Written by Emily R
This is the story of a broken man and a community that shadows him everywhere. If you crack the man open, all you would see are lies and emptiness. If you entered the community, you would find untold riches and myths running through each of their veins.
The broken man would rather enter fire than go near a mile of that community.
The community is vibrant, the community is throbbing, they are right in the middle of the city. The man is vibrant too, throbbing too, living in the same city. And he is afraid. He is very very afraid.
He grew up watching them from a distance. They were everywhere, from the friendly neighborhood to the far-flung University area, from Tikatuli to Badda. He could see them, he could envy them, he had so many acquaintances with them. But, only in his mind. He was raised with the belief that these are abominations. He could not quite shake off that distant belief. He could not bridge the distance between them and him.
Here is an imaginary conversation between him and one member of the community.
- Hello, love. I am probably one of you. Or something eerily familiar. I don’t know. I am so confused. But you are looking pretty today.
Here is how the real conversation went.
- Hey, give us some money.
- (Takes out a note from his pocket with trembling hands) Take … it. Now… go away, you.
Then came a customary non-binding kiss on his cheek.
The truth is, the only way he could hide his interest was by feigning fear. When a troop from the community attacked his home, demanding money for who knows what, he could not just go up and talk. He ran and closed his door. And soon enough, his friends, his family, everyone, knew that his special fear was the dreaded word. He was mortally afraid of Hijras.
He grew into that fear. When you asked people to list their fears, and some of them wrote spiders, lizards, height, stairs, he would write Hijra without a moment’s glance. He might as well have written his own name.
Except that he wouldn’t. Nobody wants to compromise their worldly privileges. Unless they have to. Not someone like him. Someone, surrounded by friends, surrounded by people, beloved of many, known to none. He can be very deceptive, throbbing with life underneath layers of masks. Sometimes he scares himself.
But how long does it take for fear to take shape when you fake it for decades and more? Pretty soon, your feet start to run by themselves at the remotest reference of all these. You make faces you never thought yourself capable of making. You show disgust instead of affinity. Maybe, just maybe, disgust was his way of expressing affinity.
But such a game of hide-and-never-seek takes its toll. For example, now this is a very trivial example: when everyone played the game of “what does your keyboard say when you type sex” on social media, he just made up the words his keyboard is supposed to say because his phone’s keyboard has no memory. Because he needs to periodically refresh his keyboard history, his browsing history. His own history. This is a lifelong game of hide-and-sick.
There will be moments when he almost loses his guard. When he fancies a woman, part of him cannot help wondering how it would feel to be in her shoes. When he fancies a man, part of him cannot help feeling he is cheating. Cheating the man. The woman inside. The whole wide world. But the world never cared if he lived or died. Or if he hid or not.
So yes, our hero of the story sees Hijras from afar, heaves a heavy sigh, and walks across the road in a hurry, because he partly believes that one day, they are going to see the look in his eyes. If this was a story, that could be avoided. Maybe he would go blind and have to wear glass eyes. They say glass eyes show no remorse. He knows all about himself. He knows about how some women are trapped in men’s bodies. He knows he is trapped too; he just can’t figure out where. If this was a story, he would unravel the truth, get himself saved, and maybe, if he had the courage, maybe he would be herself. Finally.
Unfortunately, this is not a story. This is my game of hide-and-sick. Hiding and sickening myself to the point of oblivion.