There are no listeners for stories like mine. Even so, I feel compelled to let the world know that I’m human and have feelings too; that I hurt, I cry, and should not be the victim of violence or ostracism. This is a tale of my personal agony.
Mother was out on one of her shopping sprees. I knew it would be a while before she got back. I stealthily crept into her room and draped myself in one of her silk saris. The line of cosmetics on her dressing table proved irresistible. I powdered and rouged my face and painted my lips a glowing red.
“Don’t I look beautiful?” I asked myself as I pirouetted in front of the mirror. I was in my teens and so deeply enchanted with my own image that I forgot to keep an eye on the clock.
“What the devil are you up to?” asked Mother back from her soiree. Her face was flushed like a beetroot. I thought she would burst her blood vessels and crumble to the floor. I quickly unwrapped the sari and fled to the bathroom to wash away the grease paint. I came out steeling myself for a tongue lashing, but realized with a shock that she had suffered a stroke. Mother went into a coma and never recovered. The guilt weighed heavily on my mind.
“Forgive me Mother,” I begged at her bedside for days, “I can’t help how I feel.”
I received no absolution, and with Mother gone, I felt hopelessly alone.
I prodded through my studies for the next two years. When I graduated, I joined a Call Centre which paid me well. I was a loner and lived frugally. So I was able to save a major part of my salary. Life was tough as I worked during the night and slept throughout the day.
It was during this stint at the call Centre that I felt the first stirrings of love. He was a colleague, just my age, good looking and full of life. I craved for attention and warmth. One day, I felt a compelling need to touch and to be touched. How I longed for some emotional bonding! I made the first move and gave him a hug. His reaction frightened me out of my wits.
“You bastard!” he screamed, “I’ll kill you.”
He dove for my throat, and I thought his hands would squeeze the breath out of me. By now, others had gathered around us. I was beaten to a pulp, abused in foul language, and booted out of the Centre. I never dared go back again.
My father was never the same after Mother’s death, and the shock robbed him of the zest for living. He grew quieter and absorbed in his own work, and we scarcely exchanged a few words every day. But when he saw me all bashed up, he was worried
“Good Grief! What happened? You’re not the type that gets into a brawl. Should we inform the police?”
“No Dad, it was just an altercation between friends that turned ugly. I’ll be okay in a day or two.”
I didn’t dare to tell him the truth. I had killed one of my parents already. I couldn’t let it happen again.
But Fate had it in for me. A few days later, Dad was knocked down by a speeding car while crossing the road on his way to the Park. Now I was all alone in our large house. Somehow the burden of guilt refused to lift. If Mother hadn’t died Dad would not have been so sad and absent minded. I felt I needed a break. I’d go on a holiday, put my grief behind me and decide on my own future. I travelled toHyderabadwhere no one knew me.
Late one evening, I was seated on a bench in the Lumbini Park, lost in my own dismal thoughts.
“What does the future hold for me?” I wondered, “I see no light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps it’s best that I end my life.”
I was heading for depression and I knew I had to find help before I did something stupid or lost my sanity.
A middle aged woman slipped into the seat beside me. She was well dressed and looked quite attractive. Only the perfume she wore was so strong that it nearly anaesthetized me.
“I charge Rupees 500 for an hour,” she said, “You look in need of some company tonight.”
“Get lost,” I raised my voice, “I’m not interested in the likes of you.”
I sprang up from my seat, ready to flee. But she grabbed my hand and pulled me down.
“Sit down. I’m not going to eat you. Okay, so you can’t afford my services. But there’s no charge for chatting with me. You seem to be in need of company.”
Her kindness loosened my tongue, and I soon found myself pouring out my story. I imagined that God had sent an angel to lift me out of my depression.
“Look at me,” she said, “My meeting with you seems God-ordained. Once long ago, I was in a similar predicament. Got thrown out of my home. But a kind soul took me to a doctor. He was a young man specially trained in sex change operations. He wanted to practice his skills on me.
