“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
~ Dalai Lama
1998 was the year when we left UAE for good & migrated to Bombay (now Mumbai) to start our new chapter all over again. I was only 7 back then when this transition had taken place; it was a change so massive, it took me time to settle down. I’d lived a different lifestyle in Abu Dhabi which was starkly different culturally to Mumbai and though I’d been to this city before for short trips, I remained unfamiliar for a longer time until I got mixed easily with the community around. I lived in a suburban called Mira Road (infamous for crucial water crisis) for nine years until 2007 when we again shifted to far more organized Navi Mumbai.
I recall a day that remains the most astonishing yet heartwarming experience of my life. Me and elder brother (He was around 11) were at home alone in the afternoon while mom went out to purchase some grocery with our friendly neighbor. My school life was irksome to say the least and since it was a holiday, we both were having fun watching old Cartoon Network channel that used to air some amazing cartoon series when door bell rang. My brother ran to open the door only to find two transgenders (Hijra, in Indian dialect) on the other side of our safety door.
Now, we had some vague idea about who they were but unfortunately, their stories of stealing children from parents used to be the talk of the town, as a result they were the most dreaded. Like any normal child, who are usually advised by elders not to interact with strangers when responsible adults are absent, we too made sure to communicate without opening the door. One of the maushis (I referred them as maushi out of respect) enquired about our parents to which my brother candidly responded that no one is at home, so for time being they can leave and come back later.
Don’t know what striked us that moment but we actually felt bad. Me and brother sensed they were exhausted. We knew they were traveling across the city going from buildings to building, flat to flat to fetch some decent money to afford two basic square meals since they were unemployed due to severe discrimination. That day, we didn’t let any sort of prejudices or fear story control our mind and my brother suggested whether should we let them in? I, without any hesitation, said YES and we took the risk. We opened the door and let them in much to their surprise. We urged them to sit on the sofa and feel comfortable meanwhile I run to kitchen to get two glasses of water and munching to eat so that they could fill their stomach and quench their thirst. Initially they refuse (I guess they were never invited like this by strangers or must’ve smelled foul play) but with our constant persistence, they agreed and gave in.
Frankly speaking, we did find their appearance a bit odd, however what mattered was they were nicely having their snacks & this sight calmed us and brought a peace within. Everything was going hunky dory until mom reached home and all hell broke lose. She was completely shocked to see them at home. Quite understandably, she couldn’t be blamed either. Our neighbor rushed to our home, gave them some money and requested to leave the place as soon as possible.
They didn’t feel bad because, I hate to say this, they were quite used to such rebukes. While leaving, I saw tears in their eyes, happy tears, Maushis placed their hands on our head and blessed us saying that we both will grow up to be a good human being and will make our parents proud with our achievement and they left to never come back again.
Many of you reading this will say me and my brother were really brave. I beg to differ with respect, I don’t think it was any act of bravery. For us, we saw a human being in them. We felt they needed help so we offered our assistance, they accepted it. That’s all. I agree, situation could’ve turned dangerous had they not been the good ones and actually had attacked us or even got us killed but then who has time to think so much about safety measures when we had to deal instinctively.
I am less familiar with transgender history and pretty sure you all are. We all have a long way to go in completely accepting them and including them in the mainstream. But all I want to convey is, discrimination will only push marginalized to get more marginalized. There are people who’d a hard time dealing with Maushis, many of whom, have been abusive on not getting their demands meet & I empathize with their transphobia but compartmentalization will not work at all, it will only reinforce stereotyping which is not a good sign of a healthy society. Time we keep aside our high standards aside, and see them through a humanistic perspective and compassionate lens. Is it that tough?
“I think happiness is what makes you pretty. Period. Happy people are beautiful. They become like a mirror and they reflect that happiness.”
― Drew Barrymore