“I am 23. I have decided to dedicate my life to working with transgenders - Ab jeena marna sab inke liye hai. Many people think I am too young to be taken seriously. I suppose people presume that I won't stick to what I promise, that I might be frivolous. I am told by most of them, who also, in some way or the other, tell me not to get too big for my britches, that age is a marker of experience. I think that’s a very limited perspective. For people like me, who have risen from the bottom and know the situation inside-out, age is irrelevant. We focus on dreams and actions.
My first job was with a Delhi-based NGO. It involved working with sexworkers and that’s where I came across a transgender. Her story shot through me so hard that it gave me my lifeplan. Then, my friend Pradeep and I began a world-class hug-some-nag-some routine of opening the doors of communication with the transgender community. It took them six months to trust the usually untrustworthy NGO-wallahs. Fundamentally, I believed that no one should have to hide their identities and through my work, I wanted to provide a level playing field where transgenders have equal chances of nailing a mainstream job, rather than having to beg at traffic-signals and weddings or worse, ending up pushed into the sex trade.
I started working as soon as I had finished Class 12th and immersed myself so much in my work that I never found the window to think about joining college. Now, don’t get me wrong! I do acknowledge the immense value that society attaches to a college degree. However, I also believe that if one works with commitment, one can fulfil one’s dreams and those of others. I did earn a degree as a private student, but I live and breathe for the transgender community..
Over the years, the transgender community has become an integral part of my life. They were invited for my brother’s wedding. Truth be told, it is not something that happens regularly, and my parents did not take it lightly. As it is they were pretty upset with the nature of my work. It did not help that I was often called to police stations at weird hours, when the transgenders were picked up by the police. However, over the years my father has seen the value of my work and now tells me he is proud of me in no uncertain terms. He actually gets involved in some situations such as taking some unwell didi to the hospital!
Sometimes I am asked what inspires me to work with the transgender community. I think it is the community itself - the didis and the stories of their lives. They go through a lot. For starters, their families reject them. When they try to stand on their own feet, they cannot study, and then, our biases as a society steal their chances of earning a respectable living. What inspires me is their ability to pursue happiness, in spite of the odds against them. Most of us ‘normal’ people break down if our dreams - big or small - are shattered and many of us give up. But, it is rare to see explicit expressions of the transgenders’ pain and grudges. I work with 800 transgenders and almost everyday I witness the regular helpful human beings that every single one of them is. My work and what I get to see through it humbles me every day, reminding me of people with greater struggles than mine, inspiring me to go beyond myself.”