Members of the third gender are invited to celebrate a birth or a wedding. They say they would rather prefer a normal existence than the special treatment they get only on some days
“People seek us out on their special days, treat us like special guests, give us gifts and money. I don’t want this special treatment. I just wish that instead of treating us as special for just a day out of 30 in a month, they treat us normally on all the 30 days,” says Saumya.
Saumya is from the third gender.
Saumya, her friend Poonam and others have been specially invited to celebrate the birth of a boy in a small house in middle-class Kanpur. But once the celebrations are over, they are shunned.
“People call us to bless their newborns. We sing and dance at weddings. This is our livelihood. People look at us differently. They do not even want to acknowledge our existence. When people call me a ‘kinnar’ it hurts, but there is nothing that I can do. I do not belong anywhere,” says Poonam while checking the mirror on the pink wall of their home to see if the big scarlet ‘bindi’ on her forehead is looking good.
The law says Poonam and others like her cannot be denied any rights – to education or to a job. West Bengal created history when a transgender cleared the bar exams and was appointed a judge. But for most transgenders, life is still difficult.
“No one gives us jobs, no one gives us homes on rent. Our own family members don’t want us to live with them. Even if they want us, our society does not let them,” says Poonam.
Poonam lived like any other child with her family till she reached high school. Her father was a farmer. “People knew I was a ‘kinnar’ and this caused us a lot of social problems at home. No one wanted to marry my sister. I faced beatings, taunts, all kinds of humiliation. Tired of all the tension, I left home and joined the ‘kinnar’ community. Now, with cell phones and social media, I am in touch with them, but no one really wants to meet me.”
Poonam is now a guru to six other ‘kinnars’. Pooja is one of them. “I was studying well till I was 13-14. I thought I would be able to get a job,” she says. “But by the time I was 15, it became difficult for me to continue studies. I sat at home. My guru got to know and came to speak to my parents. She urged them to let me live with others like me. So now I live here with ‘mummy’,” says Pooja.
For her, Poonam is her ‘mummy’. Pooja has continued her studies and also goes for private coaching classes. She has cleared her class XI exams.
The group has been living in a well-furnished house in the Manjhavan village of Kanpur district for seven years. Their day begins like that for any working person.
Saumya, another member of the ‘family’, is draped in a saree and is looking after the parrots that share their home. “If I don’t feed them now, they will remain hungry till afternoon,” she says.
Even as they go home to home showering their blessings, they have one wish: To be treated equally.