Business Standard

Trans heroes play good samaritan to homeless and hungry in


Press Trust of India Kolkata/Bengaluru
They are largely shunned by society, ridiculed, stigmatized and forced to live a cloistered existence.
But for happy occasions like childbirth or a wedding, they are rarely welcome anywhere, and face the taunt and derision with characteristic nonchalance and, of course, respond with their typical sneering clap.
Society may have distanced itself from them in happier times but these bunch of eunuchs or transgenders, smelling of cheap lipstick and talcum powder, are playing good samaritans to the homeless and the hungry in the City of Joy as the coronavirus rampages through the world.
Shankari, a member of the community, was seen with others distributing rice, potatoes, dal and other food material to rickshawpullers, maid servants and daily wagers who have lost their jobs, at Garia.
"We have saved money for future like everybody else. But the plight of daily wagers in our locality has become unbearable for us. We canot sit idle. We will take care of them even if it means skipping a meal at night," said Shankari.
All in her team wear masks and exercise social distancing.
"We have distributed 1,000 kg of rice, 400 kg potatoes, 40 kg dal among the poor so far in our locality. We will continue to do so," said Shankari as those standing in a queue to receive the things looked at her, weary-eyed but with a faint smile laden with gratitude.
Thousands of kilometres away in Bengaluru, the transgender community is in distress.
Many of their folks, down with diseases caused by AIDS, contracted from clients for whom they are mere objects of carnal pleasure, find it difficult to meet their basic needs.
With streets empty and markets closed, many of them who depend on beggary for survival, are going without food.
"We are finding it difficult to get even one square meal. Nobody is coming forward to help us," a transgender said.
While pointing out that the government was helping labourers and other needy people, another transgender said, "What wrong have we done? The situation is such that we cannot go out and ask for money or least provide us with food."

Some organisations like Ondede that works for transgender rights are working with well-wishers of the community to deliver groceries to their doorsteps.
Speaking to PTI, Akkai Padmashali, who leads Ondede, demanded a package for the community along with other vulnerable sections from the government so they don't starve and their medical requirements are met.
"I'm disappointed with the federal and the state government's response towards the community...We are the ones affected directly, our daily life is on the streets where we beg and get paid for sex.....our daily life is affected like any daily wager. There is no food, no money for rent, there are HIV positive people unable to buy medicines," she said.
Kolkatas Shankari is also worried, but has not hope.
Corona is a deadly virus. We have to bear with the hardships the lockdown has brought with it so we live and entertain people in future when things get better. For now, we are sharing with people whatever we have. We cannot live in isolation, she said.
She said over one lakh transgenders in different parts of state were facing hardships but we have to be strong and reach out to the poor."

Chhabirani, a transgender in Kamarhati area of North 24 Parganas, is busy distributing biscuit packets and home- cooked khichdi with two others at a naya basti slum.
"We are called hijra, we are butt of ridicule and jokes among many of you. But see, we are also humans, who are moved by the plight of all fellow humans. We cannot sit idle at home. We are here to help these people who are starving," Chhabirani, her voice betraying the stigma they faceand her visage the will to serve.
Asha, another member of the transgender community living in Entally said they will have to seek government help if the lockdown gets extended beyond April 14.
She gets angry when asked how much a eunuch may earn from motorists every day at traffic signals seeking alms. "No real hijra will beg for alms in public places. They are fakes, who bring disgrace to our community."

"We only sing and dance at festivals and during celebrations. We get out dues from people who are happy with our performances, her tone oozing with dignity and unmistakable strength of character.
These unsung heroes in the fight against the coronavirus that has brought the world to its knees didnt get a clap of appreciation on March 22 during the Janta curfew declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi but that is rightfully theirs, too.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

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First Published: Mar 30 2020 | 8:06 PM IST

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