CHENNAI: Had the cultural elite of the city supported Lakshya after her transitional phase, the 41-year-old transgender, a Kalakshetra product, would have been a pioneer of sorts, the first transgender Bharatnatyam tutor in the history of the 80-year-old institution. Her story would have proved to be an inspiration to the ever-harassed transgender community. However, she is an addition to the ever-increasing list of ‘If only’ stories.
On Tuesday, Lakshya was at the job fair held for members of the transgender community organised by the city police at Asoka Hotel in Egmore. Around 250 of them attended the event with a hope of landing a decent job where they would not be harassed or abused. “I was told that the police would help us get jobs according to our area of expertise.” Lakshya told Express. In the job preference section, she filled up the column with classical dance tutor, citing her Kalakshetra credentials.
Life has come a full circle for Lakshya since her complete metamorphosis into a woman in 2008. Today, her mother and her sisters from the transgender community are her only solace. She takes dance classes for children at an apartment complex in Nandambakkam and for students at IIT-Madras. “They (the students) don’t know about my identity. That tension (about people knowing)is always there,” Lakshya says after convincing herself of the need to finally share her story. A native of Kerala, Lakshya moved to the city in 1992 to join Kalakshetra to pursue a diploma in Bharatanatyam. Lakshya was Ramesh then.
After another diploma and two years as a guest artist, Lakshya applied for the post of Bharatanatyam tutor when the vacancy arose.
Renowned artist and Padma awardee Dr Padma Subrahmanyam was the interviewer. The job came by without much struggle for Lakshya, who was also trained in Kuchipudi. Life was set, but the unexplainable struggles inside her wouldn’t let her be. “People were assuming that I am a man. But I could not continue to live fooling myself.”
In 2005, Lakshya resigned. “I knew that Kalakshetra wouldn’t accept me if I told them about my identity crisis. So, I tendered my resignation to the then director Leela Samson,” she said.
After a series of treatments – hormonal and psychological – and a few surgeries over a period of three years, Ramesh became Lakshya officially. However, the first salvo of hostility was fired from her own family. Her brothers ostracised her. But her mother was supporting her. In 2010, Lakshya applied for a post again at her alma mater. Internal politics, which brewed at the institution, ensured that Lakshya did not get a job inspite of assuring words from Ms Leela Samson.
The next time she applied, she was told that she had crossed the age limit. “It only confirmed my fears. Kalakshetra wouldn’t accept a person like me. An opportunity to be hired as a contract tutor didn’t materialise. I even offered to work for free. But, I was sent off with diplomacy typical of the elite class,” she said, adding, “one thing I am sure about. Art doesn’t discriminate people on gender basis.” Lakshya’s only dream now is to get her Kalakshetra job back and start her own dance school. “That would make my mother happy.”