The distance to the real you
Police officer Ratheesh Babu’s latest novel ‘Dwanthwam Eakam Sarvam’ is about a transwoman’s life and journey
KOCHI: It was a normal day in Pune. And Ratheesh Babu, an officer at Special Armed Forces in Thiruvananthapuram, who was in the city for work, was taking an evening stroll. That’s when he saw a sight that shook him and inspired him to write his second novel, Dwanthwam Eakam Sarvam.
“It was 2018 and I was walking through the streets of Budhwar Peth. Many sex workers, both women and transgender people, were standing on the side. Though I have heard of sex workers, the sight stunned me as some men were bargaining for the prices with them,” he recalls.“That scene and the men’s behaviour shook my conscience,” says the 39-year-old author.
Dwanthwam Eakam Sarvam revolves around the lead character Kannan who later realises his real identity as a transwoman. The story takes the readers through Kannan’s journey and transitioning to his real self, Aparna. Ratheesh has divided the book into three parts — Piravi, Parinamam and Poornam — to describe Kannan’s transition from ‘he’ to ‘she‘.
“I have been brainstorming for the novel for the past few years. The book is not about sympathy towards the community but a way of understanding their helplessness that forces them into sex work and begging for survival,” he says.
Ratheesh has introduced an interesting character from Kerala lore into the novel. “The mythical character Amma Pootham from Poothappattu, who longs for motherhood, is in a way the basis for my novel. Some transwomen also long for motherhood, ” adds Ratheesh who was in service for 12 years at SAP camp, Peroorkkada.
Ratheesh who is an ardent reader has been active in the literary scene in Kerala through his short stories in Malayalam magazines and more. And being a cop has helped him experience the dark sides of society and the plight of marginalised minority people. He says the profession made him realise the real plight of the transgender community who are discriminated against and exploited in society still.
“Six years ago I was also just a common man who never cared nor liked this community. But the incident in Pune made me change my perspective and correct my ways. I have never seen the real plights and life stories of transgender people in our Malayalam films. So if my book can create awareness and accept their identity and treat them as humans then it’s my win as a writer,” he says.
Ask him about the challenge to pen the subject as a cop he says, “Profession was not a barrier. But for me, I was afraid of how receptive the readers in Kerala will be on a subject like this.”According to him, the novel was also written based on real-life incidents and case studies he came across.
As an author, Ratheesh says he wishes to pen novels and stories related to such socially relevant subjects to reach his readers. “I write on subjects that haunt me. From my research for the book on the transgender community, I understood that they are accepted more in Kerala compared to other states. The lack of education of the common man is not the reason for discriminating against them, but it is the lack of empathy and inclusiveness,” Ratheesh signs off.