NEW DELHI: A 22-year-old Sandhya lost all hope of living a life that she sees around her. A regular life like that of her parents who go to work. She dreamt of a safe environment where she can go to school without being bullied by the people in the streets, school and her relatives. When Sandhya was born, her relatives in Nalanda distanced themselves with her parents saying that their name in the community would be disgraced as she was a transgender.
“My relatives told my parents that they should kill me or leave me all alone but my parents chose me over them,” said Sandhya. However, life had beautiful things to offer. She is currently working at an Amazon warehouse in Palam. Her father, a daily wage worker started working hard to save some money for Sandhya’s education. However, to add to her woes, children in her school and people in the area where she lives started bullying her.
The boys would call her “chakka’’ and beat her up. She often faced sexual harrasment as well. “When I grew up and entered my teens, I realised I am a transgender and I started spending most of my time at home with my mother. When she went to work, I cleaned the house and cooked,” she said. Being a transgender had become a hurdle for Sandhya’s dream of living a normal life as her self-confidence jolted down to negative.
To add to her misery, her father passed away when she was in Class 11th. “When we went back to our home in Nalanda, my father’s brothers locked me up in a room and did not allow me to step out.” With the help of her mother’s employers, she got a job in a grease-making factory but the owners asked her to leave after a few days.“They thought I would be a hassle and kicked me out,” said Sandhya.
For many days, she also worked as a rag picker. The decision came out of extreme desperation as they did not have money to even buy food items. She then started working along with her mother as a domestic helper where she met Sarita Shukla, the Project Manager at Pahal- Nurturing Lives, an NGO working for transgender community in East Delhi.
“I was working on projects where we can create employment opportunities for transgenders and my idea was to bring them into the mainstream,” said Sarita. While she got support from international companies such as Amazon and government entities, not many Indian companies came forward for her pitch. “I raised my pitch to Amazon and discussed the idea of bringing transgenders into the mainstream. Then I started short listing transgenders who were willing to work,” she added.
However, things didn’t go as smooth as Sarita faced a strong refusal from transgenders who were not confident enough to claim the space. The 24-year-old Kajal took Sarita’s help to secure a job at Noida Metro Rail Corporation. Kajal was working as a dancer and was shunned by her family after she decided to express her sexuality. She said that her family stopped her from entering the house and she started living along with transgenders who were into sex work.
Later I also started the job of sex work as I needed money but it was a tough road. I often faced harassment by police officials. Sometimes men used to get intimate but not pay,” said Kajal. Sarita said that many people feared coming forward. The gurus under whom the transgenders work, they did not allow them to leave and the stigma attached to living among the other genders was strong enough to jolt the confidence. “Despite their intelligence and ability to understand things, they do not get a chance,” said Sarita.