Relief eludes the transgender gharanas of Bhopal

 thehindu.com  08/02/2020 17:56:47 

They came for men and women but not us, lamented Devi Singh, 30, from the Mangalwara gharana [family] of Bhopals transgender community. Sitting at a haveli in the old city, she pines to return to work soon  collecting donations door-to-door  but for the lockdown, as no relief has reached them so far.

Vehicular traffic, marriages, religious festivals and birthdays  social gatherings now restricted in view of COVID-19  brought the only income for Ms. Singh, head of a household nurturing 17 transgender persons dependent on collections from the once-bustling New Market. The crowd is our earning but the pandemic has stolen that away, said Ms. Singh, biding time singing bhajans at the haveli.

Around 500 members of the Mangalwara and Budhwara gharanas here, with no formal employment and already battling discrimination and stigma, are awaiting the easing of movement restrictions and businesses to get back on track for donors to be charitable.

The economy is floundering under the lockdown, so how can people think of giving to us? asked Ms. Singh. But even if gurus have to stay hungry, chelon ko bhookha nahi rehne denge. [We may starve but we will not let our disciples go hungry]. The meals, now chapatis with chutney, are two-time instead of three a day earlier. Initially, the gharanas distributed food items in slums, not knowing the lockdown would persist this long, draining their savings.

Each transgender household among the gharanas, with areas divided for collection, earlier made 20-50,000 a month. But marriages are small scale now, birthdays a closed affair. Our yearly peak collection time during the monsoon is going by, said Tamanna Jaan, 41, head of a 15-member household dependent on the Khajuri area.

Even the yearly procession called Bhujariya, which invites more than 1,500 transgender persons from across the country days after rakshabandhan, will be smaller this year.

Its a yearly ritual to invite rain that began centuries ago on the insistence of local rulers. To keep the tradition alive, we will organise it this year too but with precautions, said Shilpa Tiwari Nair, 50, head of a 35-member household under whom BHEL and Ashoka Garden areas fall.

Different traditions

Those belonging to the Mangalwara gharana claim their tradition to dancers in royal courts while the Budhwara gharana derives its heritage from medieval court harems. Bhopal, in its uniqueness, is the only city to be a home to both, claim the members.

Though homosexuality was decriminalised two years ago, the ghosts of the archaic law, declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, still haunt us, said Ms. Singh.

Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism

Dear subscriber,

Thank you!

Your support for our journalism is invaluable. Its a support for truth and fairness in journalism. It has helped us keep apace with events and happenings.

The Hindu has always stood for journalism that is in the public interest. At this difficult time, it becomes even more important that we have access to information that has a bearing on our health and well-being, our lives, and livelihoods. As a subscriber, you are not only a beneficiary of our work but also its enabler.

We also reiterate here the promise that our team of reporters, copy editors, fact-checkers, designers, and photographers will deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Suresh Nambath

« Go back