Mangalore: Transgenders in city yearn for identity

By Sudeep Shenoy

Mangalore, Apr 24: Just a small stroll on the busy streets of Hampankatta or the Central Railway station and you’re sure to encounter a special group of people begging for alms. Calling them beggars would be an added insult to their dignity, which has already been torn apart to shreds by the stigma prevalent in society. These are the transgenders, sometimes referred to as Hijras. According to the law of the land, all men and women are equal. Due to this very definition, the transgenders are stuck at a point where they are not able to reap the benefits of either one of these structures.

On one such visit to the railway station, I happened to encounter a transgender. The way she came menacingly towards me did manage to instill a sense of fear in me. But then, I gathered all my courage and decided to have a peek into their lives. Rashmi (as she introduced herself later) seemed reluctant to answer my questions and insisted that I give her some cash first. I had no choice but to oblige. After that she seemed more forthcoming to answer my questions. She called me aside to a spot where we could sit and chat, and also signaled to two of her other friends (transgenders as well) to join her.

In the meantime, I continued to get weird stares from people around us. Seeing a normal person converse for more than a few seconds with a transgender was something out of the ordinary for them. They saw me as a person who must have lost his sanity. Yet the sly smile on others faces was evident enough to make me guess that they thought I was desperately in need of physical satisfaction. This mentality among people, I realized during my conversation with these transgenders, is making their life miserable.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

Me: Where have you come from?

Rashmi: Well I have come from Sirsi in Uttara Kannada district, and Sushma is from Bijapur whereas Prameela is from Hassan.

Me: How did you people reach here? And why Mangalore?

Rashmi: We had heard about this place from many people, and that it is a developing city, so we thought we had better prospects here. I reached here travelling by train.

Me: How do you earn your living?

Rashmi: We go around places begging for alms from people. We are fortunate enough that we earn sufficiently for survival in Mangalore. But sadly that’s not the case in all cities, and especially with regard to big cities and metros, where people of our kind have to resort to prostitution in order to survive.

Me: Do you think the Government schemes are benefitting you?

Rashmi: (looks towards Sushma and Prameela. All look confused) What scheme? We do not know of any scheme. In fact, we are totally neglected by the Government, whichever party is ruling. We do not have a ration card or voters id. Amidst everybody, we are nobody!

Me: How many of you are around here in Mangalore?

Rashmi: Well it’s hard to say. We don’t have any proper count. But for sure, there are more than 50 of us.

Me: Have you faced any problems by the people?

Rashmi: Loads of times. Wherever we go, we are shunned by the people. Also, many make fun of us and tease us. Some of them even try to sexually harass us. But there is no hope for us, because the cops don’t really entertain our complaints. In fact, many a times, we face problems from these cops themselves, who shoo us away from everywhere. In this regard, dogs are better. At least they manage to find shelter somewhere. But we are homeless. We find it extremely difficult, especially during the rainy season, where our makeshift shelters do not sustain.

Me: But what about the railway station? Don’t you manage to find some shelter around this area itself?

Rashmi: Not really. We are sent away from here as well.

Me: How do you perceive the future? Do you foresee any change?

Rashmi: The past has been extremely dark for us, the present is a bit better, so we are hopeful of a better future. But, we do not depend on anybody for any change. It’s only the people’s mentality that needs to change.

Me: What do you think are the reforms needed in society?

Rashmi: Like I already said, it’s the people’s mentality that needs to change. Once the people begin to feel that even we are human beings like them, everything will be fine. Also, I only wish the Government provided us with employment… Even if it is some sweeping work, we are ready to do it. (Sushma and Prameela nod their head in agreement)

With this, I ended my conversation with Rashmi, but not before her blessing me and wishing me luck for my future endeavors. This is when I realized that despite the horrifying looks, the transgenders are polite and soft-natured, and that it is the society which drives them to be what they have become. For any positive change to happen in the lives of these transgenders, it is imperative that the outlook of the society changes.

Image for display purpose only.


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Comment on this article

  • Sharal D'Cunha, Bendore

    Thu, Apr 25 2013

    Really touching article. Hope someone is able to do something for these people. Keep up the good work Daiji. Looking forward to more such articles.

    DisAgree Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Lydia D'cunha, mangalore,India

    Thu, Apr 25 2013

    Appreciate Mr. Sudheep Shenoy's concern to the neglected lot of Transgenders. Most of us pass a sarcastic look at them as if they are not human beings. We see their physical structure, and pass a lot of comments and should statements. Recently i had an opportunity to talk to a group of them, and for the first time understood the trauma they undergo mentally, from their own people. For us outwardly they have male's physical structure but they say they have female feelings, Some parents accept such children and support them but when they are not accepted, they have no other alternative than to move and live with a group who accept them. Some of them are find employemnt in few NGO's atleast few of them are able to lead dignified life, work for the group. They request us to support them and accept them in the society.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [11] Reply Report Abuse

  • G Z T Kunte, Udupi

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    Why they dress like women and behave like women. Instead, let them dress like Man and behave like Man and hide their feminine features because they are basically born as Male with just sexual disorder. There are hundreds of such people in our midst but we can not recognize them because they dress & behave in a normal way and work like men according to their skill and educational qualifications. They don't have to openly exhibit that they are differently-gendered. There are so many differently-abled (physically handicapped) persons in our society, but they don't go on begging by exhibiting their handicap, but they earn their own livelihood with fierce self-respect. Similarly why cant these gender-challenged also live with dignity instead of wearing saree and begging. If employers cant recognize that they are different then they will easily get jobs according to their ability. Actually just 5% of the transgenders resort to begging by wearing saree and rest 95% lead a normal life except for marriage without allowing any one to know that they are different.

