MADURAI: Each clap by Sri Veena Yazhini while performing her ‘kummi padal’ — Tamil Nadu’s folk style singing that involves rhythmic clapping — means the world to her. It means freedom, inclusion and love from her family and much more.
At the ‘Thirunagaiyar Padipulagam’, transpersons community’s world of/for learning, held in Madurai, her claps sing the notes of the struggle she faced against caste, bigotry and sexism. Her ‘oppari’ (songs of grief) are of the dead past that doesn’t taint her today. She, who works as an insurance manager at Government Head Quarters Hospital in Coimbatore, trains the next generation in folklore and baking, at a kitchen exclusive for the trans community, with a helping hand from the CSI Bishop Appasamy College of Arts and Science in Coimbatore.
This is the first year of ‘Thirunagaiyar Padipulagam’, an event that aims to showcase the proud talents of 100 transwomen. This is an event that writer, filmmaker and activist Priya Babu —the mother of the Transgenders Resource Centre — hopes to continue for the developing community.
The resource centre, keeping up with the times, also runs a YouTube channel called ‘Trans News’ and Priya Babu is also the chief of the ‘Trans publications’ that publish books written by the trans community. The centre, the six-year-old brain child of Priya, screened over 300 short films, published 180 books and several articles on print media to uproot the misconception against the community and sow the seeds of hope. It gives hope for children who do not understand the physical changes they undergo and flee homes as they are unable to cope with pressure; hope to express themselves without prejudiced eyes staring them down.
The picture artist and orator Kalki Subramaniam, who is attached to the centre, wants the world to see their world and the one of the 500 transpersons across TN, Kerala, Puducherry and Mumbai trained by Kalki. Colours are often used by many to distinguish: blue for boys and pink for girls.
In her hands, the shades indicate equality. To Kalki, hues are for harmony, respect, and the right to live. Kalki’s art speaks of pride that defeats prejudice against transpersons and non-binary people. “It is the celebration of the trans community, the celebration of our identity, our uniqueness. I believe all transpersons have a story” Kalki says.
In Hindu mythology, Kalki is believed to be a war-lord avatar of Vishnu who is yet to descend to save the world from itself. Kalki, who says that bigotry is a bother, is trying to cast away the shade thrown by humanity on its own kind. “I try to prove all those things through my art,” Kalki beams.
Kalki’s message received international recognition as her paintings were displayed at the University of South Florida recently along with the artworks of four others from the community, and a transman. Kalki believes that transpersons must be given a space to showcase their artwork and earn a living.
As for Sri Veena Yazhini, she runs her own troop that performs across the State. “I support the initiative that transpersons must be brought out of misery of begging and prostitution,” she says. One day, all will clap along to the tunes of justice, and love, she hopes.