“I am a victim of multiple disadvantages. As an uneducated transgender from a poor Dalit family, I am cursed in more ways than one. I have been teased, insulted, beaten up, stripped and abused by strangers and acquaintances—even by those who I considered friends and family.
“People ask me what I do, and I say, ‘commercial sex work’. This ends the conversation many times. But some tend to drag it. ‘Why?’ I am asked. A smile is my only answer. As if they care. As if someone like me has many choices. As if a different answer would make them reconsider how they look at us.
“Born as Chandru, I went under the knife to become Sumitra. The surgery did not just change my gender. It changed my life. I worked in hamams (public bathrooms) and did other odd jobs before I moved into this role. Here you are always the unwed wife, never the mother.”
“Looking at Hampi, I wish someone called me the eighth wonder. That is because I am as beautiful as the ruins of a grane empire, if not more. What is more, I move on against all odds, sans the pomp or fame of Hampi.
“My grace transcends my beauty, although very few tend to notice it. That is because beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, while grace springs from the heart…. These stones are so much like me, yet so different. If ruins can conceal beauty within them, so can I.
” I may be easy on the eyes, but completely shattered inside.”
Photograph: courtesy K. Venkatesh
Words: coutesy Rishikesh Bahadur Desai