Those who are familiar with the layout of the Meenambakkam Chennai Metro Rail station, might have noticed a tall woman busy checking the station, its maintenance and attending to every passengers need with a charming smile.
25-year-old Agnisha Mahalingam is clearly very happy with the job she does. It is way better than the job she first held. Four years ago, Agnisha was sidelined at her first job in a corporate firm, when she decided to come out as a transgender person. Three years later, in 2019, she landed herself a job at Chennai Metro Rail as an operator. Today, she has been promoted for outstanding work and now works as station service manager. I was moved and thrilled beyond words. It was quite surreal to see they recognised my work, Agnisha says.
Born in a traditional family in 1993 in Tirunelveli, Agnisha was a rather quiet child, keeping very little company. I always felt like a woman; but I realised the seriousness of it with age. I began reading about the lives of transgender persons and the battles they have faced. So, I was clear about one thing even when transitioning into a transwoman -- education is first and foremost, otherwise, I may also have to face the abuse and struggle for livelihood that many others battle today, she says.
After being prodded into pursuing mechanical engineering, Agnisha graduated and finally came out to the family for the first time in 2016. My parents were aghast and my mother was weeping endlessly. But I was determined and showed them videos and news articles of transgender people who have emerged successful, Agnisha recollects. But fortunately, they were convinced in a weeks time and encouraged Agnisha to move ahead.
That saw the beginning of a new chapter when Agnisha shifted to Chennai and sought help from NGOs like Thozhi and Sahodaran and eventually found a job. As she was recounting the past, three of her colleagues, one after another, interrupted every five minutes to check if she had eaten and whether they should wait to eat together. I love this job so much, not because of what I do alone, but also owing to how warmly my colleagues treat me. They respect me and not once, have I felt sidelined here. Im deeply grateful to BVG India and Chennai Metro Rail who hired me, Agnisha adds.
Thats not all. Once, a woman passenger entered and her child ran in, lost control and was about ram into the ticketing gate. Agnisha rushed and lifted the child, much to the relief of the mother. I will never forget what she told me then. She said, I had always been scared of transgender persons for some reason. This incident has changed my opinion and outlook. Thanks to you, I will treat them equally with respect. I was moved to tears, Agnisha says.
With a good salary, an understanding family and a great bunch of friends, Agnishas ambitions have grown now. This is like living a dream; I feel welcomed here. I want to help more transgender people find work and lead a decent life, Agnisha adds.