Today we look at the controversial topic of Hijras within the city. We must confess right at the start that, our research for this subject, has been to the restricted, and we welcome all and any knowledge that you the reader would like to share with us in this regard. In our research, for whatever it is worth, we could manage to speak to people who stood at different vantage points over the topic. Men, Departments, Organisations, and more, offering a considerably substantial piece of a bigger puzzle, but never the final resolving one. We would like to state that, the incidents which have occurred and what the men have spoken about are true to the word. Their experiences have been brought to you as honestly as possible, and for that, we would like to caution the reader that this material could be mildly disturbing to go through. Having said so, all the expressions and opinions brought out by the participants within this article, belong to the participants entirely, and we, VoxSpace, do not claim the responsibility for them. We bring to you an article which raises many questions but answers only some but gives you a dramatic reflection of what men are capable of when pushed to the brink of helplessness. We hope the article is taken as a behavioural study rather than a social commentary, as we try to understand and arrive at a vaguely definitive conclusion, if not today, then maybe sometime in the future.
Chapter One: The Proofs Of Manhood (Miryalaguda, 01.20 AM, Thursday) Inputs By VoxTheFox
Suresh always carries his bag with him. And he always takes the Kotamissama road to the station. He works as a daily labourer at the new construction site, near Yadagiripalli lake. He lives in the little town, waking up early in the morning to ride his cycle to the construction site. His boss never allows for delays, and any such delays cost a cut in his daily wages. To a 27-year-old poor man, a cut of 500 means a lot. He works at the site till seven in the night, after which he buys a quarter of cheap liquor and puts himself to sleep. This is his usual routine until he does something unusual every Thursday. Every Thursday he takes the Tatanagar-Kacheguda express which arrives at his town by 1.30 in the morning. He claims that the train was a random pick he made a year back, but there exists an underlying logic to it. The chances of someone knowing him on this train are practically zero.
Presently, of course, his Thursday routine is underway, as he buys a platform ticket, and walks straight to the Bathrooms at the end of Platform 1. He ensures that no one is following him, and enters one of the latrines. There he removes his clothes, only to change into a Blouse and a Sari. He folds his other clothes and places them in the bag, which he will eventually, leave behind the blinking weight machines, near the waiting areas. His look, of course, isn’t complete yet. He pulls out a lipstick from the bag, applies it thickly on his lips, and then takes out a small 5-rupee packet of oil, and applies it to his hair thoroughly. He looks somewhat different, but there are still some things which need to be done. The final touches come with Pond’s face powder. He pours the powder into his palms and covers his entire face in its whiteness. Even his eyebrows, and his eyelashes. Only his lipstick should appear, and nothing else. He rolls up and bag, and hides it, as he awaits on Platform 1, his train of income.
“Raja…Raja….Raja…Give me…Raja..Oh..Raja…Abba…Raja” he claps his hands and enters the general compartment. As the train gains speed, his duty starts. He slides through sleeping people and selects his first men for the night. Today it is a young man, sleeping on the side lower, with his head placed in a laptop bag. Easy prey Suresh thinks. But that isn’t Suresh anymore. That’s Shanti. For all intents and purposes, that’s Shanti. Shanti plucks at this young man’s pant. “Raja…Raja..Raja..Wake Up” she says. The young man has already seen her as soon as she entered. He is just pretending to be asleep. Shanti knows this. She can tell. “Raja…Raja..Raja…” she tries again. The more he pretends, the more effective it is for her. She can make that much of a noise, and create that bigger a scene. “Oh, you won’t wake up…Raja..I miss you Raja” Shanti says and places her hand on his crotch. The young man jolts awake, and almost with teary eyes, pleads sorry and prays Shanti to leave. That’s it. He is too easy.
“Where will I go Raja.,” Shanti says and slides his legs down, almost forcing him to sit now.
“Please….Please…Please..” The young man is petrified to his soul.
“Give me something Raja,” Shanti says and flicks the light on, causing everybody around to move in their sleep. The disturbance has started. Now it needs to be a Chaos.
