By Priyanka Dey
Edited by Madhavi Roy, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
On a routine morning bus ride to work, I was ‘updating’ my brain to the current affairs of the world. This is when I read an article describing the power of a few Eunuchs who had stopped a big communal fight. The news item was covered by a leading newspaper and unfolded the enigmatic power of a community which has always been alienated from social structure because of superstition. In Hindu beliefs, they are the cursed children, who are suffering and being punished for their past misdeeds. To believe this logic, we will also have to accept the theory of reincarnation which is scientifically invalid. Eunuchs or Transgenders are biologically exceptional cases which occur by chance.
Their existence has not been valued for the past many centuries, yet they have never fallen back from their drive for a societal change in attitudes and perceptions. In education, employment related or various other types of forms, the gender options are still restricted to- male, female and others (or not disclosed), thus eliminating the existence of the transgender community. Over a period of time, especially from the mid twentieth century, this community has formed groups and tried to create a favorable living space for themselves. The dichotomy of existence can be devastating for any human being but the inability to accept someone’s existence is shameful. We have failed in being open minded, to create space for something unusual to be accepted, something which is not adhering to the traditional orthodox regime. As humans, we are programmed since our birth about the ‘black and white’ analysis. In our judgment, everything is either black or white, yes or no, right or wrong. But we have forgotten the best form of creativity, shown by God, in the creation of the human anatomy: the brain has gray matters, which a mixture of black and white. Structurally speaking, the societal concept of gender refers male or female, and to us, a combination of male and female is unacceptable. This comes from a lack of knowledge about how we should react to these people.
Eunuchs not only lack social space, but they are deprived of economic prospects as well. They are generally thrown out of their homes and they turn to a world, which for them, is void. They are adopted by other eunuchs who barely manage their subsistence, but like guarding parents, one finds members of this community sheltering children and youth who face the same problems. The shortcomings of our state organizations in providing scope and equal opportunity is turning this section of people out of the labor force. The only medium of livelihood left to them is begging. They cannot enjoy the other basic rights, like safety and speech. They are teased, taunted and taken advantage of by people with power or so called “normalcy”. In the times of the Rajas and Maharajas, eunuchs served as harem servants. Because of their so called ‘orientation’, they were safe to be closer to the Ranis (than the male guards), and yet had the power to protect them in the case of an emergency.
Many traditional beliefs try to explain natural exceptions, physical deformities, and the likes. One of them explains that when God ‘takes’ away something from you, he ‘gives’ you something else in greater amount. It might be a talent; a sixth sense, anything, but God provides you enough in whole ‘package’ to survive, and to survive with dignity. Eunuchs are believed to have an exceptional gift of clean and pure heart. It is believed whatever they pray to God for comes true. Because of this, their blessings on sacred occasions like weddings; child births, etc. are considered pious and holy. Their so called “Curse” being the other side of the coin, people are afraid of being spoken ill by them. Many a times this belief is used by eunuchs in public places to convince people to give them money, which because of our societal disregard for eunuchs, has become their sole source of survival. Eunuchs also threaten to disrobe publicly if their demands are not met, and this worked out in completely new and astonishing dynamics at Trilokpuri recently where a major communal fight was stopped by the same threat. Their commendable fighting spirit for so many centuries, explains the patience and their outstanding strong will.