Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Truth about me - A sad commentary on our attitude toward hijras

I was browsing the racks of MyLib, Jayanagar when I came across this title. I remembered a friend wanting to read stories of Hijras and other sexual minorities and so immediately decided to borrow it. Back home, I started reading the first few pages and was hooked.

Haven't we all seen hijras near traffic signals, in trains and in railway stations? What is the first feeling we experience on seeing them? Please give it a thought. Speaking for myself, I have experienced fear and a strange anxiety. When they have approached me, I have always increased my pace and avoided them.

This true story of Revathi, born Doraisamy in Tamilnadu, is by turns sad and shocking with rays of hope emerging, only to vanish into darkness. She asks in the autobiographical account (Originally Unarvum Uruvamum in Tamil and translated by V. Geetha into English):

"If society scorns us, then we turn to our families, if we have a family. But if family scorns us, who do we turn to? Is this why people like me do not stay in touch with their families? Could not God have created me as a man or a woman? Why did He make me this way? Why is He savouring this spectacle that He created? In a rage, hitting my head against the wall, I began to cry."

The book recounts Revathi's struggles, hopes, fears and wishes. It is a mirror that shows our society in a very poor light for the way we treat hijras. Revathi shares her experiences living with fellow hijras in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. In each of these cities, she is exploited and treated with disdain. During her visits to her hometown, she is mocked by the public when she travels by local buses. However, not everything in the book is disheartening. Revathi is cared for by fellow hijras and the odd non hijra. Her family hates her and loves her. Eventually, they seem to accept her for who she is.

We are also exposed to the inner world of the Hijra community, their rituals, traditions and language. Paampaduthi, chelas, gurubais, guru, naani, kaalgurus, nirvaanam, pottai, danda - words that disturbingly get into the reader's head and work their way through his conscious to imprint themselves firmly and powerfully.

What I find inspiring about the book is the author's - Revathi's - resolve to keep going. She seems to get up everyday and as a Hijra, does her chores with a resolve and strength of character that many of us would shudder to even think about! For this reason alone, it is a must read.

5 comments:

silverblue said...

I feel fear and walk away quickly too. I believe there is always a reason behind our reactions.. The ones I encountered were aggressive with the commuters at traffic signals, often cursing and even laying hands on those who say they don't have change.. For me this violent behaviour is what causes the fear!

silverblue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shiva said...

@silverblue, Agree. I have seen this too.

Sreenivas KM said...

I couldn't agree more on this! I have never come come across a day without their presence either in local train, traffic jams or even in several special occasions. You can hate, you can love, you can curse but you cant ignore them in Mumbai life.

Sindhu said...

There is a bigger problem lurking underneath: Stereotyping. Trans-sexuals are, by far, the biggest victims of this heinous trait. While it is sad that they are often subject to humiliation, it is even worse that it nobody bothers to change their perspectives - posts like yours and books like Revathy's will go a long way (with the right reach) in giving trans-genders a little bit of air to breathe. Kudos!

And hats off on making it an honest account. I would have sworn that I was nice to them. But who am I kidding? I have tried avoiding the most aggressive ones I see in my everyday commute to office.