We often live in worlds that are completely sealed off from others in the same city. Most of my friends are not aware of how other people, such as gays or eunuchs, live, and do not want to know, either. Their reaction to seeing such people is only disgust and fear.
Of late, I too have been noticing quite a considerable increase in the number of eunuchs at city traffic junctions, and, indeed, walking along various shopping areas. They are very much in-your-face in their approach, and take full advantage of people’s aversion to them to demand money,rather than beg for it. This, in turn, only serves to increase the disgust of people, and it’s turning into a vicious cycle.
When I struck up conversation with one “hijda”, she (because she was dressed as a woman) was initially very rude, but since we were both having “mini tea” at a small shop, she must have felt that I was not disgusted or asking questions out of prurient curiosity, so she finally did answer some of my questions. She said that all “normal” people hold them in great scorn and aversion, and they find it difficult to get any kind of paid, “respectable” jobs. “You people say it’s hard to find jobs!” she laughed brassily, “Can you imagine what it’s like for us?” She said that their society, too had organized mafia, and they had to pay up. “So we use this technique to get some money for ourselves,” she defended herself. “We are not beggars.” But, I questioned, was demanding money in shops and on the street, not begging? “No!” she said defiantly, “I don’t know any other way to make a living. I am always in debt.” When I asked her if, indeed, she could not find any other job, she winked at me suggestively, “Yes, I do the oldest job in the world, too!”
By this time, we were surrounded by a crowd of people very busily pretending NOT to be listening avidly to our conversation. She abruptly felt the attention, I think…without a further word, she turned her back on me and clapped her hands in the distinctive way of hijdas, and started asking for money. The crowd quickly melted. She had not even told me her name….and she absolutely refused to let me photograph her.
I do notice an increase in the number of the members of the third sex at all traffic intersections and shopping areas in Bangalore; and was unable to ask her why. Is there some political leeway being given to this community, to beg? Are there more factors behind the suddenly increased visiblity of the eunuchs of Bangalore? Between the sadness of being a “different” person, and the brazenness of demanding money in public…what is the reality of this shadow community of our city?