This Blog is for YOU...
If you have never been Gender Dysphoric - so as to understand what it means to have a Gender Identity Disorder. Of course, it primarily depends on whether you want to or not. If you don't, please do make a quiet exit and try not to be a nuisance.
If you're confused - so as to realize that everybody goes through a stage of confusion - the period could be short, or sometimes, very long. What is important is to acknowledge that being unsure until you're sure is as normal and as alright as night before day.
If you're a human being - so as to find out for yourself whether you want to try to make the world a better place to live in, for every fellow human being, irrespective of their health, wealth, colour, race, gender, religion and any and every other line of division you can think of.
And finally, this blog is for ME - so as to be able to make some difference somewhere by sharing my experiences, and along the way, slowly grow out of those anxieties and insecurities that have inhabited my life for over 2 decades. It is time to escort them to the door now!
Come, Join me on this journey!
Friday, December 19, 2008
It was April 3rd, 2006 – just a day after “To be… ME” had been made ready to ‘come out’ to the world… along with ME!
Sometime in the afternoon, my cell phone beeped an SMS. It was to inform me that today was the birthday of a certain man, who had been very significant in my life in the past one month, so I called him up instantly. The restless man that he is, without even giving me sufficient time to wish him the best in life, he asked me where I was. And before I could begin to answer that, he informed me that I was going to The Oberoi's to have a cake with him!
And he was right! I was going to The Oberoi's after all… despite the fact that I was wearing virtually rags for clothes and some unmentionable Batas for footwear… and he was (is) at least a billionaire for sure. For our purposes, we’ll call him ‘A’!
I don’t remember much about The Oberoi's, I’m not someone who has an eye for architecture but I clearly remember feeling miniscule while entering it. I knew I didn’t belong there. Nor did I feel that I fit on the table of the man I was meeting, but there he was – with a genuine, warm smile spreading on his face, as soon as his eyes spotted me. It must have been then, that it crossed my mind that I had brought him no gift. But even if it had occurred to me sooner, I could have done nothing much to help myself. I was pretty much penniless.
He was in a business meeting with two other men. He left that table and we took another one a little distance away. He called for coffee (I didn’t like it one bit) and a chocolate pastry (I loved it) that we shared in the name of his birthday.
The coffee and cake, of course, came later. The conversation began much before that. Thanks to my recently developed grandma-ish memory (sigh!), I remember only the most important part of the conversation. And it had begun with – “So what’s your darkest desire?”
[Now that I think of it, I find it really funny. Darkest desire! I could have named a million and one to him, starting with something that had John Abraham and a lot of creative imagination in it!]
I had laughed and said – I don’t HAVE any dark desire. “Oh, come on!” – came the voice from the other side of the table – “Everyone has a dark desire. You have to tell me yours!” By any chance, if you happen to meet him, you will know what I mean when I say that if he needs something from you, he can really get after your life! And How!
But then, I am not less known for my obstinacy too! I didn’t budge from the lie – “I have no dark desires”. And then, he asked me THE question – “Have you ever loved someone?”
Finally, an easy question – “Yes”, I said.
“Do you want to marry him?”
“I don’t want to talk about it”
“See! That’s your darkest desire! The deepest! Lying inside the darkest cellar inside of you… Where you don’t allow even a whiff of light to peep in”
“ ”, I said.
“What’s stopping you? Why don’t you go ahead and be who you really are? Just why?”
I got no time to answer that. He was already punching his cell phone’s keypad, and within half a minute, he had fixed up a consultation appointment for me with a surgeon.
“I’ll pay for your entire SRS process. And then, you can direct a movie for me sometime. Fair deal?”
In that moment, on that day, in that year, in this lifetime, I couldn’t have asked for anything more than that. My roadblock had always been money, and it would have, for quite some time still. This man had changed it!
“So, transform into a pretty girl and marry the guy!”
[It would of course never be that simple, but it was this quality of this man that made him endearing – he made life look so simple. As if, everything is just a wish away!]
“I can’t marry him A. Come on! He has a family too. Even if I transform into a pretty girl and all that, it’s impossible. His family would never accept me!”
And then, he said golden words again…
“That’s HIS problem. Why’re you making it yours? You love the guy, if he loves you too, you get married. What his family thinks is not your problem. Don’t make it either!”
Even today, I try to keep the essence of what he meant etched in my mind and my day-to-day dealings with the world. If somebody has a problem with me… REALLY… it’s THEIR problem. It doesn’t work always, because it CAN’T work always, but I do give him credit for he made everything look so simple! Flawed, yet beautifully simple…
He was flawed too… Somewhere along the way, he withdrew from his ‘fair deal’, for reasons best known to him. By then, however, my parents had accepted my decision and they stood steady with me, even if it meant their bank balance being drained completely.
I feel incapable of putting in words what my parents have meant, and how much they have done for me, hence, I keep postponing it for future, for a time when I feel I just might be able to do a little fraction of justice to their love with my minor writing.
This piece, however, is to thank A – the man, who came into my life for a very short period of time, but who will always be remembered as the one who brought me LIFE… sooner than I would have imagined, or planned for myself!
That evening, when I came out of the Oberoi's, the sun was crimson. There were people strolling at the Marine Drive. I sat there for a while, a long while… feeling the breeze in my face and hair, saving that view in my memory for all times to come – the setting sun, the dusk, the skyline of Bombay, the Oberoi Hotel, the Marine Drive, every passerby – unaware witnesses of the Dawn in my life…
Saturday, November 29, 2008
- Is it a good idea to start anti-androgens on my own, if my psychiatrist is not ready to give me the necessary certificate?
NO! Please don’t! Try another psychiatrist, and then, another. Try at least three different ones or more, if you can, but don’t administer any un-prescribed drugs to yourself, however harmless they might be known to be. I know fully well how hopelessly desperate you must feel, but unless at least one psychiatrist has certified you Gender Dysphoric (and trust me, there are supportive psychiatrists out there), you might be playing with yourself if you start with anti-androgens or any other drugs for that matter. Take it easy, relax… Really, RELAX! Don’t try to hurry anything. [To make an honest confession, I did hurry a few things and am still paying the price for it] Let things happen at their own pace. After all, we want to live a happy AND healthy life. And most of the times, the former is impossible without the latter.
- Any good psychiatrist in Mumbai?
I have been to two – Dr. Y. A. Matcheswalla (Maseena Hospital, Byculla) and Dr. Sachin Patkar (Dadar). I can truly and sincerely vouch for Dr. Matcheswalla and his team. I must especially mention his (then) psychologist, Neeti, who conducted thorough and satisfactory tests on me and whose reports were not only well-detailed (and a good read, I must say) but were also fairly easy to understand and gave me an insight on myself. The other, Dr. Sachin Patkar and his team (which includes his wife whose name I forget, and gladly so), is your typical money-minting machine kind of a doctor. He tried to scare me away from the step I was contemplating, his team must have given me a total of 2 hours of time for which I was made to pay him Rs. 10,000/-, and worst, his reports were the shabbiest and absolutely indecipherable for me! Please let him be the last doctor you would want to consider, if you MUST consider him, that is!
