The afternoon was rather unremarkable. Dry. It was only to be made worse with a trip to the loud and congested vegetable market. I was already on edge about walking through the lanes because of my unexplained and uncontrollable phobia of fish (dead or alive). There was a fish stall I had to pass by, which I knew would be open this time of the day, and I was terrified I would find some remnant of a fin or head somewhere on the ground, guaranteeing an urge to ungracefully bring forth the contents of my previous meal. I just hated fish; and never missed cursing evolution for this monstrosity. Those eyes, that gaping mouth, and the crazy silvery scales! How could anything be this horrifying!
I gulped and forayed into the lane leading to the market, fear coursing through me. I kept my eyes as straight as I could, lest I accidentally looked at the dead beasts. “Pretend they don’t exist. Look ahead”, I told myself.
Focussed as I was on keeping my mind away from the dead fish, I caught a glimpse of a hijra standing ahead of me. Given that I find myself to be a misfit almost everywhere I go, my heart always goes out to anyone who might be living on the fringes of our society. I never felt pity, only a faint sense of brotherhood. What was remarkable about her was that though it was the middle of an unremarkable day in the middle of a most unremarkable place, she had found a reason to adorn herself with flowers and apply the most elaborate makeup. Her face was aglow with a turmeric hue, her dark eyes drawn out elaborately with kajal and her lips finished off with a deep red lipstick. All this to just go about a rather mundane task in a vegetable market. This silent gilded visage was both a hushed and loud celebration of who she was; a private ceremony held in public view for none other than herself.
And why was she celebrating who she was?
I wondered at the journey that must have led her to this point. Fraught with heartache, I’m sure. Perhaps, a choice between the love of others and her love of herself? Would (do?) I have had the courage to make the same triumphant choice as her?
Due to a mere careless stroke of fate, her life had to be defined by the battle to just simply be able to state who she was. What lay underneath that pain? Have we misplaced a singer, poet, teacher, mathematician or physicist?
The signature hand-clap we associate with eunuchs suddenly signified something more to me. It’s a symbol of defiance: if you don’t accept me. I accept me”. Their battle with themselves is over. Who cares about the world after that?
I left the market, silent and suspended in the moment, gazing absently at the red traffic light. Another hijra walked to a motorist. I noticed he kept his eyes as straight as he could, lest he accidentally looked at her. I was familiar with what he was doing. I could almost hear his thoughts, “Pretend they don’t exist. Look ahead.”
Fear finished his tango with an exultant flourish.
The dream of every writer is to be read. And to be read and appreciated by as many people as possible. BWW makes that dream a reality.
BWW Star is a writer who has worked with us at BWW and whose work amused, moved, inspired, and/or made a difference in our lives. We are sure you will enjoy and be encouraging too.
BWW is proud to present our Star – Pallavi Yadalam. Pallavi participated in our City Writes workshop in October, 2011
Pallavi in her own words
I’m probably best described as someone with “an infinite appetite for distraction”(borrowed lines but so perfect). My mother thinks I have left-over tendencies from a previous life as a squirrel. And I couldn’t agree more.
My memory has a very random and seemingly uncontrollable M.O. I will remember some strange line someone said or shoes someone might have worn 3 years back, but have no recollection of what I did the day before.
My interests form a spectrum of spirituality, shoes, the world economy, photography, trivia, music, food, and unsuccessful attempts at learning to swim.
Make me laugh and I am your BFF.
I have one motto which is the anchor to my chaos – Don’t be evil.
Encourage our BWW Star
Liked what you read?
Life as a eunuch or hijra as they are called in India, is not easy. In this narrative Pallavi states it as she sees it. Seeing hijras beg at traffic signals is a common sight in Bangalore. How do you feel about misfits in society? Is Pallavi correct? Have we really misplaced a singer, poet, teacher, mathematician or physicist by not accepting their identities? Encourage Pallavi. Leave a comment. 🙂