What chance do they have?…

As the traffic pulled up at the intersection of Richmond Road and Brigade road here in Bangalore, three women appeared out of nowhere. One of them began knocking on the tinted car window in which I sat and demanded money. I wondered if she was selling anything, she did not appear to be. A closer look at her face revealed that she was not a woman, but a man dressed up like a woman, a eunuch to be precise. This woman was not begging, she was demanding and as if I were obligated to hand out money to her. The driver was mumbling under his breath and I was probably more lost in my thoughts about how these women go about getting a fair chance in society today. I did not think it was appropriate by standards to hand out money to her in a two minute traffic stop among the chaos of the busy intersection. I did not give her the money, her dark eyes laced with thick kajal kept peering at me into the dark interiors of the car and then she began cussing. There was a lot of venom undoubtedly and it has been an unusual incident for me to be abused by a eunuch. There is always a first time. She walked away to the next vehicle; she sashayed and swayed to be precise. I felt sorry, was I being hard hearted? I mostly do not offer money to beggars on the road, I prefer giving them food / fruits if I am carrying it in the car. Money is something I am quite reluctant to offer as I am never clear as to who the money ultimately gets passed on to. I may be entirely wrong in making my assumptions and remain a doubting Thomas. Two men were seated on a scooter and they laughed at her. They asked her a lot of questions in kannada and she giggled and answered them back. The pillion rider gave her some change and she flirted with the men for a few seconds before moving on to the next vehicle. This is the first time I have seen eunuchs begging at the traffic signals in Bangalore, I was told by the irritable driver that they are now a common sight at most busy intersections.

Eunuchs in Indian society have been shunned from time immemorial. In Chinese history eunuchs have played an important role in the harems of imperial palaces. Some of these eunuchs were also granted high ranking civil servant positions in the Ming dynasties. A reasoning for this has been accorded to the fact than eunuchs could not go on to produce offspring’s, therefore regarded to be safe and they would distance themselves from the ongoing power struggles in these dynasties. Even in Indian royalty, eunuchs were employed by the Queens and played important roles in protecting the harems of Kings, Queens and favored courtesans.

Despite having a rich history, hijras in India lead a deprived life in modern India today. They are still active in the flesh trade and resort to roles of pimping. They are also called in at weddings and other auspicious ceremonies and their presence is superstitiously regarded to be a sign of good luck. God alone knows what the history behind this is?An irony of sorts. On one hand society laughs at them, ridicules them and even shuns them and they yet get included as a good luck charm in important events.

Eunuchs find it extremely difficult to be accepted and given a fair chance. They have never been assigned equal opportunities. Education and employment is an extremely trying proposition. Very few of them have been able to walk with their head held high. There is one individual called Rose who is a talk show hostess on a prominent South Indian TV channel. She raises some pertinent issues and is able to walk tall despite the odd looks that people give her. Until such a time we are able to change our mind set, we will continue to give these individuals the same odd look.

As I write this, word comes in that an AI plane has crashed in Mangalore while coming in from Dubai. Life is short. This is the third major crash in the last four weeks. At times like these, I tend to think of fussy air line passengers who hate traveling economy and boast about their flying statuses. At the end of the day, fate seals us all the same way. No matter how wealthy we are, destiny treats us all indifferently. Our wealth may get babus to lick our feet, but fate buys us out in the blink of an eye. Does fate care if we are reclining in cushy seats in First Class or sipping wine in Business Class or getting squashed in a tight space in Economy. Fate strikes its blow across the classes in one swift, deft stroke.

I am sorry for sounding so morbid today but incidents such as these makes me think about my own priorities. We worry about tomorrow and lose sight of the present. It is precisely for this reason that the present is called a gift. May we all cherish it.

 

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32 Responses to “What chance do they have?…”

  1. Good Morning Mr. AB 1-100,

    I guess you are trying to find balance between your blog and tweets. And I’m sure you would never succumb to blackmail either. So I wish you all the resolve and the conviction and strength to forever remain strong and balanced like your Father.

    Greatest regards,

    Melwyn

  2. Its always a feast for our eyes to read ur blog.. I could precisely feel what you would have felt, as many of us do get to pass these scene in our life.. Talking abt Rose and balancing it with the philosophy of life made me feel, at the end of the day we are all just a marionette in the hands of destiny.

    God Bless!
    Ramya.

  3. Oops…sorry, sorry, sorry. This was meant for AB’s blog.

  4. Hi! Sharmila,

    I’m scared of eunuchs and try to avoid any confrontation with them. But I also feel very sorry for them as they lead a very dark existence in the margins of society. I guess nobody is born a eunuch but they are deliberately castrated for some curious reasons. I can remember a few occasions when their tribe was brought into focus. One instance was when a eunuch tried to contest the Lok Sabha elections a few years back. Another was when Kalpana Lazmi made a film named ‘Darmiyan’, which was originally supposed to star SRK in the role of a eunuch, on the plight of an actress who discovers that her son is a eunuch. And more recently when a leading private bank had hired eunuchs to recover debts from their defaulters.