- (Unrelated to the purpose of this blog, but anyway…) I don’t want to do engineering. I’d rather be making films. What should I do?
Please make films! And don’t do engineering. I spent 4 years doing it and 2 more years to realize that I was 6 years late for my dream career, besides having spoilt 1 deserving person’s chances to have got a seat in my engineering college. Of course, I don’t regret those 4 years because they gave me beautiful memories to carry for a lifetime, but since you are yet to MAKE your memories, you should rather make them while making films, and not software or machines or bridges :-). All the Best!
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Almost fifteen years ago, on the back cover of a little school notebook, I read a line which has stayed with me ever since. It gave me strength in the darkest of times. I hope it would do the same for everyone who reads it:
Had it not been for the rocks in its path, the stream would not sing.
And if you just re-examined my picture to gauge how manly I do or don’t look, I won’t blame you. That’s expectedly the most natural, the most common reaction in a social setup, which inherently, even unknowingly advocates a rigid line of distinction between the two genders. Any occurrence of a blur on this line is generally either laughable or ignorable – two conditions, that no human existence would want to be in – under ‘normal’ circumstances.
My circumstances were not ‘normal’ – by the standards of this very setup. But why, you may ask, do I need to tell YOU about them? I’m certainly not a Great Somebody, not an achiever by any of our ‘standards’. So, what’s there in my story except a certain curiosity angle? Why, then, should I be written about?
Maybe, because there are thousands like me amongst you, who’re trying to be invisible, because that’s the only way to acceptability? Maybe, because there are thousands others, still suspended in a polygon of rights and wrongs, uncertain of whether it’s right to feel and want what every single person around them finds wrong? Maybe, because I want the social circle of those thousands to know about my family, friends and colleagues? Or maybe, just maybe, because I’m proud that I was able to survive twenty five years in an act with no ‘CUT’s – a role I didn’t choose for myself, yet lived day after day without any hope of the curtain falling.
Clothes were nice if they were my mother’s or my cousin sister’s, rather than mine; long hair were alright if my mother tied them into plaits instead of my father tying my head with a turban; games were fun as long as they were like ‘Teacher Teacher’ and not cricket, and even more so when the companions were girls and not boys.
I was often told that I was girlish; and my feeling, in reaction, was that of utter confusion. The condescending tone of those voices would upset me, invoke a feeling of guilt deep down inside; but somewhere even deeper, there was a flash of happiness at the acknowledgement of my true self. That happiness would then make me even guiltier, because I didn’t understand then, that it was alright to be happy.
One of my happy memories from childhood, by the way, is that of a small role in a school drama, wherein I got to play a girl character. All through the preparation, I was the most excited amongst all actors – forever ready to rehearse any number of times through the day. And then, while getting dressed in a pretty skirt on the morning of the final enactment, I asked my father whether I’d get the award for the Best Supporting Actress if my performance were good. No, he said, Best Supporting Actor! For long, I argued with him, trying with all my might to make him see that he was wrong… All in vain. I’d never win the argument. Reason and logic were both on his side. I only had a mess in my head.
A transsexual child is forever trapped in these multi-dimensional circles, knowing not how to be like the rest of the world, how to merge with the ‘norm’, how to evade the mocking laughter, the derogatory names, the taunting peers. There’s a sinking feeling tugging along, all the time – “I don’t fit in”… and worse, “I’ll never fit in”.
The Vague Clarity
Puberty is a tough time for everybody – the time when one tries to and gets to know oneself more, when sexuality becomes an important part of one’s being, and the mirror area becomes one of the most frequented in the house.
My mirror, however, stopped being my friend soon after thirteen. The school uniform added a compulsory turban to my head, and nature added relentless hair to my face. “It’s all wrong, wrong, WRONG” – I knew that, but remained laden with the guilt of Being that wrong myself, hoping tirelessly for a miracle each morning… “May be God would decide to listen to my prayers tonight, may be He would turn me into a girl tomorrow morning…”
Today, I know God had reasons to not work that miracle. But the teenaged Gunraj didn’t. (S)he knew but one thing – that the single question in her head, “Why me?”, would never be answered.
In that age of unanswered questions, I distinctly remember the day when I got goose flesh while watching a rather provocative music video of a male pop singer. And in the numerous sleepless nights that followed, it dawned on me for the first time with a sense of absoluteness, that I was different, and would always be. For years to come, I was to think how unfair it was of God to make me Gay.
In all fairness, God didn’t leave me at the crossroads by many other worldly standards. Today, personally, I don’t value Academics too much, but through my growing up years, I was a “bright child”, a “good orator” and a “very disciplined student”. For me, though, my worth was in my singing, my writing and my Dramatics.
[Recently, when I came out to my ex-schoolmates and teachers, it felt strange to hear some things they said – “Gunraj, I used to think it so unfair that you had every enviable quality in you”, “It was like you were so perfect, you had nothing to worry about”, “I wouldn’t have imagined you as anything but a truly happy child”]
I give my family the entire credit for this balance, for who I was and am, especially for still having been able to retain a sane mind. My stress found an equal opposition in the love I constantly got from my parents, my extended family and later, my friends.
Initially, my parents admitted helplessness in comprehending how ‘a boy could feel like a girl’, yet they never gave up trying to understand, and never gave up on me. There were times when they’d ask me to try and “change the way you think”, but they’d also listen patiently to my yells and wails – “It’s not about the way I THINK, it’s about the way I AM”. “I don’t CHOOSE to be like this Papa, I was BORN this way”. “Why don’t YOU go and try live in the opposite gender? Then, you’ll know!”
I screamed, they listened. They found out that I used to speak at length over the phone to strangers – as a girl, they didn’t even come close to slapping me. I ran away from home before my Boards, they brought me back – and loved me even more. My brother, my sister, my relatives stood right with me through that darkest of times – my parents holding me tight when I was just an inch away from falling, from collapsing.
The Boys’ Hostel
And so, I managed the Boards, the Competitive exams and the admission to a reputed Engineering college. But that meant that I’d be staying in a hostel. That was a very scary thought; all the same, I knew I had to be up to the challenge. I couldn’t stay wrapped in the comfort of home, forever. “If I HAVE a life, I must make something of it”. Besides that, I’ve always had an innate faith in the goodness of the world, and that faith held my hand as I went on to spend four years of my life… in a Boys’ Hostel.
I was prepared to be an oddity there, ready for the remarks – “Always goes to the bathroom to change!”, “Speaks so effeminately!”, “Walk is so girly!” and much worse. I also knew that I’d be a source of entertainment for everybody out there. I wasn’t prepared, however, for the severe ragging which is common in engineering colleges.
Despite the unspeakable horrors of the first year, however, thankfully, I remember those four years simply as the most beautiful time of my life. In the cacophony of mocking voices and laughter, there were a few precious faces that became my friends – people who knew me, understood me, loved me for just the person I was. I’d never felt as light as that, before. I think it was in those years that I started realizing that it was alright to be happy.
