I don’t like to be comfortable at the cost of being stuck to the status quo. This is one reason why travelling in a general compartment of Indian Railways keeps me content. It helps me in staying away from the status quo which the rest of the society keeps forcing us into. Recently I did one of such journeys from Behrampur (Odisha) to Palasa (Andhra Pradesh), while returning from my fellowship review meeting. The journey was supposed to be around two and a half hour long and I was looking for a place to sit. In general compartment there are passengers like me who have to travel short distances and those who travel for an entire journey of 36-48 hours. This is a different kind of survival.
There were five people sitting on a berth, I requested them to adjust a bit, they looked at me and denied. I smiled. They probably had to travel the entire journey like that and I found it fair on their part to deny the seat to me at least. Anyhow I climbed the upper berth, which is not actually a berth, rather is meant to keep luggage. In sleeper class there is no specific space to keep luggage, this is like cutting short on number of berths to sit, on the name of providing space for luggage. People who have travelled in Indian Railways will know that there is enough space beneath the lower berths to settle the entire luggage. Anyhow, we were three people sitting at the top. I was sitting in the corner towards the wall of the compartment. General compartments architecturally look like sleeper compartments, except for less comfortable seats and no seats on the upper berth. But for the first time I realized that they are architecturally different too. A person sitting at my position cannot actually sit straight as the roof curves down sharply at the edge, so I was sitting with my back curved at 40 degrees, considering seat as the plane of reference, for almost one hour, then I had to get down, couldn’t have stayed more!
While I was sitting up, a transgender came and started collecting money from everyone. After meeting Akkai Padmashali, my understanding regarding lives of trans-genders’ has changed a lot. This person was extremely gorgeous (keeping in mind the general societal norms of beauty!), had long hairs, a beautiful and aesthetically worn sari. While I was admiring in my head how nice this person was looking, (he/she whatever this person’s choice be, in this anecdote I am picking up “her” for this person) raised up her sari till her waist. Everyone instantly covered their eyes so as to save themselves from the curse. I was numb while looking at bare legs.
What forces a human being to get almost naked publically? Someone might say, we were born naked, what’s wrong!
Yes, may be tomorrow if I strip myself out of choice, the above argument might be agreed to. But to earn bread if I have to strip myself, because socially I will not be given any work because I have a certain sexual orientation, a particular religion, caste or if I am a trans-gender, then the above argument seems like blasphemy to the basic human nature of possessing self-respect and empathy.
When a transgender pushes someone, I cannot see misbehave there, because I feel she is trying to push her past through this present, when she was brutally humiliated by her family, her friends, almost every human surrounding her, when she was raped, when she had to survive by selling her body for INR 20 to a stinking human corpse. This is what she pushes and abuses, when she does it!
But again my writing about this issue cannot be so powerful and genuine as I am not qualified enough to talk in any details as neither have I worked in this field of activism and advocacy nor have I been part of any such movement. But I believe norms start changing when people at the grassroots level start talking about such issues, start sleeping over them.
So do I hope!