“Please…Please” The Young man, says and draws out his wallet. He checks for cash. There’s only 200 rupees in cash. Too less for the drama at stake. Debit cards, Credit Cards, but nothing else. The young man, almost breaks down, as he realises that the Eunuch sitting beside him, isn’t impressed.
“Raja..do you want me to dance for your cash?” Shanti says and starts dancing, flicking her sari down to her waist, such that only her blouse can be seen. She claps, and sings, occasionally touching him inappropriately, and pulling his cheeks. People around, men and women, shut their eyes tightly and turn away. They don’t want this mess. Only the children who are still awake, start laughing. The Young Man, in frenzy, removes his Golden ring and places it before her. She abuses him and laughs. By the time the train reaches Nalgonda Junction, Shanti has one golden ring, one small bracelet, and around 5000 in cash. All the window of an hour.
Shanti gets off at the Nalgonda Junction. Her friend from the construction site, Kalyan, usually waits for her at the platform, with a different pair of clothes. Kalyan has a small TVS moped, and in the middle of the night, the two friends, ride back to Miryalaguda, with the loot. The next morning, as per the routine, Suresh picks up his hidden bag and goes to work.
However, today is different. As Shanti gets off the train, she is nabbed by a group of Policemen in mufti. By 3 Am Shanti aka Suresh, is taken to the nearest police station, slapped a dozen times on the way. She is stripped down to her inner dressing and revealed a man. They throw Suresh into a cell, with other Hijras, who have been similarly stripped down to the bare minimums. The head constable splashes water onto the group of Hijras, around five of them, waking a few of them already sleeping on their knees. In the next hour, the SI comes and yells something at the head constable, who hurriedly opens the cells and ushers all of the captured people to walk out. Then, each one of them is asked to pull down their underwear’s. Of the people, two are original Hijras. For other three, including Suresh, there is a Penis. The SI asks the Head Constable to release the originals. He then turns to the fake ones.
“You don’t want to be a man no? You are ashamed to be a man. Then why are you still a man” he says and asks two of his men, to hold the fake Hijras, as he brings his lathi. A few moments later, Suresh remembers nothing of his ordeal, except for the blood dripping down from his crotch to his knees, all the way down to his feet. And a ball of redness between his thighs.
Today, Suresh resides in the Institute of Mental Health in Erragadda, Hyderabad. He just shouts and dances in the night. During the day, he just sits in silence, away from the other inmates.
Chapter Two: The Rising Culture Of Lost Identities (Inputs by Sukanya Mathre)
In 2016, Members of Hijra Transgender Welfare Society within the city raised a concern about and requested action to be taken on, Fake Hijra groups which were running amuck. Sukanya Mathre, a journalist associated with Reuters covered the whole issue by her conversations with Shama Bhakhar, who was leading the movement. The excerpts which come below help us to have a deeper understanding of the issue and how the city can grapple with it.
Shama, presently you are fighting for the arrest of Fake Hijra communities in the city? What are the reasons behind it?
It is simple. These fake groups are tarnishing our image. We are proud Hijras, you know. We are here in the city, from the time of the Nizams. Our ancestors worked under and protected His Highness Muzaffar Jung, in the 17th century. We have a history and a culture to it, and now in the last decade, all of us, have come to form an association for the welfare of our community. We educate our members, place them in jobs and try and bring a good, decent, and acceptable life to every one of us. But these, Fake Hijras, are making out life difficult. They do not have the respect for us, or for themselves. We don’t extort money, scare people or make life difficult for normal people. These people do that, and what is more, they even attend weddings, shop openings, and others, and extract money from people. Even so, the appalling thing is that they have now come into Sex trades across various pockets of the city, you know. In areas like Afzalgunj, Moula Ali, Shamirpet, Gandipet, and other areas, they are offering sex for money. And because of that, people have this impression that we are bad. We are different, not bad. Just like race and ethnicity, sexuality is a difference, but not a disturbance to the normal living. Therefore, we urge the Police to accept our request and take strict action towards these groups.