I hadn’t ever been bad at studies, but my college life gave me the chance to truly explore my extra-curricular abilities and… freedom. I’d sing, I’d debate, I’d direct college plays, I’d watch late night movies, I’d go out on trips with friends, and I’d have so much fun that sometimes, I’d get scared of my own joy – What if all this turned out to be a dream?
The ‘Real World’
When the dream got over, I found myself gazing at a computer screen, sitting in the massive establishment of a software giant. A studio apartment, the company bus, the office desk and the office dormitory summed up my entire world. I was one of the 10% best employees among the 20,000+ work force. That should not be surprising… I had never objected to an average work day of eighteen hours – week after week, month after month – because at the very least, it kept me away from myself, and from the jeers which had turned from loud name-calling to whispers in the corporate world.
I don’t really know why, but I never attempted to make new friends there. Maybe, because the business environment had suddenly pulled the shutters down on my carefree days. It was hard to trust now. My fear of rejection kept me from accepting anybody new in my life. I desperately wanted to run away again, but day after day, I realized that the only thing to run away from was my own self.
There were times, however, when I couldn’t do that – days when the pangs of loneliness were so acute that I’d look for companions on gay websites. I’d also get myself to meet a one-off guy at times, but yet again, the same old gloom confronted me – “I don’t fit in”. They looked for a MAN in me, while my whole life had been about not being one. Gradually, I understood that Gender Dysphoria is not the same as being gay. While the causes of stress in both conditions might be similar to an extent, the conditions themselves are quite different.
A homosexual man, for instance, (and I’m not saying this categorically) might have no problem in wearing a formal shirt and tie to office every day, while that particular dressing rule of my company was one of the three main reasons I decided to quit! My place of posting being extremely peaceful and dull (for me), was the second. In those two endless years, the silences had started getting to me…
The third reason was the most important – it was an attempt to ‘fit in’, at least somewhere.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, Bombay IS, after all, a city of dreams. I wasn’t aware when I arrived there that the deepest of my dreams would see life in Bombay, but the energy and pace of the city had me charged up in no time. The vigour of the college days was back, so were the college days themselves!
I was doing a one-year Diploma course in filmmaking – writing, shooting, directing AND making friends! Not only was I happy that I had made the right career choice, the excitement of filmmaking was also a sedative to the pain I could never completely learn to live with.
A year passed away in an instant, and it was time to choose subjects for our Final Documentary films (which had to be made in groups of six). I had no idea of how I would go about it, yet I proposed “Transsexuality” to the class – a subject, not welcomed by most. However, two friends who were aware of my condition raised their hands in support of the subject. It was one of the most ordinary days, but today as I look back, the moment when my friends raised their hands was perhaps the most important moment of my life.
Soon enough, three more friends joined in, and the group was complete! We now needed a title for the film, and what immediately came to my mind was – ‘To Be… or Not To Be’. It sounded perfect, and yet, that night, something inside me said – ‘This is not it’. This title represented my state of mind; it didn’t take me forward. And the next morning, I knew what the title had to be…
To Be… ME
I had never had any plans of coming out of my closet for the film, but as we met more and more transgendered people through our research, I realized that nobody wanted to. They all preferred invisibility.
The research was fruitless day after day, none of our contacts being ready to face the camera; but I was sure of one thing – we were not going to interview someone with their face hidden in shadows. This film HAD to be about light, about courage, about pride.
And then, somewhere along the way, I realized that I was being dishonest to myself. If I expected others to face the world, I couldn’t choose shadows for my own self. I realized that at the end of the day, I was not as scared of the world, as I was of myself. It was not about ‘them’, it was about ‘me’ all along. And it was time now to confront that fear; it was time to accept myself, to love myself, to celebrate myself.
Almost magically, the day I decided to face the camera, we started discovering others who were not only willing, but even excited to share their stories! In my heart, I knew it was God’s way to tell me that He supported my decision.
‘To Be… ME’ turned out to be the best film of the year, and my Coming Out brought sheer positive energy to my life, from both without and within.
I had been reading about Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) for many years now, but it was my first-hand research through the making of this film that reassured me that it was not only alright to be happy. It was my right to be happy.
“So, when are you going for it?” – That’s the first thing my father said, on seeing the film. And ever since that question, there’s been no looking back.
A year-and-a-half ago, I started my Gender Reassignment procedure, which will probably go on for another year or so. Frankly, this period of transformation is not one of the most convenient – socially, physically or emotionally. One has to pull out every thread of strength and will power from within; but looking at the positive side, it’s not that difficult when one knows that this WILL get over, that there IS bright sunlight beyond the dark.
During that stormy time, I luckily discovered a lighthouse – in the form of a Yahoo e-group for transsexuals (called Sampoorna - firstname.lastname@example.org). I made wonderful friends there – men and women who had been caught in a game of hide-and-seek with their own selves – a few who had won the game and found out themselves, and others, who like me, were going to win soon.
I was also fortunate to find a job of a writer, assistant director particularly because the staff at my office is truly godsend. Not only did they do their best to understand my issues, they also went out of their way to ensure my comfort through this period of transition. My faith in the goodness of the world has only deepened in the last 20 months.
This period has been a time of Absolute Wonder! It’s magical to see my inner self slowly but surely taking its form in the mirror, amazing to notice the little changes big enough to make my day, thrilling to get compliments that I have always pined for, and musical to hear the taxi walla ask, “Madam, kahaan jaana hai?”
Bangkok and Beyond
On October 19, 2007, my male genitals were replaced by female genitalia, the surgery being called ‘Vaginoplasty’. The miracle-maker in my case was Dr. Chettawut of Bangkok (www.chet-plasticsurgery.com), who I came to know of through a friend from Sampoorna.
Thailand is a place renowned for Male-to-Female (MTF) SRS. In my three-week long stay under the excellent care of my doctor, I saw patients coming to him from different nationalities, races and ages. My nurse told me that the doctor undertakes 15-20 SRS patients every month. Considering that Dr. Chettawut is just one of the many SRS surgeons in Thailand (and the world), I was surprised by the number of people struggling with transsexuality across the globe.
Over there, it melted my heart to see a middle-aged woman accompanying her ‘husband’ for ‘his’ surgery. The ‘husband’ was a transsexual woman. I had read on the internet about such cases where a spouse turns into a companion/friend for a transsexual person, but to actually see such human beings was like witnessing the purest form of love – a love beyond all boundaries and ‘man-made’ definitions of relationships…
I really wanted to connect with all those other patients, but I wasn’t sure whether they’d welcome it. One is on an emotional roller coaster at such a time and may not want to know a stranger. But one fine day, somebody just walked up to me and we spoke as if we’d known each other for eternity. With her permission, I share with you…
C S is a 65-year-old American (transsexual) woman, although she could easily pass for a very fit 50. Based in California, she’s an English teacher – a role she couldn’t help slipping into, even through our conversation!