    I feel that they unfortunately have no real chance of making it to the mainstream.

    Melwyn

    • Melwyn – Most are scared of them. Society has never provided / accepted a place for them. They remain the odd ones out. Infact, Indian society has begun to accept freedom of sexual preferences but fails to accept as gender modifications. With time I think it will. Re – Private banks using eunuchs, it is downright disgusting. Obviously most deffaulters are wary of eunuchs.Which bank was it? I will stop my relationship with them.

  5. Anand Khare Says:

    Sharmila,

    I think you had handled the situation very boldly. I have also faced this kind of situations in other Indian cities and had my share of curses and abuses.I am sure these are not real ‘eunuchs’, they are just wearing that make-up to make some easy money.

    Anand

  6. Sharmila,

    Curious description of the eunuchs.

    I wonder if eunuchs fall under the category of ‘Physically Challenged’. There behaviours don’t indicate that. Many do not appear to be envious of the world around them but they also have no sense of discretion.

    Your take on the fate of passengers in an air crash is interesting. The building of an aircraft, the airport and the instrumentation involves extreme engineering. It works sometimes, it fails sometimes. Our battle with the forces continues. We don’t say die till we do.

    According to first reports, the tyre on the left landing wheel gave away on landing and the aircraft overshot the tarmac. These wheels have neoprene rubber tyres and liquid nitrogen shock absorbers.

    There is some debate about how much space the pilot had to maneuver the craft in that state.

    I was wondering how the firemen expected to find anyone alive after dowsing the whole craft with AAA Foam. It would have choked anyone to death even if they were alive by chance. Early TV shots showed a fireman running up the hill with a child covered in foam. I think the search & rescue ops in such catasrophic events needs some fine tuning.

    Some passengers in the economy class who jumped out of the broken roof in the center, survived.

    There are two distinct elements involved. One is managing operational risks including competence, operating procedures etc. and the other is controlling the escalation factors after an unplanned event.

    On another note, the investigation might even show that the aircraft was not maintained properly or the runaway is not suitable for the new models of aircrafts – inadequate margins of safety.

    The truth will come out eventually. Or perhaps not…

    Who knows…

    • Reader – All I can say is that with the going ons in the last four weeks air travel is no longer statistically safe! ( based on 4 week averages alone). I am given to believe that AI use the same crew for short haul international flights leading to fatigue. So the crew flies 4/ 5 hrs to destination A, they then spend an hour or so checking the craft and preparing it for flying to Destination B, te passengers have already boarded, and the flight takes off again for another 4/5 hours. This is a big gamble, it is bound to lead to fatigue. Never to happen with a Singapore Airlines or a Cathay given the number of short haul international flights they do per day. I had done a piece on AI, and I must update it with the recent incident too. Here is the link – https://sharmilasays.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/whats-wrong-with-air-india-everything-is/

      Besides, the black box is yet to be recovered! What cchances are there to recover it in the Pacifics and the Atlantics?

      • Sharmila,

        Read the link you have provided. I think I will comment here if you don’t mind.

        By nature, I am a bit forgiving about some things if the vision is right.

        Air India is still the most preferred airlines for the workforce, which makes up for over 50% of the emigrants.

        I wholly agree that it is one of the worst airlines both in the air and on the ground. No doubt about that.

        But it was not designed to be a commercial profit making enterprise. It is the national airline of a socialist republic.

        The government would be content even if it can work at break-even prices. The private airlines can take care of those who can pay more.

        Unfortunately the vision of a PSU airlines doesn’t meet the expectations of urban passengers like us.

        Yet, I am still glad that we have an airline that we can call national. During the Irag war, it was AI that lifted over 300,000 Indians from Kuwait and Jordan.

        Luula hai, langada hai, parr apna hai… hai na?

        I sincerely hope the civil aviation ministry does not loose sight of the purpose of a national airline. I think it is similar to providing electricity to a farmer.

        Am I becoming a nay-sayer on your blog?

        Write a new post. I promise I will write an ode, even if by mistake you say Shakespeare sang his sonnets in Malayalam. Promise.

        🙂

  7. Sharmila,

    The fate part of a ‘classless’ death reminded me of an incident from my school days which I can still remember as clear as daylight.

    December 1976. I was in my eighth standard. The winter vacations had just begun and I was glad to be relieved of the school routine.

    It was around 0900 in the morning. I picked a novel from my small study – Alistair MacLean’s, “Goodbye, California”.