    DisAgree [10] Agree [16] Reply Report Abuse


    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    In Mumbai, I have seen trangenders going to newly built houses on house warming day for begging.

    They demand substantial amount, and if one does not give, they will curse and write some thing on the wall.

    It is better to employ them in home industries like agarbathi and papad manufacturing.

    They can also be employed as domestic servants.

    But, a proper registration should be done and identity cards be issued to them by the Govt.

    DisAgree Agree [23] Reply Report Abuse

  • John Tauro, M'lore / Kwt

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    At least now people should realize that these transgenders or hijras are also human beings and deserve to be treated equally. It is a sexual disorder like any other physical ailment. It is not a curse for the .Accordingly, the law of the land "all men and women are equal" needs to be rephrased as "all human beings are equal."

    DisAgree [1] Agree [32] Reply Report Abuse

  • Vipul, Mangalore

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    I doubt if Ashok Ravkavi is transgender. I have not read is book, but I think he is a very courageous gay person. There is a difference between transgenders and gay persons. It will be years before they will be accepted by our society.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • G Z T Kunte, Udupi

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    Yes Vipul Mangalore, you are correct, Ashok Rawkavi is a GAY and not a Transgender. But his one book has also touched the problems faced by transgenders too.

    DisAgree Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • shanthi Dsouza, Puttur/Bangalore

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    Really a sad story of these people, Govt has to take care of this people .....They should get some jobs to prove themselves.

    DisAgree Agree [18] Reply Report Abuse

  • Aloka Nath, Bengaluru

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    These people are discarded by the parents first to avoid embarasment. When the family rejects them who else will entertain them. The society has to be accommodative. Only in countries like India they are downgraded and rejected. In western soceity their case is identified early, correction by medical treatment tried and never discarded from soceity.

    DisAgree Agree [32] Reply Report Abuse

  • jayashree, mangalore

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    Govt has to provide job opportunities to prove themselves in the society and treat them as human beings

    DisAgree [2] Agree [31] Reply Report Abuse

  • G Z T Kunte, Udupi

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    There are so many transgenders who work like any other normal persons and fend for themselves instead of begging. Except married life, they can lead normal life like any other person by taking up any job. Such people should read the Books written by Ashok Rowkavi in Marathi who is a transgender himself and he has his own publishing House in Mumbai. Another transgender has a big Ashram near Bangalore who is highly educated and gives speeches of spiritualism in beautiful English and Charges Rs.10,000/- for a Yoga Course including Art of Living and the IT-BT employees flock to him to learn yoga during weekend .

    DisAgree Agree [15] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ajith, mangalore

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    What jobs could we give them in mangalore? Jobs like: security guards, Air hostess or ground staff at airport, baggage handlers, cooking food at railway canteen, restaurant chefs, sales people at retail outlets etc.

    Question is will we let them work at such establishments because of social stigma?

    DisAgree [3] Agree [12] Reply Report Abuse

  • devi, mangalore

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    The Government must certainely include them when making laws,be it ration,insurance,education,medical facilities etc.Jobs must be alloted to them.Change is the need of the hour in the mindset of people.They are very much human with changes,which is of no fault of theirs.Hope someone will work towards this.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [18] Reply Report Abuse

  • Richard Tellis, Dubai

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    People's mentality towards them should definetely change and the Government also has to bring in reforms to benefit them. After all they are human beings and need a fair treatment, at the moment they are treated worse than animals...

    Good work Sudeep in highlighting this sensitive issue.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [18] Reply Report Abuse

  • Kiran Shenoy, Madikeri

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    Gud one Sudeep Shenoy :) :) :)

    DisAgree Agree [22] Reply Report Abuse

  • C Sharath, Mangalore

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    I guess they can make a decent living of themselves by being part of the labour force in the booming concrete jungle of Mangalore instead of Begging. Am sure there is labour shortage for every industry in Mangalore, & nowads I have seen many such people working along with other people especially in the building construction site.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [32] Reply Report Abuse

  • Muhammed Sadik , Thumbe

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    Amazing work Sudeep Shenoy! god bless you. Proud that we have Indians like you.

    DisAgree Agree [40] Reply Report Abuse

  • Vasant Raj, Mangalore / Abudhabi

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    Better to control them now itself, otherwise, if they start for begging, its really a big headache for Mangalore. Government should come front to help them by giving proper job opportunity.

    DisAgree Agree [27] Reply Report Abuse

  • Deepak, Paladka

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    Really a sad story of these people. Government has to take some initiative to protect them and provide them with some decent living.Thank you Daijiworld for bringing up this very sensitive issue.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [19] Reply Report Abuse

  • Allen, Mangalore

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    It's really a good eye opener article. Hope this will at least change our views towards this downtrodden section of people.

    DisAgree Agree [28] Reply Report Abuse

  • PRP, mangalore

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    it’s the people’s mentality that needs to change.- right and 200% right. god save these people

    DisAgree [2] Agree [28] Reply Report Abuse

  • Mitwa, Sharjah

    Wed, Apr 24 2013

    Mr. Sudeep, Good job.

    People in Society have forgotton the basic oncept of life ie., LIVE and LET LIVE.

    It is sad that all the Govts have failed to take care of them

    DisAgree [2] Agree [29] Reply Report Abuse

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