Her childhood and youth had been clouded over by recurring phases of depression. In the era of 1940s and 50s, it was a horrifying thought to tell her family that she “felt like a girl”. This ‘girl’, however, made up for her inferiority complex by excelling above her peers in anything which required superior strength, endurance or sheer courage.
But when life became too heavy a burden to endure, she decided it was time to get rid of it. Thinking she’d die fighting for a cause her heart was in, she enrolled herself for the Vietnam War in 1968. But as God would have it, after two years in the battlefield, she came back unscathed except for a Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
It didn’t help that her very conformist family expected the man who was C to get married. She, however, couldn’t bring herself to lie to her would-be wife. C disclosed herself to her fiancée; and somehow, that made an emotional bond between the two. They were able to reach an understanding. C would be man for the rest of the world, but then the woman could get out of the closet whenever they chose. Often when the “husband and wife” went holidaying, they lived and frolicked as two best friends, two girl friends.
At home, C spent decades being a family MAN, even being a father, perhaps in the hope that her thoughts would go away with time; however, three years ago, at 62, she had to concede that her ‘thoughts’ were her life. And whatever time was left for her, she must live it as herself.
She moved from North Carolina to a more trans-friendly California, where she started letting herself blossom. She’d visit her family occasionally, but it was tough to pass as a man now, yet she had to, because her wife was wary of the neighbourhood, while her daughter didn’t know how and what to explain to C’s grandchildren, and hence refused to let C near her family.
Finally, she and I sat cross-legged across from each other, chatting like two teenage girls. I was in awe of C’s courage for having flown thousands of miles, all alone, to BECOME; and I couldn’t help thinking: No human being would ever CHOOSE to be ostracized by friends, family, and society, and then endure the months of recuperative pain that Gender Dysphoric people bring upon themselves, unless they absolutely HAVE to!
Later, I received an email from Ms. S, telling me that when her wife found out about the surgery, she forbade C from coming home for Christmas. Her daughter, however, wrote her a beautiful email, wishing her a happy and healthy life, and promising that when her children grew older, she’d definitely explain to them what C had been through, but meanwhile, she was unable to welcome C at her house. And then the new Ms. S added, “It’s so ironic that this is the saddest and yet the happiest time of my entire life!”
The Vivid Clarity
A certificate given to me by my surgeon identifies me now, as an “infertile female”. Both are strong words. For most, the first might be stronger; for me, it’s the second one. Being a mother, after all, is not just about the ability to give birth.
Being transsexual, also, is not just about LOOKING masculine or feminine. If we were not living in a world which so loves to categorize, demarcate and idealize, transsexuality would not have been a problem at all. Even now, it’s not the condition itself that’s a psychological problem, but the amount of social pressure and emotional stress it causes often leads many towards suicide.
The bottomline is that Gender Dysphoria needs a biological, a medical correction. An SRS is only as unnatural as a cancer surgery or any other surgery, for that matter.
The sooner a transsexual person can start their Gender Reassignment procedure, the easier is the transition, and better, the visible results. At times, I do find myself wishing I had started my transition soon after puberty. Not only would I have had to undergo fewer years of emotional and psychological distress, I would also be spared the physical pain and time of transitioning from a male body to a female one.
But at the same time, one must be mature enough to understand oneself and one’s priorities, and sometimes (not always), age is necessary for that maturity. For instance, if ‘infertile’ is the stronger word for you, or if you’re doing this for ANYBODY except YOURSELF, you must think again! I’ve heard of homosexuals who undergo SRS to be able to live a socially acceptable life with their partners, and then regret the decision, all their lives. When one has to make a decision, the keyword has to be – ME!
I still have a lot of catching up to do! I badly need to get some humour, some spontaneity in my life; then, there’s an urgent need to catch up on shopping – clothes, shoes, ear-rings, makeup, and the list goes on.
But there’s this one thing I caught up with, recently and not many people do that – Life! It’s precious, it’s beautiful, and if you truly love it, it gives you wings! Tell me… how many people in the world know how it feels to grow wings!
I’ll leave you to the counting, with the closing line of our film –
“The question is not whether To Be… or Not To Be! The question is – Who decides my Being? A faceless entity called Society? Or ME, MYSELF!”
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
A few of you – I have lost touch with… Yet, when I sat down to write this mail, you had to be in the Receivers' List because you have touched some part of my life – big or small; somewhere, it would give me peace to know that I let you know…
A few of you – already know what this mail is all about; yet, you had to be in the Receivers' List because this is almost an 'official notice' about The Truth – that I'm sending out to all those who have made a difference to my life in some way (of course, the additional conditions being their having an email id and my being able to trace it!)
A few of you – I believe, when you've read the contents of this mail, will exclaim – "Oh, that's why!" Yes, I'm hopeful that a few, if not many of you, will be able to understand me better after this…
Many of you – might be shocked by what you're about to read – especially if the person called 'Gunraj' has been long dissolved into shadows of the times forgotten (in which case, I might owe you an apology for reminding you of me, needlessly!) However, writing this to you would complete a circle somewhere inside me, and very selfishly, I'm doing it for MYSELF…
There was always something 'unusual' with me – and I knew that. I found it hard to be comfortable with almost every other human being around me – for a long time. Everybody needs a comfort zone; mine kept eluding me… For very long, despite knowing that I was experiencing a 'strange condition', I didn't have the words to explain it.
Not until I found out about 'Gender Identity Disorder' at 18 years of age. A so-called psychological condition wherein a person feels themselves to be trapped in a wrong body. An apparently male person identifies with the female gender [in layman language, 'a female soul trapped in a male body'], and vice versa. Whatever little research has been done on this condition has not been able to explain clearly why this should happen when everything else about the anatomy of this person is perfectly 'usual'. Yet, it is a valid human condition experienced right from childhood, and a small percentage of the world population does experience it.
Even though the condition is psychologically termed as a 'Disorder', yet, for all practical purposes, the disorder is biological – because a transsexual person (one who experiences this condition) thinks, feels and often behaves just like a person of the gender identity he/she identifies with, only their body doesn't conform to it.
By now, I'm sure you have put 2 and 2 together to know that I myself am a transperson. It was a relief for me to know when I did, that there was a term to explain my confusion, and even though science itself was not too clear about it, yet 'transsexuality' was an acknowledged condition and many identified with it.
It WAS a relief to know that the condition is valid, yes, but there was no relief from the condition itself…
Until last year… when I decided to take the most important step of my life. It is this step that I want to share with you today. It is the joy that it brings me that I must let all of you be a part of…
I decided to undergo a Sex Reassignment Process, wherein my physical sex would be hormonally and surgically changed to Female. The process is already on. I have been on female hormones for about 7 months now, and by mid-2008, if all goes well, I shall have been surgically assigned my true gender.