I hope they do, but tell this Shama, don’t you feel it’s difficult identifying a fake Hijra from a true one, at least for the common people? How do you think we could bring about a system of recognition?
That is the sad part. We understand that it is very difficult to identify us specifically. But let me tell you, that by just wearing a sari and a blouse, one does not become a Hijra. It is a culture, you know. Hence, we have started this Hijra Welfare Association, and since doing so, we have reached out to our friends and companions across the city, to get registered. See, the basic problem we have is that, most of our friends, get arrested by the police, just like that. If there is a chain snatching incident, pickpocketing, kidnapping etc, we are the first targets for the Police. There have been many incidents in the past, where we have been arrested and tortured because the Police couldn’t find anyone else to put the blame on. Those were terrible times. All and any crimes, in the old city, were placed on us. And people feared us, so they would always accept that we were criminals. Yes, occasionally there were crimes which our friends committed, but not everything. We are humans. We need a decent life and respect. To answer your question as to how you can identify us, well, there are measures you can take. The Hijras creating nuisance across the city are not us. My request to common people is that, when you come across someone who is creating a nuisance, then please report the same at the nearest police station. We have registered our list at every police station and they will call us concerning any report. There are two things which can happen when you report. The police will contact us, and we will verify if the said person is one of our community. If he is a true Hijra, but unregistered, we will provide him registration and counselling within the Police Station. If he is not, we will ensure that the person is punished as per law. Registration helps us protect our identity across the city.
When you say counselling, could you explain to us the various procedures held of enrolling new members? And what are the various facilities you provide to the transgender people within your society?
We stand for each other. Most of the times, when you are a transgender, your family stops supporting you and makes you leave the house. It is a shame you see, to have a child who is both man and a woman inside. It is a torture for the children as they try to understand their anatomy. It is in this confusion they turn to Hijra groups, and unfortunately, most of these Hijra groups, misguide them into Castration, with raw means. So that they remove their manhood at some rituals. Infections and ailments follow, and many people after Castration succumb to pain, and die. Those who survive, are forced into the illegal and criminal activities. Hence, we at our society, welcome them. We have ties with Police as I said earlier, and also with Hospitals, and NGO’s across the city. We take up these people and provide proper medical and surgical means to Castrate if they are willing for it. After that, we induct them into our society with education and awareness. With the help of some NGO’s across the city, we provide them education, previously it was until 10th standard, now we are providing till degree. Thereafter we provide them with small jobs, like Sewing, Designing, Embroidery work, Handicrafts, Data Entry and more. We also provide our friends with basic computer training, so that they can take DTP work, or run their own business. When we speak about Counselling, we provide guidance and education to our new friends. We understand their problem and talk to them about a secure life with us. We try to instil confidence in them, by bringing them to meet medical counsellors from NIMS (Nizam Institute Of Medical Sciences) and Niloufer Hospital. Then we have school teachers from the NGO, Abhaya, who help us with providing proper education. So as a baseline, we try to build their respect within themselves. Because when we fail to do so, we are nothing.
Chapter Three: The Cash On Delivery (S.R. NAGAR, Hyderabad) Inputs By Ulka Yadav
For 21-year-old, Karthik, getting a job was a high priority. So was completing the SAP- ABAP course he was attending near Satyam Theatre, back in December 2015. He stayed at a hostel, a room shared by 3 other job aspirants, who would go to different courses in the day, and drink to sleep at the night. As it so happened, one month into the course, Karthik was told by the Coaching Institute that he needed to buy a laptop. They would load up the SAP program on this laptop so that Karthik could practice on it before attending any interviews. And interviews were a just a couple of months away. So what does Karthik do? Well, he calls up his parents back in Nellore and asks them to either buy a laptop or send him the money through the bank. His parents, of course, are humble farmers, and so obviously they opt for the second option, by sending 40,000 rupees to him. The next day, Karthik withdraws the money, goes back to his room and keeps the amount safely in his suitcase. He asks his roommates if they’d come with him over the weekend to buy a nice laptop, perhaps an HP or a Dell. They agree and the plan is set.
