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22 Sep
2017
It Takes One To Know One.
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A Story From The Forgotten Underbelly Of Kolkata – Sonargachi.

In my pursuit to find stories which could broaden my horizons, I’ve met a lot of people with other-worldly lives.

I believe these stories have shaped my world and made me into the person I am today.

I met Rachana Di* when I was in my 12th. A weird meeting, I would jump at the chance to talk to someone who identified as a transgender.

Since I was young, I’ve heard so many stories from so many sources. I’ve seen them on the streets, clapping their hands rather weirdly, and asking for money in return for their blessings.

They seemed scary or maybe it was my conditioning that made me feel this way.

The car wasn’t available that day and I was to take the public metro to make my way home. On the way, you had to pass by this shady looking pavement where you could see scantily clad women smoke joints and pass comments at fellow travellers.

“Ki re chokra, chai naki?”, Rachana Di would ask me.

(Do you want some?)

Rachana Di was the first person to make me realize that I had things much better than I perceived them to be.

My initial reaction was shock and disbelief.

All these years, all the conditioning, all those stories I’ve heard, all the times I was warned, would suddenly come rushing back to me.

Once the initial shock would fade away, I would somehow muster, “Na, thank you Didi. Cha khabe?”

(No, thank you Didi. Do you want to get some tea?)

She says, “Khawabi?”

(Are you buying?)

People look at us and they are afraid. Some spit on us. Some hit us. Just because we were born different. You know, I was in love once.

We make our way to a roadside tea-shop and I order two cups of tea and a couple of Flake Liberty’s.

The next thirty minutes, were, to this day one of the most profound conversations I’ve had till date.

I don’t think she was used to such kindness because by the time we were done she would tell me about her entire life.

Rachana Di was born in Kolkata. When she was 12 her parents would disown her and she would wander around the streets aimlessly, begging, and somehow managing a day’s meal.

Years would pass and somehow she would make her way here. Since then, she had to see it all.

Once I got over my initial awkwardness, I went ahead and asked her, “The people who do it with you, are they men or women?”

She says, “They are all men. Truck drivers, lowlifes, married husbands, and many more.”

I didn’t want her to stop, but, for some reason, I did not push on.

That’s when she broke down.

“People look at us and they are afraid. Some spit on us. Some hit us. Just because we were born different. You know, I was in love once.

He was married. He made me believe in this world again. He made me laugh and cry. He made me give myself over completely.

He didn’t want his wife to know. When you come out, society shuns you. I told him to choose between me and her and that spineless man chose her.

I believed in all his lies. I believed him when he told me he was okay with moving away to a different city together. I shouldn’t have.”

No one smokes with us. They think we are untouchable. Thank you.

Her eyes would sparkle just a little, right then, before she continued, “But, it’s okay. This is where I belong. This is my destiny.”

My 18-year-old self didn’t know what to tell her. I wanted to comfort her.

I wanted to tell her things would someday be okay, but I didn’t because I knew I would be outright lying.

I bought another Flake with the last of the spare money I had. This time, we shared the smoke.

We sat in silence for a while until the smoke got over. Neither said anything.

Once we got past the awkward goodbye, she parted with, “No one smokes with us. They think we are untouchable. Thank you.”

“Bhalo thakis.”

Rachana Di was the first person to make me realize that I had things much better than I perceived them to be.

*Name Changed.

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About the Author

Total Articles : 11
Aitijya Sarkar

Mirror Mirror on the Wall. Who is the loneliest of them all?

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