This might be causing turmoil in the concerned minds of a few of you, yet if it is any help, let me tell you that I have thought about it for at least 20 years of my life. It is perhaps a new phenomenon for you, yet I have lived with it for my entire life, and I am more certain than I can ever be about anything, that this is the best decision of my life. I tell you this for I want to save your time and energy that you might decide to use in writing to me – "Think about it", "Try and change the way you think", "Happiness is always elusive" etc. Not that I don't understand the urge to do so and not that I'm assuming that you would do so, but a long history of personal experience has taught me that these are the most common first reactions. I just want to spare you the effort, because well, I have been through it :-).
You will see a name and an email id in the CC column above – please take that as my new identity and contact [those who use a nickname for me may please continue to do so :-)]. I must acknowledge here that I share the pain that a few of you might feel on my dropping the name I've lived for 25 years. I have always loved my name, however, a new name must accompany a new identity, because the old one, how much ever it is dear to me, will always be a reminder of that part of my past which was most painful…
Like I said, this mail is more about completing an inner circle for my own self. Not that I would know and hence, not that it would make a difference, yet I just want to say that if and when you tell others about me, the correct thing to say would be "You know, Gunraj was a girl", and not "You know, Gunraj is becoming a girl"… Yes, true I'm changing my physical sex, but truer, I was always always a girl…
You may see (and know) me, if you'd like to, on NDTV India on August 24, Friday at 8 pm [Repeat: August 25, Saturday at 2 pm] in a Talk Show called 'Salaam Zindagi'.
Before I close, I just want to say "Thank You" to all the special people who've stood with me throughout and supported me in every way possible to them – from my wonderful parents and family to my friends, colleagues, teachers, and even amazing strangers whom God helps me meet sometimes – all those who see me (or at least genuinely try to see me) as who I really am. I do know it's not easy for you yet, and that's why my heart goes out to you, for trying to make it easy for me.
A few of you – may choose to reject the whole idea behind this mail, and hence, me. However, in any case, now you know me better than you ever have. And that satisfaction is more than what I want :-)
All of you – may lead the happiest of lives!
with Love and Regards
for the 'last time'
P.S. I also request you to keep your eyes and hearts open for any children (or even adults) around you, who you feel might be going through a similar situation. It is not very common, I agree, but that's exactly why, it's so difficult for them to deal with it…
Monday, October 20, 2008
I was the first to wake up on October 19, 2007. Mamma and Bua had just about started to get up when I came out of the bath. And now, since there were several hours before the driver would come to transport us to the Hospital, I just spent time watching HBO. I was not supposed to have even water today. Not that I was thirsty anyway. In fact, secretly, I was happy with the forced dieting of these two days. At least, I’d lose some unnecessary fat that way. I didn’t think then that post October 19, I would be losing tremendous amounts of weight anyway.
We reached Piyavate Hospital by around 12 noon. After the paper-work, we were taken to the special room reserved for me by Dr. Chettawut. I couldn’t have asked or wished for better facilities and arrangements than what were available there. The nurses were extremely warm and helpful, and the room was the most comfortable with a wonderful view from the window. I was told the Hospital was amongst the best in Bangkok and the International Patients Wing, where we were, was state-of-the-art.
I changed into the hospital gown, and loved its soft liquidy touch on my body. I practiced on the button for switching on the microphone to call for the nurse. I repeatedly moved the back of the bed up and down with the touch of another button. I was enjoying myself and a smile was pasted on my face throughout! Mamma was smiling too, but I knew she was not enjoying herself. To her credit though, she didn’t let her worries eclipse my excitement.
The doctor was supposed to arrive by 2 pm, but he made me wait till 4. And then, when I was just about too bored of waiting, the door opened up and a few men and women from his team entered, made me lie down on the stretcher and took me away. I couldn’t talk to Mamma or Bua much. I just smiled at them while leaving and they smiled back. I think Mamma’s outstretched hand did wish for a moment to be able to stop all this and pull me back, but then, she got over herself and simply waved to me with that hand.
The Operation Theatre was terribly cold and I was shivering all the more because I had no energy thanks to the diet and I was dressed in a thin hospital gown. As I lay there waiting for the doctor, I was singing to myself…
The anesthesiologist came first. Dr. Veera, his name was. I told him that Veera means ‘brother’ in Punjabi and that I call my elder brother that. He smiled and said – “Oh, so I’m your brother!” And then, we were just having some insignificant unnecessary small talk until Dr. Chettawut finally arrived.
I never got to see him though. I just heard that he was coming and then Dr. Veera asked me to turn sideways. As he injected something in my back, I realized that I wanted to shake hands with Dr. Chettawut once. I saw a shadow walk past me and I knew it was him and I said to him – “Doctor please, can you shake hands with me?”…
Mamma was caressing my forehead. I couldn’t see her properly. I could feel somebody was standing right behind her, and figured it must be Bua. “Are you okay?”, Mamma was asking. I think I mumbled, “Surgery?” And she said, “It’s over. It’s all over. Everything’s fine.”
And before I fell unconscious again, I whispered, “I can’t believe it’s over”…
Recap 2: Hello Bangkok!
Recap 3: The Two Guys who had Everything in their Hands
October 18, 2007 was a pretty eventless day. We were either watching TV in our room [The only watchable channel – HBO], or exploring the various sections of the hotel. It’s a pretty place, Hotel Baan Siri Rama. There’s a lot of greenery, serenity and peace, especially in the cottages section.
It was a quiet day. None of us spoke much. I didn’t feel any need to, and the others, I guess, were nervous about the Tomorrow. I wasn’t. I never became nervous, not even until the climax. That doesn’t go to say I was confident. I wasn’t. But that doesn’t go to say I feared something would or could go wrong. Right or wrong were not even on my mind. Nothing was on my mind. I wasn’t afraid of the Tomorrow. I wasn’t looking forward to the Tomorrow. I wasn’t expecting anything out of the Tomorrow. It was a state of no state at all, and there’s no way to explain it.
Neither is there any way to explain why I found myself crying in the evening. I was saying to Mamma, “I’m just thinking of the past 25 years and feeling sad”, but it was a lie. Because I wasn’t thinking of anything. Because thinking felt unnecessary. Everything felt unnecessary. Pointless. I don’t think I was thinking about the pointlessness of the past 25 years.
No, I can’t explain that day. I don’t think I can ever even understand that day. And I don’t feel any need to.
Recap 2: Hello Bangkok!
Being a perfectionist, especially when it comes to travelling, my Bua had done her research about Bangkok. And she knew that whatever else we might do, we must visit the Reclining Buddha Temple. Since my movement was going to be restricted for my entire stay in Bangkok after October 19, we would have to visit the temple within the following two days. It was also essential according to both the women accompanying me, to seek divine blessings before the 19th, for the 19th.
October 17, 2007 morning, the driver was there again to take me to Dr. Chettawut’s clinic where I met the Man himself for the first time ever, and if a sweeter doctor than him has been created by the Almighty, I haven’t met them! I still remember how soft his touch was, as we shook hands, and how patiently he listened to my queries and concerns and explained to me how he would go about the surgery. To be very honest, I wasn’t listening or trying to comprehend much. I knew that THIS was IT! There was no turning back from here or going anywhere else now. I just had to surrender myself to this man and let him do exactly as he plans.