The next morning, as Karthik comes back from his coaching class, at around 12 PM, his room is totally vacant. Everything is gone. His roommates, their belongings, and importantly his suitcase, and the money. Everything just gone. He tries to talk to the warden, but no one knows what happened. The roommates left, saying that they were going home for holidays. He tries to call them, tries to find them, but for no use. They remain gone. Karthik at that point was left with bare minimums, and 300 rupees in his wallet. And a whole world of guilt in his mind to bear. As he cried and cried for long, he met Arun, who became his only friend in the whole chaos. He suggests over the next few weeks, an easy way of making quick money over the weekend.
Nehru Outer Ring Road, Exit 11, Hyderabad (2 AM Onwards)
The two of them, Karthik and Arun stand a kilometre away from the Toll Booth, at the exit 11. With tight t-shirts, lipstick on their faces, and an inviting stance, they wave at every car that passes by. Soon, Arun gets his ride. A bunch of three youngsters who want to have some fun before they enter the city. Karthik waits for a while before he gets one too. He gets in the car, an SUV, with three drunk men, all over 40 years old. He clearly tells them that he can only blow them before they take the last exit at Gachibowli. One blowjob is 1000 he says. They bargain for 2500 for three blowjobs. They don’t want the car to be ruined, and so he needs to swallow. For that he settles. One by one he sucks his clients as they reach the exit. By the time, they drop Karthik out, each of them is relieved for the night. Karthik makes 7500 Rupess by the sunrise that day. Arun makes 15,000, almost double of his partner, because of the other services he provides. This routine goes on for ten months. Every weekend, they go for the same. At one point, Karthik had regular customers as well. He was a Hijra for the moments he was in their cars. By the day ofcourse, he was a graduate trying to find a decent job in Madhapur.
During the course of this article, we approached Karthik, who has finally found a job at an MNC, as a Junior Analyst. After ten months of doing the things he did, he quit finally. Today he is happy with his 9 to 8 job at Raheja IT Park, where this writer met him. In course of weeks, Karthik opened up about his story and brought to the fore some interesting facts which made us look at this article in a different light altogether. The excerpts of conversations between our writer (Ulka Yadav) and Karthik, follow.
When you look back at the time when you did what you did, how does that impact your present life? I mean now you have a good job, and a something to look forward, so do the ghosts of the past come back to haunt you?
I don’t exactly understand what you mean, but if you mean that have I forgotten all of that, well the answer is Yes. Yes, I have. I think and I choose that I have moved to a better place in my life. See, today I have a good job, I’m getting married next year, so what’s there to not be happy about. I’ve already told you all of my story because you were insisting and stuff. But I’d rather not talk about it. That’s past. That’s gone. And you know what, that’s not even me. I don’t want to talk about it.
I understand. That is Ok. We can move to other things we want to discuss with you. Unfortunately, our thoughts revolve around different aspects of your life, during that point of time. You were arrested by the Police once near Mehdipatnam. We don’t know what happened next. Would you tell us?
Look I fucked up ok? I was poor and I was hopeless, so I fucked up. Yes, I was arrested but that night I wasn’t even doing anything. Yes, I was standing at the exit, with Arun, but we were just watching the cars pass by. Suddenly, a police van came and they arrested us. Not red-handedly, as reported by the FIR. But based on the action of Hijra Welfare Society. They locked us up for 11 days after which they released us without a trail. Arun left as soon as we got out, and I never saw him again. But later I heard that Hijra Welfare Society got me arrested because I was, rather we were, threatening their business. There were real Hijras, I can even give you names, who worked for the Society, and who were into the flesh trade in that area, in and around Mehdipatnam.
Hijra Society says that its members are forbidden to get involved in any kind of commercial sex operations, so this is contradicting it?
