BENGALURU: Not many at Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station know Laya, a transwoman who has been working as a cleaning staff here for the past five years.
Formerly known as Lokesh Narayan Reddy, the 27-year-old is a B.Com graduate who had a job at one of Bengaluru’s leading IT firms at one point.
Laya was born in a middle-class family in Hyderabad. Her parents are government employees and she has nine siblings. At school, she had more female friends than male.
A few years later, her family moved to Bengaluru. As she grew older, she realised that she was a woman. Her parents and brother punished her as they were unable to deal with her identity.
Refusing to be dragged down, Laya completed her PU from Basaveshwara PU College and joined Basaveshwara College of Commerce, Arts & Science for her degree.
Laya moved out soon and hasn’t visited her family since then. She wasn’t even invited to the weddings of her siblings. “I felt dejected for a long time. But they don’t matter to me anymore,” she says.
“Apart from a couple of friends who accepted me the way I was, everyone else — even my teachers — made fun of me. Some lecturers even made passes at me,” she recalls.
“Once, during an exam, members of the checking squad humiliated me and said if they allow someone like me in the hall, everyone else would get spoiled because of me,” Laya says.
After graduation, she worked in multiple companies, never sticking to one place for long. Every time, she was forced to quit because of the homophobic attitude of her colleagues.
“When I was working with an IT firm, two of my colleagues approached me for sex. I was shocked,” recollects Laya, who was also mocked for wearing jeans and kurti to work.
Eventually, it became difficult for her to get a job as employers were not keen on hiring a transperson. She gave up on that dream and found people who accepted her identity.
Though initially, she went along with them to beg for money, she couldn’t do it for long as her desire to be independent was overwhelming.
One of her friends put her in touch with a contractor at the City Railway Station who hired Laya as a cleaner.
Laya claims to be well-versed in C+, C++, Tally and CorelDraw. She now lives by herself in Whitefield and is content with her job.
She cleans three trains a day and gets paid `4,000 a month for every train. The income is enough for her to pay her bills and live a comfortable life.
Laya says, “The society has given us two career options: sex work and begging. We cannot have a normal life like anyone else.”
“People like me have come a long way. We are not even accepted by our own families. We are human beings too and we deserve to be treated with respect,“ she signs off.