He told me that for two days now, I had to be on minimal diet and only liquid at that. Besides that, I was given a kind of solution which I had to drink twice to completely clear my bowels by the time it was the D-Day! After my physical examination and the paper work, Dr. Chettawut promised to meet me on the 19th evening, by which time, I would have been admitted to the hospital.
It was clear now that if any site-seeing had to be done, it would have to be done today, because I wouldn’t have much energy to travel around on the 18th. No solid food for 2 days, remember?
And so, we set out to look for the Reclining Buddha Temple (Wat Pho). And since saving money was our first priority (the trip was anyway costing us over 5 lakhs), we opted for the city bus instead of a taxi. And in retrospect now, that was a very good idea.
It didn’t seem that way in the beginning though. We boarded two wrong city buses initially, thanks to the miscommunication with the locals. Hardly anybody understood English. And actually, we still don’t know whether even the third bus we took was the right one or not. We don’t, because something else happened on this bus which changed our entire plan!
At one of the bus stops, a Sikh gentleman boarded the bus [As we were to discover later, a lot of Sikh businessmen make frequent trips to Bangkok because of the cheap electronics available there]. And we didn’t waste any time in extracting everything about Bangkok that he could tell us. What intrigued us the most was an area called Pahurat, which is supposedly a mini-India in Bangkok. Completely inhabited by Indians, it has everything Indian that comes to your mind – from Kiraana shops and dhabas to halwais and a Gurudwara!
And so, we turned our countryman into our guide. We got off with him and let him lead us to Pahurat through innumerable meandering streets cramped and crowded with markets of electronics and garments. Clearly, we were approaching the mini-India!
When we entered the Sikh temple, I had to hold my breath for a moment… It was just so magnificent! The huge expanse of the hall, the grand chandeliers, the artistic lighting and ventilation, and above all, the golden abode of Guru Granth Sahib ji were truly breathtaking. We sat there for a long time – silent, in direct communication with the Waheguru. I busied myself in clicking pictures after a while, but Mamma and Bua were not done with their prayers for quite some time.
Pretty pleased and deeply grateful to the Lord for having maneuvered our plans to come to him this way, we set out in search for food. And what better place for that than a Punjabi dhaba! I couldn’t eat anything of course, so I just had Lassi [although I have serious doubts that my doctor would have accepted THAT Lassi as liquid!]
All our attempts at shopping failed! Money, as I said, had to be saved. We did savour the totally Indian experience of bargaining in the markets, though. And after a long and tiring day spent at ‘home’ in a foreign land, finally, we reached our hotel by twilight.
Now, the ‘clear-bowel’ solution awaited me! You might want to ask me, why I am even mentioning something like that over here? Well, to underline the fact that no day can be Perfect in every way! That solution has been designed in such a way that once you have had it, you won’t feel like eating anything for days altogether anyway, forget about drinking! It was probably the worst-tasting thing I had ever had in my life, and even now, as I type this, I feel completely horrible inside my mouth! Thankfully, I only had to have half the bottle that day. The rest was for the next day.
The next day! – The last before the day everything would change, or at least, a lot would. Strangely, however, I felt no anxiety, no excitement, no joy, no sorrow, no fear, not even anticipation. If there is a state of no feeling whatsoever, I guess I’ve been there, although if you ask me how it FEELS, I don’t think I’ll be able to explain.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
This was the first time I was travelling to a foreign land. Ironically, the journey was bringing me home!
It was early morning on October 16, 2007 when we landed in Bangkok, and afternoon by the time we were able to come out of the airport! Mamma had to get a Visa on Arrival [Thailand is one of the few countries in the world which let you have that. It’s just for 15 days, though] because she had got her Passport on the very day of our Departure, so there was no time to get a Visa from the Thai Embassy in India. But Visa-on-Arrival turned out to be one of the most tedious processes, because her return ticket had been booked along with mine and Bua’s – for 3 weeks later. It took us the whole of morning and all our energy to get her ticket changed and the Visa issued.
Thereafter, came the Immigration section! Yes, yet again! When I gave my Passport to the lady at the counter there, she returned it saying – “Oh, you gave me someone else’s Passport!” I replied – “No, that’s mine” and she looked completely at a loss for words. After looking at the Passport for a while, she said – “But isn’t that a GUY?” I smiled and said – “That’s me!” For a split second, I saw an expression of absolute shock on her face, after which she started laughing like a mad woman. She went on and on and on and I feared she would never stop. In between this exercise of laughter and the activity of breathing, somewhere she mumbled, “I… thought… you were a… GIRL!”
The doctor’s driver was there to receive us. He drove us to Hotel Baan Siri Rama – the hotel where most patients of Dr. Chettawut stay. Dr. Chettawut was the guy who would amend nature’s mistake for me. We had opted for the little cottages in the hotel which came complete with a reasonably well-furnished kitchenette. All three of us are vegetarian and Thai food being predominantly meat-based, we knew we would have to do our own cooking for the forthcoming three weeks. We had also carried a lot of packed food from India, besides pulses and rice.
Having settled ourselves down, we bathed, ate and thanks to the fatigue, involuntarily fell asleep. I woke up pretty soon though. I was aching to dress up and for the first time ever, step out in the open without any worry or fear. Since there was still a level of discomfort between Mamma and me over my clothes, I’d rather get out while she was still asleep.
So, I crept out of the bed, changed into a spaghetti and a long skirt, applied oodles of kajal and without making a single noise, slipped out of the cottage.
There was a wonderful breeze outside, and it made me realize yet again that skirt is my favourite outfit! I attach a sense of freedom to the skirt, a sense of beauty and exhilaration that every woman has a birthright on. It’s the best outfit to dance in! And the best to feel free of all inhibitions and controls exercised on you for simply being a woman.
I walked the entire length of the long road twice. It felt amazing that not a single man or woman or child or dog re-looked at me with confusion! It felt liberating! I kept walking to assimilate this feeling for quite some time, and finally stopped when I spotted a cybercafé. The next hour was spent writing to friends and extended family and updating them all about everything being perfect at my end.
When I was entering the hotel, I saw Mamma and Bua coming out, looking rather worried. As soon as they spotted me, instant relief was spread across their faces. After their queries and my explanations, we started walking back towards our cottage to make preparations for dinner and chalk out the next day’s plan. And then, one of the two women walking beside me, said to me, “You look beautiful!”
It was my mother…
Friday, October 17, 2008
It seems like yesterday. Really. I can clearly see a very different ME sitting in a bus to Delhi before dawn, heading towards pain and relief at the same time. But today, when I sit to think and remember how much has happened since then, it seems almost unbelievable. I’ve changed in so many ways. I’m pretty sure that no other year in my life would ever bring about this amount of change in me. It’s almost like my life began on Oct 13 last year…
I had left for Delhi alone, on the 13th. Mamma and Bua were going to join me later, on the 15th. Over the entire stretch of the 13th and 14th, I underwent a total of almost 17 hours of electrolysis [a process in which each hair is removed by inserting a sort of a very thin needle into the pore of the skin and passing current through it] for my facial hair. The process tests not only your ability to bear pain, but is also an ideal test of your patience. One generally needs a large number of electrolysis sessions (easily running over a couple of a hundred hours) for the hairs to be removed permanently. This was my third session.
