What can a person do when everything seems to be stacked against them. Being considered freaks, unable to gain acceptability in society like the rest of us do, just because they are born in a way that is considered abnormal. It is a peek into lives of our sexual minorities who have struggled so hard to gain acceptance, ill-treated by society, by the law enforcers,shackled by our archaic laws, looked down by their own families, no means of earning a living… Is it a wonder that they have to resort to all sorts of things to keep themselves alive.
Reading this book opened my eyes to things which I knew about only vaguely. The life that they are forced to lead, because of the way our society functions. It just makes me hope that things do change for the better for this community. The life that a lot of them lead is so tragic. It made me feel very helpless.
As I said, it is no easy read. It is sad, tragic and heart-breaking. Having said that it does give an insight to life as a Hijra in India.
PS: Does anyone know how it is for transgenders in other countries?