Miss, you have no idea. Who do you think Arun worked for? It’s a simple thing. Hijras approach men, Lummas, (the men who will help Hijras). These Lummas employ people by luring them with good money. Poor boys, Homeless kids, Homosexual people who have nowhere else to go, these are the people who the Lummas trap. They are then thrown into unnatural sexual trade practices. Of the money you earn, you need to give about 40% to your recruiting Lumma. He ensures that you are not arrested by the police, or in case you are, bail and release are arranged. And everything under the knowledge of the Hijra Society. The main source of income for them is these things.
Even if that were true, Karthik, why would they recruit the fake into sexual trade, and not the real ones? I mean to me that sounds more convenient if money was the only issue.
That I don’t know for sure. But they always prefer fake ones to do these horrible things. Maybe, I think they can disown us. And I think it is also because of leverage. You see, for the real ones, what will the society threaten them with. No one has a family there or an identity to protect. We did. We do. We had identities which the society knew. So we were easier to control. Even today I fear if they would reveal something about me. They have made us dance for alms in weddings, house ceremonies, baby showers, in the morning and at night provide cheap sex to all.
I have always wondered, How do Hijras know about functions or ceremonies we have at places. Comment?
Haha, well, so many things and so many people know about your function and they (Hijras) are asked to come over. Mostly, your security guards, milkmen, paper boys, and more importantly the Catering Dept. They know about a function, and they self-invite themselves. Thus they come. And eventually, they take off with a large amount of money. The same goes with shop openings and more. As it were, they are everywhere. Sometimes I feel, I mean I have this feeling that Arun was always one of them. Or maybe He chose to be one of them after our arrest. As for me, I never even could think of that.
You see when you are acting like a Hijra, and flying around for the sexual trade, you start to lose yourself. Like your hands, your legs, the way you behave eventually, starts to change. At one point, to me, it was very difficult to get a grip on who I was. And I had to remember who I was. That’s what happens you see. When you get used to easy money, like Me and Arun, at that point of time, you start to enjoy what you are doing. And when you start enjoying that, you prefer to lose some aspects of yours, which you feel isn’t working out well for you. Hijra Welfare Society grows its members like this. It’s a syndicate, presently with only an organisational structure, with ID cards and a separate bank for themselves. It recruits men, like me, from everywhere to grow strong. Maybe tomorrow it’ll become a political force or something, and for that people are required. So you never know.
Chapter Four: Where’s The Conclusion?
A Welfare society that claims to bring a revolutionising change to an age-old community. A group of fake identities roaming about the city. Undeniable claims that the society itself is making these ‘offshoots’ for their personal agenda. The issue gets murkier with more people voicing their opinions. Which brings us to the question – Is there ever a conclusion? Will we ever know what is actually going on? Who is responsible for tarnishing the image of Hijras within the city. These are questions which are yet to see some sort of answers. On our part, we have tried to uncover all and any kind of information from the concerned parties at the time of our publishing, but in vain. Hijra Welfare Society, ironically, remains tight-lipped upon the issue of Fake Hijras at this point of time. Do we take it as an act of defense? Maybe. Or maybe not. You see, perhaps it could still be an organisation with a genuine cause, although hampered by a few members who have resorted to ‘other sources of incomes’. Maybe the Society is indeed a Syndicate. Or maybe the organisation is corrupted like any other. It is at this point of thought, that we would like the reader to bring his own analysis to the table.
In the whole article, we understood the lengths to which men could fall, when poverty started becoming a reality. We understood that men are capable of drastic eventualities. Money becomes a huge curse, in a city straddled with economic insufficiency. To people who feel hopeless and helpless about their financial position, we would like to suggest them to enrol themselves in Govt sponsored Skill Development programs, (Kushal Vikas Yojanas), which provide you with eligibility certificates, and job placements as well. And the best part is these programs require you to have only a matriculation certificate to get going. The link to these programs is as follows. Empowering our lives becomes an essential way of living it, irrespective of anything.
Knowledge is Life.