By 14th late night, my face, though terribly swollen and deeply crimson, was free of all hairs (for at least 2 weeks now). I was staying at MJ’s place that night but before heading there, I met N at the market near Priya Cinema, and I’m really thankful to God for having made it possible for us to meet that night. Even though my face was too numb to feel any more pain, the agony of the 17 hours behind me certainly got some balm on meeting one of my bestest friends. We also clarified the little misunderstandings that had been creeping up in our friendship for some time now, and I couldn’t have been happier to rid my heart of another burden.
I spent 15th morning at the parlour, trying to get the swelling off my face with the aid of some facials and massages. If they helped at all, I couldn’t notice :-), but yes, as is the case with almost every human being belonging to the fairer sex, the facial did do that little something to push up the happiness quotient within me!
And finally, in the evening, I got myself transported to the Indira Gandhi International Airport, where Mamma and Bua, who were travelling with me, had arrived already. And so had my other bestest friend Vee, with a rose and a little pretty Ganesha effigy, which incidentally, I had gifted him a long time ago. Trust me! It’s not unexpected, if it’s Vee! But it was heartfelt and a gesture that expressed the bond we shared. I can’t remember my conversation with him now, but yes, I do remember that he made me laugh a little more than usual, that evening. He was in his best form, maybe because he was truly happy for me, or maybe because he knew I’d be nervous…
I had tried to cover my nervousness in about 3 layers of clothes. These multiple layers had a singular purpose. Since I was travelling on Gunraj’s passport, the effects of the past 9 months of estrogen on my body obviously had to be covered up; and oh yeah, I also tied my hair in a pony tail! Alas! All that did not help…
Well, if I couldn’t convince myself that I was the same person who was peeping out of my Passport, how could anyone else?
Having waved to Vee to my heart’s content, as I proceeded to the Jet Airways counter, the lady checking my Passport there had her mind’s doubts clearly written all over her face. She did give us our boarding passes (albeit a bit hesitantly), but also made sure to mention that we could be interrogated ahead.
Thereafter, every Airport official’s eyes seemed to be screening me. Whether they thought I was a potential terrorist or something else, I do not know, but yes, in those moments of my knees going weak, it did help to repeat to myself that if I HAVE to explain to these people why I look different from that picture on my Passport, I WILL! Also, Bua was a constant support system. She went on reassuring me that we would manage. She told me clearly that we would first try to convince the officials by talking to them, but if they just didn’t seem to understand, then we would thrust the doctor’s recommendation letter in their faces. Nobody could stop us then!
With our game plan clear in our minds, we reached the Emigration section, where quite obviously, the news of my arrival had arrived before me! 5-6 officers got up from their respective cells and surrounded the three of us, each scanning the Passport and my face in turn, time and again. Utter confusion. They checked Mamma’s and Bua’s Passports. All well. Then, they checked mine again, perhaps hoping for ‘all’ to have magically become well here also. To their dismay, it hadn’t…
So, they started asking me questions and details about Gunraj, which I obviously knew. That seemed to confuse some more, while it certainly relieved a few too, one of whom was the only lady officer interrogating me. She took a close look at the Passport again and then whispered (quite audibly) to the others huddled around her – “Hai toh wahi, par Gay hai!” [It IS Gunraj, only Gunraj is Gay!”]
This seemed to satisfy all the inquisitors, and they trickled back to their own seats. Before the lady finally let us go, she asked me if I write my Sex as Female. This came as a bit of a surprise because we hadn’t even mentioned a Gender change. She clarified saying that on my Thai Visa, the column for Sex said ‘F’ and that is what had led to more confusion amongst the officers.
I was smiling. I completed all the formalities and walked on. I did not say to her, “Perhaps it was a mistake”. Because it was not a mistake. The Thai Embassy knew my purpose of travelling to Bangkok and they had been sensitive enough to acknowledge my rightful identity – the identity of my soul, regardless of my body. I was smiling.
Mamma, Bua and I got into the plane, took our seats and made a call to Papa. He had not been able to get his Passport till the last day, hence he was not coming with me. But I was aware that he would be with me in thought, throughout…
... throughout, on this journey of mine – towards Hope, towards Happiness, towards Freedom, towards Life…
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Of late, I’ve been hearing from and about juniors from my degree college. Since I haven’t kept my transition a secret, and in fact, have been very open about it, obviously, they have heard about me and express their feelings on the phenomenon that I seem to represent. Here are two blogs with such expressions:
The one thing I appreciate in both these cases is the acceptance of mistakes, along with the sensitivity to realize that there WAS a mistake. At the same time, I hope that they and others, who have in some way experienced a similar feeling on getting to know about my true identity, would extrapolate it to their interactions with human beings in general.
It is very easy to laugh at someone, to find reasons to ridicule them, reject them, look down upon them, disassociate with them. But before you do that, do you ever try and question yourself whether you have any reason whatsoever to treat them as a lowly person? Whatever their life, whatever their way of living it, as long as they have not done anything to interrupt YOUR life and YOUR way of living it, should you really put them in the victim box and hurl all kinds of statements at them?
And this, I’m talking not just in my context, but it also goes for every kind of distinction that we humans have made amongst ourselves. Rich looking down upon the poor, slim people laughing at those overweight, Hindus killing Muslims, vice versa, straight men and women making fun of homosexuals, men considering women inferior, seniors ragging the freshers and so on and on and on… All these are manifestations of our prejudice and our unhealthy need to feel superior to someone else around us. “Oh, she sings well, but she’s so ugly!” “He may be excellent in studies, but he just can’t talk to a girl! Loser!” And these are very regular examples.
I wonder if anybody around me, except my friends, ever paused even for a moment to wonder why I wouldn’t be manly, or why I stuck to feminine mannerisms even though I was the butt of all jokes in college. Of course I knew everybody laughed the moment I turned my back at them. Of course I knew that they all thought I was creepy. Yet, why wouldn’t I change myself? Did I WANT to be made fun of, every instant of my life?
One of the blog authors above says he may never understand why I underwent a sex reassignment. But the question is – Must one understand everything to be able to accept it? The beauty of this world is in its diversity, in the many breathtakingly beautiful colours of possibilities that Life offers. There is no way you can understand everything, but even if you don’t, is there no way you can accept it and respect it as another person’s right to their way of life?