‘I have no money at all,’ I said, ‘I’m literally on the streets.’
‘I’ll do it for free,’ he promised.
“Now look at me,” she said, “Can you even think of me as anything but a woman?”
This was a real surprise. The shape of her body, the smoothness of her skin, her soft voice – what a perfect transformation!
“Take me to that doctor,” I begged.
“But he won’t do it for free. You’ll have to pay.”
The doctor was kind and empathetic. He understood my dilemma.
“It’s a long drawn out process,” he cautioned, “My job will be to make you look like a woman. But you’ll need sessions with a psychiatrist to make you feel like a woman; A cosmetologist will highlight your features, and a speech therapist will teach you how to modulate your voice. Gender reassignment needs the input of many specialties, not to speak of the exorbitant rates each one will charge.”
“I’m ready,” I said.
My father had left me a rich man, and with the sale of my house, I could afford the whole procedure. I could work from home on my computer, and earn a decent salary. It was a lengthy, lonely and painful process. Stress got to me easily. What if I looked hideous after all that surgery? What if I became a sexless creature – neither man nor woman? But after four long years the results were great. I looked every inch a woman. Hormones and plastic surgery had made me sexually adequate. My voice was soft and sensuous, my skin flawless. I was now physically capable and psychologically ready for love.
Vicky Mankad owned the Lifestyle Boutique. I often went there for my clothes. I noticed how his eyes kept following me every time I went to his shop. He was an attractive man and I felt drawn to him.
“Where do you live?” he asked one day, “Perhaps we could have dinner together tonight if you’re free.”
I certainly was free.
I dressed with care. Black slacks and a maroon top accentuated my figure. With a light red lipstick and a touch of colour on my cheeks, I felt confident of making an impression. It was the beginning of many beautiful evenings together. We were very much in love and I knew he would soon pop the question. He had no suspicion of my gender identity.
His parents approved of me and we were soon to tie the knot. We were at the jeweler’s to buy my ring, when I saw a lady frantically trying to catch my attention. She was the same lady who had befriended me in the park. I pretended not to notice and took Vicky away. I was in panic for the next few days wondering if she’d turn up on my doorstep and tell Vicky my secret. But nothing happened.
Weeks later, as I was walking home, a car stopped beside me. The door opened and I was dragged inside. There were three men in the car, and huddled in the back was that woman.
“I have strongly recommended you to my friends,” she said, “You sure look great.”
I fought and struggled, but they held me prisoner. The woman got out somewhere along the way.
We stopped at a dark and lonely grove. I was viciously raped by the three men who seemed to be enjoying themselves. They left me hollering on the ground in pain, and drove away. I lay there for most of the night. But before dawn, I tried to make myself look decent and patted down my hair and clothes. I had no idea where I was and no money for transport. I felt raw between my legs and had severe chest pain.
“I’m going to die,” I thought, “Why did it have to end this way?”
I lodged a complaint at the nearest police station. I vaguely remembered the car number. But the constable laughed and said that I probably asked for it.
“You better stay here for a while,” he said, and did some phoning around.
An Inspector arrived about an hour later, followed by two of the rapists.
“There she is,” the son of the Inspector said, “She was soliciting on the streets and after we picked her up, she robbed us of our wallets.”
“Yes,” said the other, “I had a thousand rupees in my wallet, and my credit card too.”
I gathered from their conversation that he was a politician’s son.
I was framed for robbery and put in the lock up. All I could do was weep.
The tabloids went to town with the story, and my photograph was plastered on the front page. I never expected Vicky to come to my rescue. He heard my story and believed me. He also got me a good lawyer who saw that the boys were convicted. But I couldn’t look Vicky in the eye again. If only I had been honest with him, perhaps he would have continued to love me. I packed my bags and moved away. I had learnt my lesson. The world has no place for people like me. The compulsions of society constrain me to walk alone.