Comprehensive Guide into the World of Hijra, the 3rd Gender of India

Transgendered People of India

  • Title: Transgendered People of India
  • Subtitle: Forsaken Tributaries
  • Series: Hijra, the Third Gender
  • Author: Yu Sakurazawa
  • Category: Non-fiction, LGBT

 

Be an armchair traveler to the world of Hijras, the Third Gender. This is a comprehensive travel book about Hijra of India if you want to find what Hijra is.

Title: Transgendered People of India
Subtitle: Forsaken Tributaries
Series: Hijra,the Third Gender

The author has published seven books in the series of “Hijra, the Third Gender” which are autobiography style fictions. This is a non-fiction book based on the author’s hearing and witnessing as a foreigner in India as well as substantial studies on various existing publications and social trends.

[Acknowledgement on Front Cover Image]
The front cover picture was created using a picture released on Flickr (link: https://flic.kr/p/mLr55) under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license as the background image.

 

Transgendered People of India / Forsaken Tributaries

Two falls back, I visited North India. This was the second time I was visiting Rajasthan which means ‘the Land of the Kings’. The region lived up to its name: it was considered exotic both by the locals and foreigners like me.

When in the heritage city of Jodhpur, I stayed with a local businessman and his wife. My host was intimately acquainted with one of my colleagues at the publishing company. Though I was a friend’s friend, I was treated with much warmth and hospitality. To my hosts, I was the cultural representative of Japan, an advanced country. It wouldn’t be wrong to say I was given VVIP treatment!

I savored every moment of my stay in Jodhpur. It has a population of 1.29 million akin to a big city, but is more like a spacious rural town in a desert. The palatial houses in the city are made of sandstone (“Jodhpur Stone”) and have marble floors. The temperatures oscillate between extremes: they could exceed 50 degree Celsius in the middle of summer and drop below 20 degrees in November, the month during which I visited.

Living like an Indian was fun. I dressed in sarees and the Punjabi dress (also known as Salwaar Kameez) every day. The saree is a beautiful 120 cm wide garment with a length of 6-7 meters. One drapes it by winding the cloth around the waist, leaving about 2 meters for pleats and covering the waist, chest and shoulder with a portion of cloth. An artistic pleated skirt is made with the 2 meters left loose and the last two meters called the “Pallu” is left to trail behind like a veil.

Even though many Indian women still wear the saree on an everyday basis, draping one around is not an easy thing as I found out. Therefore, I requested my hostess to help me wear it every single day during my stay in Jodhpur. She was only too glad to oblige.

One day, a cousin of my host’s took me sightseeing. In front of one of the palaces, I encountered a group of huge well-built women dressed in sarees and ornaments that were much fancier than that of the ordinary women’s. The women were laughing and talking in raucous tones, while clapping and dancing merrily. Unlike shy and modest Indian women, these ladies were boisterous. A group of people, mostly men, had gathered around to watch the spectacle.

From my previous experience in South India, I knew who these women were. Hijras….. A clan by themselves….. Shunned by society…… In fact, they weren’t even women. The hijras were castrated males. A few were born intersexed.

I had heard that these impotent people sustained their clan by kidnapping young boys and emasculating them. However, I found out later that this wasn’t always the case. Most of the time, boys suffering from gender dysphoria—a feeling of acute discomfort with the gender they are born into—ran away from home and themselves opted to join this clan.

The hijras noticed me looking at them. A huge congenial one held me by the arm and invited me to join in their revelry. Since I like singing and dancing, and felt empathetic towards hijras, I joined them. I didn’t think mixing with them for a few moments would matter. After all, my hosts were extremely educated people. I didn’t think they would think like the average person on the street I had met in South India. I was wrong.

‘Get into the car!’ my host’s cousin rudely commanded. I broke away from the hijra group and did as I was told. I had a feeling that had I not obeyed him, my host’s cousin would have shoved me inside. Such was his anger.

I was shocked at having been reprimanded thus. Up to this point, I had been treated very courteously. My city tour was aborted in half a day and I was dropped back at my host’s house.

The sudden change in attitudes was apparent. My host who had treated me like a VVIP until the previous day was not as respectful. My hostess told me that dancing and clapping hands in public with the hijras was the worst thing a woman could do; it was, in fact the same as becoming a prostitute yourself. Apparently, even foreigners like me weren’t exempted from ‘this kind of behavior’.

At dinner, I noticed that I had been given a seat that was farthest from my host. This was uncustomary, for until the previous day I had been given a seat next to his. In other ways too, the VVIP treatment given to me was withdrawn. It was as if I had become ‘unclean’ only by imitating the hijras. I then realized that the hijras were looked down upon by even the educated. It was a heartbreaking feeling.

Since childhood, I had been the defender of the underdog: it was in my nature to defend the oppressed and those in trouble. Therefore, it was not surprising that a lot of pity and empathy for the hijras sprung in my heart.

I returned to Japan and did a great deal of research and reflecting on the hijras. My encounters with the community in south India were also recorded. This book was born out of those experiences.

The above is the preface of this book. To read the rest of the book please click here.

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