Every human being has a reason to be the way they are… ‘Normal’ is a very subjective term. It varies with each country, culture, society, and even, individual. And the world can be a better place only when we open our arms to everybody around us, irrespective of whether or not they fall along the lines of OUR definitions of ‘normality’.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
It’s a tale from a long time ago…
A tale of a dense scary darkness,
A tale of two misty eyes,
And of two wings, cut lifeless
Whenever the two little eyes
peeped out from the curtain,
Beautiful was the world outside
but the one inside was different
Between the curtain’s folds, they saw
pretty colours splashed everywhere;
The heart made friends with colours
but the eyes had a colourless tear
Through shades and sunshines, moves on
every single person on life’s journey;
But for years, she couldn’t understand
the stillness of her own story
As she tip-toed with the heavy stillness,
it dawned on her day by day
that it was someone else’s reflection
that she saw in the mirror everyday
To live a role every single moment
even with a deep vacuum inside,
So that nobody should read her eyes;
Alas! If only somebody could read her eyes!
And slowly, with each passing day,
she went on to forget her own self;
She remembered just a scream sometimes
that reached nobody beyond herself
She was shivering in the chilling rain,
thick dark clouds choked the sky;
Then, she looked up towards the horizon
and saw a little bird… fly o fly!
She saw the bird and remembered
her own forgotten fragments,
her own couple of little wings,
forever kept at a distance
She’d imprisoned her own self
and made friends with the ropes;
She had wished… but never dared
and killed all her dreams and hopes
If she wants, those misty curtains
can be taken off her eyes,
because it’s her wish and her right
to touch the rainbows in the skies
So what if a long time has gone away?
A long time is yet to come too!
A long time of hard work,
and a long time of joys too!
After passing that long time every moment,
Staying alive, yet dying every moment,
Fearing, laughing and crying every moment,
Yet somehow, daring and trying every moment…
Here, finally, is the right path
Come, hold the hand of the heart
It is not about the long time anymore
It is not about yesterday or tomorrow
It is only about THIS moment now
It is all about EVERY moment now
It is time for brightness in every moment
For cheer and celebration in every moment
It is the moment to shake hands with your SELF
It is the moment for a new introduction to yourself
It is the moment to say… Greetings, dear Life!
बात है बरसों पहले की
घने घिरे अन्धियाले की
धुंदली सी दो आँखों की
कटे हुए से पंखों की
नन्ही सी उन आंखों ने
जब झाँका बाहर परदे से
सुंदर तो वो दुनिया थी
पर अलग थी दुनिया अन्दर की
परदे की सिलवट से देखा
जग भर का रंगीन तमाशा
दिल ने की रंगों से यारी
आँखें पर बेरंग रहीं
धूप छाँव में चलती रहती
कैसे सब की जीवन गाड़ी,
बरसों तक न समझ सकी
क्यूँ उसकी ही दुनिया रुकी रुकी
रुके हुए से चलते चलते
जाना उसने हलके हलके
शीशे में जो परछाई थी
वो तो और किसी की थी
इक किरदार को हर पल जीना
खाली भले हो ख़ुद का सीना
पढ़ न ले कोई आँखें उसकी
पढ़ ले काश… कोई आँखें उसकी
धीरे धीरे भूल गई वो
अपनी ही पहचान कहीं तो
चीख ही बस इक याद रही
जो कभी किसी को नहीं सुनी
गहरे काले बादल की
बारिश में थी वो ठिठुर रही
जब आसमान पे नज़र पड़ी
उडी इक चिडिया उडी उडी!
देख के चिडिया याद हो आया
भूला हुआ वो अपना साया
पंखों की वो अपनी जोड़ी
जिससे रखी हर दम दूरी
बाँधा था ख़ुद को ही उसने
यारी की थी जंजीरों से
आशा की... पर हिम्मत न की
खूनी थी वो ख़ुद की ख़ुद ही
आँखों के वो धुन्दले परदे
चाहे तो वो पीछे कर दे
इन्द्रधनुष को छूने की
इच्छा है उसको और हक भी
बरसों बीत गए तो क्या है
बरसों अब भी बाकी तो हैं
बरसों की मेहनत है बाकी
और बरसों की खुशियाँ भी
बरसों बरसों करते करते
जीते जीते मरते मरते
हँसते रोते डरते डरते
फिर भी जुर्रत करते करते
राह है पकड़ी मंजिल की
थामे बाजू इस दिल की
बात नहीं ये बरसों की
बात नहीं कल परसों की
बात है अब ये इस पल की
बात है अब ये हर पल की
हर पल के उजियालों की
हर दिन के रौनक मेलों की
ख़ुद से हाथ मिलाने की
एक नया परिचय करवाने की
सलाम… सलाम… सलाम, जिंदगी!
Till I was about 4 years old, I used to think that my family – my father, mother, brother and I – were the only people in the world! It’s strange, I know. Chandigarh was never an island. I mean, I did see people in my extended family and around, but somehow, it never truly registered that they were as living and just as much human as we were.
And then, it all changed one day. Our family of four, seated on my father’s scooter (with me on my mother’s lap), was waiting for the light to go green at a crossing. As we waited and I looked around, I started to notice other men, women, and children in the women’s laps, just like me – waiting for the light to go green, just like us. It was at that moment that it struck me, and I said to my mother, “Mummy, do you know that we’re not the only people in the world?” My poor mother was clearly befuddled, then she shook her head in exasperation (“Children!” she must have thought) and said, “Of course we’re not! Who told you we’re the only people in the world?”
Do you know what is one of the scariest feelings ever? That “I am the ONLY ONE in the whole world”! It cannot get any lonelier when amongst all the people around, including your dearest ones, you cannot see even a single person who would be able to or would try to understand you, caress your forehead and tell you – “It’s alright child! You’re not abnormal; you’re just one of the many beautiful possibilities of human evolution.”
From the feeling that I’m the Only One in the Whole World who is like THIS, breeds the feeling of being wrong somewhere, of being guilty of not being able to be like every other child, besides being terribly lonely and helpless because there is just no way to ‘amend’ yourself.
It takes years, sometimes, decades of silent turmoil to realize that perhaps… just may be… I’m not the only one… I’m not wrong… I’m not abnormal.
I fought with myself for 17 years, until the first time I got to access the boon called the internet and know that there were millions others who were like me. Many of them had personally shared their experiences of the whole process of their coming to terms with themselves and finally going ahead with the pursuit of their true identity. The relief I got on reading them can never be expressed in words. They handed me something I had lost a long time ago, a weapon that thereafter, helped me fight not only the formless enemies inside me but also shield my precious self from the jeers of the world. They gave me… HOPE!
It is from all those people, whom I have never seen or met, that I learnt that Hope is the biggest gift you can give to someone, because Hope never comes alone. It comes along with Courage, it comes along with Happiness…
So, even if today, some of the dearest people in my life tell me that I shouldn’t get stuck with ‘transsexuality’ in my public life, that I should move on from it now that I’m post-operative and accepted and acknowledged as a girl… somehow, I tend to go back to the 17-year-old me, reading about somebody’s life on a computer screen in a cyber café and feeling an unbearable weight being lifted from my heart… and yet again, I believe that in this world of silence, every little voice of Hope matters.
I AM a lot of other things besides being a transperson (one of them being a girl), but yes, I am and will always be a transperson too! And perhaps, through this blog, besides being other things, that little voice of Hope too…