It’s been a hard day. These few notes and coins are all that I could barely manage. *Gurumai wouldn’t be happy… She has been pressing all of us to bring more money these days.
I am trying…trying to bring in as much as I can. Maybe tomorrow will be another day. This morning Aarti broke the news…Finally, the neighbourhood landlady has been blessed with a grandson. I have a chance to get some extra bucks from that old woman. She has been wanting this male child for so long…It wasn’t easy…and the poor daughter in law remains silent about it. Crime…one after another to get the desired gender of the child. Murderers…
There will be all the merry-makings tomorrow at her doorstep…my opportunity to earn a few extra bucks. I should get my purple *lehenga ready…Gurumai’s love for me makes her think that I resemble Madhuri Dixit in the outfit…Silly. But then what’s the use? He won’t even look at me.
Firdaus, the handsome watchman, I have fallen for him. Its two months already? How could he choose that pumpkin to marry…the dowry? His future is secured and that Bajaj Activa…
His tall frame and those muscles peeping out from the half sleeves uniform…God! My adrenalines are rushing up. He doesn’t even care to take a look at me…Am I that repulsive? I know loving me is not easy. Other *Gurubhais should not come to know about my feelings. I am not staring at him…I am just stealing a glance. No one would know. Every human being is allowed to love…Ah, love. Love has its own conditions…a mother’s love is unconditional.
That night and… that hateful look for me in his eyes. They keep on haunting me. My existence was a blot on him and every night he would punish himself … those needles and bottles. Then he would punish her…a partner in the crime? Her screams would be muted behind those closed doors and windows. Her smiles…failed attempt at hiding those bruises.
Was my being born like this was her fault alone? The touch of her soft fingers in my hair…I wish it stayed forever. I know it won’t come back…That last scream of hers, ‘Over my dead body’…And next morning her dead body was carried down from that creaking ceiling fan. It needed to be repaired months ago…Did she know what it was good for?
And yes, over her dead body I was packed off… All alone, abandoned in this big bad world where no one would accept me other than these kind souls with the same fate as mine. How I was trapped inside my body and then suddenly thrown outside in this world…a disowned son…no…or a daughter? No…not even a human being. How can two and a half inches of body part snatch your right to live as a normal human being?
There she is…waiting for me. Gurumai aka Afreen Bi…She waits for me every day at 7.30PM. The commandment about returning back to shelter on proper time…it helps. She would always tell … If you roam around till late, you are in trouble. No one is going to help you…I think I should believe her. I have seen Sanam. They had picked her up and relished on her for hours. They knew cops will humiliate her if she dares to report the rape…Who rapes a *Hijra like you? It’s your drama…Trying to seduce first and then you go on to slap some charges. All you need is money…Can’t these words stop ringing back for once?
Gurumai’s tears for justice had failed. Sanam left us all… finally freed from the entrapped existence…The excessive bleeding… oh the sight of blood. It made me go weak. The lustful demon doesn’t know gender…it just wants flesh…flesh in any form, woman, man or at times anyone who is neither. But then …laws are made for men and women. And… for us? Just hatred, despise and untouchability. I don’t want to die like Sanam. I come back on time, every evening…in my abode, in the shelter with my kind of people … where they accept me for being a human and not a man or woman or neither.
That first feeling of being accepted …under her wings, when he left me at her door-step. I had a lot to learn. The first morsel of non-vegetarian food…my poor Brahmin soul…Oh! How I puked over Reshma Nani’s saree. But then it’s our commandant not to refuse food at the community gathering. Poor me…a slow learner, longing for Ma’s soft fingers. The ten-year-old in me wept for the home which was left behind forever. However unwanted I was there, but it was home…and years later, now this has become my home.
The coarse fingers of Gurumai have taken the place of soft ones…I was taught to sing, dance, amuse, clap and how to behave. I was told never to flash as it’s a sin and I can be fined. The outside world thinks we can outrage their modesty by such deeds…Ignorant mortals. Little do they know how honestly the unsaid rules are followed in our dark world.
She scolds, curses and I know I am just an investment for her old age…but then she accepts me, the way Mother Nature has created me.
She is counting the crumpled, old notes…I know it’s not enough. Since the last six months, she is trying to do the charitable works…Earlier also she had donated, but this time she tells it is for all of us. To uplift us… The upcoming elections.
She wants funds…all other *chelas and Gurubhais are trying their best. She is sponsoring Ramdin’s daughter’s wedding. Propaganda… But then I must contribute. At least to be a part of someone’s happiness. Ramdin is happy…Gurumai is happy…Election results are happy…I am happy…am I? Maybe life will be comfortable; not happy. Happiness is a delusion…
I can hear her clap loudly…cursing all of us at the top of her voice. She is the leader, like a mother to all of us… but in the end, it’s all matter of selfish interests. She needs us for the money…we need her shelter and support…inseparable uh?
What did I hear…? The one who brings in more money can get own her house in the *Basti? I want to get out of this dingy room. I hate Mehajabeen’s dirty linens and snoring. Her creepy fingers explore my body…I don’t know how long can I can contain her lecherous advances?
This can be a dream come true. My own place…A clean toilet and kitchen like Ma’s. I know I am young and beautiful. Still dancing on child-birth and marriages is not going to make my dream come true.
Oh…Ruksar is here…The voluptuous outcast by Gurumai after she started earning a lot. Was she into something dirty? But then…she doesn’t look dirty. She is looking beautiful in that golden sharara. Her makeup, bangles, and jewellery are speaking of a good life…and that expensive piece of lingerie peeking out from her bosom. It’s arousing…no wonder she earns so much.
I should hurry… my daily alms. Why she is standing at the door? Her wink and gestures are drawing me into her world of easy money. She is now saying something about that house. Don’t I desire my dream home? Of course, I desire home, good life and freedom…Here I come Ruksar.
This ecstasy of earning a fortune…is energizing one. They are talking at the corner of the alley. My tight fitted salwar – kameez should not fail in showing off my assets. The makeup makes me feel so feminine. But then why am I not feeling beautiful? I want that money. Who cares for moral and love… That fatso with a belly will touch me and get his share of paid pleasure. I will get my money. It’s all mechanical…then why am I feeling nauseated? I should not worry. Ruksar says it will be over soon…that I will get used to it.
I feel those rough hands. Why those lewd jokes? His fingers are piercing my skin…no, my soul. I should push him…I still have time. Run…run…run… The fatso is lying there with his head bleeding. The sight of blood makes me giddy. The currency notes are scattered around him…Should I pocket them and run away? Maybe Ruksar will fill in and be a little richer.
I am feeling the freedom now. Yes, I am an entrapped one in this peculiar body…but then I am a soul, a human being …a dignified person who knows when to stop. I may not be accepted by the normals, but then I deny accepting their world, their rules. Their world doesn’t give me an opportunity to earn a dignified living… I have to beg. They despise me even then… I might earn less, but then I can do more charity. Normal is not always beautiful…but kinder is always beautiful. I won’t run, I won’t sin…I will just accept myself for the way the Almighty has made me.
*Gurumai – An elderly group head
*Lehenga – A traditional, skirt like garment worn by women
*Gurubhai- Fellows members of the group headed by same Gurumai
*Chela – Disciples of the Gurumai
*Basti- Slum dwelling
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