Beyond the Gender

Scene 1: My youngest sister was born and though I was very happy to hold her and play with her, there was a silence on my grandparents’ side with the third daughter being born in the family. Childbirth is an important celebration in the family and apart from the parents, there is only one community who celebrates the arrival of a child in this world; irrespective of the gender and they are the transgenders, the third gender.  And they have the best network to find out which family has had a recent addition and they come along to celebrate at your doorsteps. It is considered highly auspicious and you will find people welcoming them on such special occasions.

It was about 2 weeks after my sister’s birth, when they arrived at my house and they were very happy to see my mother. They immediately came in and hugged my mother. Mother invited them inside and they sat in the living room. Sharing their joy on the good news, one of them went to the bed room and picked up my sister. In no time, she realised that she was a girl. They brought her into the living room and congratulated my mother. My mother lovingly offered them tea and snacks. They held me and my sister in their arms and showered their love.  After finishing tea, they got up and were about to leave. My mother asked, won’t you dance today to celebrate? They smiled at her and said, why not? But we won’t take anything as it’s your third daughter. My mother replied, I don’t care what others think, I am happy that she is born and I am celebrating and so should you.

And I will give you whatever I can to seek your blessing for my daughter’s future. She immediately went inside and got sacks of ration and some cash and gave it to them. They were hesitant at first but then got up Asha, who started dancing with joy and then everyone joined her. Asha, whose skin shone like gold, wonderfully draped in a red saree adorned with loads of gold jewellery and a beautifully done make-up. They all were beating their dhols and danced at length and the entire block was down at our home to see them dancing and having fun.

I was mesmerised by the aura they created. It was a true celebration full of dance, music, and laughter and a day to remember. After they left, I walked up to my mother and asked, Maa, why did she wear vermilion right up to the top of her head, a symbol which represents that she was married as per Indian traditions?” and why doesn’t Asha feel like a eunuch to me?  My mother replied because she is not. I was completely surprised and taken aback that why would someone, who is not a part of the community is with them and leading their life with them as their own.

Then my mother explained the story. My mother had a relationship with this clan which used to go back as old as 10 years. Their community was behind a building where my parents were staying at one point in time. They use to often celebrate the festivals and the special occasions together. Mother always used to share savouries with them and treated them with love and respect and that’s what she got in return too. During my mother’s second pregnancy when she was visiting doctors, she used to drop me there and they used to take care of him. They ensured I was well fed, well slept and well taken care of. And maybe that’s why I always have love and respect for this community as sub-consciously I have seen them being treated as a family myself and by my mother.

Scene 2: Sardar, who was the leader of the clan was highly respected and regarded as not just the head but the father too by every member of the clan. Sardar too used to treat everybody as a part of his own family and gave love and support. He was a very effective leader. He was running this clan as an organisation, where he would ensure that the community is earning money from respectable occasions and events in life such as childbirth, marriages so that the community is well fed and is getting all the necessary items for them live a happy and respectable life. He had rescued many people from prostitution and brought them into the community so that they are having a safe and have a better life. But hell broke loose, when Sardar got sick. It may be due to his old age and in spite of getting the best treatment he could afford; things were not getting better for him. This was a dark phase for the community as they were not sure of their future. Who will lead after he is gone and who will take care of the community and give them the same life which they have been living with loads of love and respect; were the questions rattling everyone’s mind but had no body had an answer to it?

So, one day Raza, one of sardar’s friend came to meet him. He had been with him the entire day and nobody had an idea what was going inside. People started having speculations that Raza, is going to be the new leader now. But, they also had their apprehensions and he didn’t know this community and will he be able to run it lik sardar did? In the middle of the night, Asha was called. He told her that he was not sure for how long he’s going to be around and wanted to share a secret with her before he dies. This was something weighing him down and was not letting him die at peace. Asha was a little girl, just stepping into her teenage. She was sardar’s daughter and sardar had taken her along everywhere he went. She had learnt how to get jobs for her people, how to ensure that they are not being cheated and are paid fairly for the services they provided. She has always been a shadow to her father and was loved by the entire community for the love and respect she has given back to them. With tears rolling her cheeks, Sadar got up and hugged her tightly. She could feel the heartbeat of her father and his oh! so frail body, which has just holding up to say something. Something which was untold of and unheard of.  

Sadar told her that, one day he received a call to come and celebrate the child birth in a house. He said it was most unfortunate call he ever received. He reached there the next day and started dancing and celebrating like he was asked to. Everything was fine when the women were around but once, they were tired and went inside, things turned dark and ugly. Some members of the family drank too much and started playing around with them. They started shoving things into their mouth, touching them inappropriately, beating them and made them dance entire night. Whoever tried to escape, they tried to rape them. That made Sardaar very furious and the inability to fight it all back, made him truly miserable. He filled everyone’s glasses to the brim and ensure that they pass out. Once everybody passed out, he decided to carry that girl along with his people. Initially he only thought that taking her along, will bring her people to an understand and realise the mistakes they have done and they would come and apologise to his people but it turned the other way.

The next day he got to know that the girl’s father, who was the police commissioner was torturing and beating everybody from the community to find his daughter. They had burnt his home and had beaten all of his friends to death. Raza, his best friend somehow escaped to find sardar and informed him of what was going on? With all his intentions, to return the daughter, sardar was now being feared to be killed. Raza, could have never let that happened to his only childhood friend and he took him to the railway station.  Sardar simply took the next train and he had no idea when he was going and he reached out to this place where he was currently residing. He was easily spotted by the clan the railway station and was brought back home and given a place and shelter to stay which ultimately, he made his own.  

But something had changed in that one incident and now he held a girl in his arms. That made him think of having a family, having his kid. He started bringing up Asha like his own daughter and give all the love of the father and the mother. Asha did not ever realise that she was a girl until today when it was revealed by Sardar. With guilt in his eyes, Sardar told her that he was willing to give her the address of a parents and she can go back to them and he was very sorry for what he did but he simply could not overcome the fear of losing his daughter but now that he was leaving this world he wanted to leave with no hidden secrets in his heart. Asha was broken and she didn’t know what to do now. All her life, she had known sardar to be her father and the clan to be her family. How could she leave all of this and go somewhere which she is not sure of? Also, what will happen to this clan, which sardar treated like of his own family and with him gone it’s going to be very difficult for them to survive. They will resort back to begging and prostitution which is going to affect them mentally and physically which was never the case, with Sardar around. She kept on thinking and then finally the moment and I wish she was called inside for last words with father.

Asha held his hand into hers and told that she doesn’t know who gave her birth but she knows that who her father and mother is and who has taken care of her all through her life and now she knows who her family is? She promised him to take care of this family and never let the people lose respect and lose their lives to the cruelty to this society. She promised him to always make them stick together. Sardar had a smile of satisfaction on his face while he took taking his last breath and also somewhere, he was sure that no matter what, she will be able l to take care of the clan even after he is long gone. Asha was announced as his successor and she stood in front of everyone with her blood-stained skirt, hidden by Raza standing right behind her. He made sure that none could see the bloodstains on her clothes so that her identity is not revealed unless the clan is ready to accept her for who she is. It was a tender age of 13 when she took over and till date, she has kept the values and dignity of the clan as it was with Sardar.

And now I understood, why did she wear vermilion for? As she was married to the clan, left behind by her father. I was wondering, that she took so much of sacrifice to keep the clan alive as it was easier for her to go back to her parents and be with them. But, she chose to be here and I think that is the true sense of service, something very rare to find.

The story has been registered under screen writers association of India!