    There was a sprawling old Guava tree in our garden that spread over the red tiled, sloping roof of the house. I climbed up, picked a few large sized ripe ones and stepped on to the roof with the novel in my hand. The mild winter sunshine was idyllic for a spot of action thriller.

    In short, generally speaking, God was in His heaven, and all was right with the world.

    But I was wrong. And how wrong was I!

    A few minutes later I saw my dad rushing out to the gate in his white kurta-pajamas, running across the hockey playground opposite our house, toward Nair’s house. Mother followed him in haste.

    From my position on the roof I could see a small crowd gathering outside Nair’s house.

    I stood up on the roof and watched. The main doors were open and a faint trace of smoke could be seen from the backyard.

    “What a day to set fire to the house!” I said to myself.

    I was wrong again. From their porch I could see my dad waving at me. I slid to the edge of the roof and jumped off. And within a few seconds I was beside him.

    “What happened”, I asked.

    “Madhu has committed suicide. Go call the Inspector from the police station”

    His face was stern. So, I didn’t stop to ask “Who is Madhu?”. I ran to the police station and informed the station inspector. And as I was expecting he asked me the same question. “Who is Madhu?”

    I said, “I don’t know. Let’s go we’ll find out!”

    And together we went back.

    It later dawned upon me that Madhu was the eldest daughter of the Nair family. A good 3 years older to my age group.

    She had failed to pass her CBSE exams that year. The parents had dismissed her as a waste of time. Their family had prided themselves to be the most educated among their kin. In short, they always considered themselves a class above the sundry.

    For the next few hours, I was assigned to arrange things for them.

    When parent grieves for the death of a child, one can understand if it is a natural death. But when the parents blame themselves for the child’s death, their pain, regret and sorrow is heart rending.

    Later, at home, I asked my mother what they were repenting about. And her words still ring clear, “You are only as good as you want to be. Your class is not decided by your scores”

    Next day morning, I was back on the roof with another book.

    It was Somerset Maugham’s, “Of Human Bondage”

    • Thank you for sharing this extremely moving incident. Your Mother’s words are touching, profound and above all accurate.
      PS – I love Somerset Maugham.

  8. Reader,

    A touching story and well told too. I feel really sad for poor Madhu and her unfortunate parents.

  9. Sharmila,

    I am scared of eunuchs…..I don’t know why,but I am terribly scared of them. I am neither affected by the abuses that they fling on us nor am I intimidated by the superstitions associated with them or their curses.But I find something very repulsive and vulgar about their general demeanor. This shoves away all traces of sympathy, that I may otherwise have for them, into some remote corner. They are a ubiquitous lot today,and invade all public places to harass the common man. At times I have been forced into giving them some money, for fear of making a ‘tamasha’ in public. I may sound a little harsh but believe me, I have experienced and witnessed others being put to a lot of embarrassment and harassment at the hands of eunuchs. I feel that they try to take advantage of the state that they are in. Sharmila, I am amazed at the vast variety of topics that you choose to write upon. Eunuchs???

    The latter part of your post added to my morbid mood and has left me pensive! The ones who died in the crash and the others who survived were destined to their respective fate! My faith in Destiny gets reinforced by such incidents. Every moment of this precious life has to be looked upon as a beautiful and gifted one to be cherished and loved. Thanks to Amitji’s blog…your “Lion King” for connecting me to this one!

    Shubha

    • Thanks for your comment Shubha. Fair enough to be scared of them, most are. See my comment to Melwyn above. But, is it not a sad state of affairs? Are they not human too? I understand that their behavior does get repulsive, especially their ability to make demands and intimidate us. If they do not get accepted, they cannot get educated and taught to behave or understand what social responsibilities include. I believe they resort to the bullying and act the way they do because they have not been accepted, they do not get employed and hence get so aggressive, all for the sake of making a livelihood albet in a non conforming manner.

      Thank you Shubha for connectng here.:)

  10. Eunuchs have to be blamed for what is happening to them , its a fact most of them retort to nuisance activities during marriages , in lovers park , in places where new born babies are born.

    They have made it into a business from where money has to be minted

    With the emergence of cross dresser and celebs like bobby darling its not an inhibition

    respect is not given …it has to be earned and this can come only with deeds

    there are few eunuchs who have contested elections and one of them have even managed to win

    only if most of them are willing to come into mainstream and do some word then only can they earn respect

    • Balwind – Thanks for your ocmment.I understand that their behavior does get repulsive, especially their ability to make demands and intimidate us. If they do not get accepted, they cannot get educated and taught to behave or understand what social responsibilities include. I believe they resort to the bullying and act the way they do because they have not been accepted, they do not get employed and hence get so aggressive, all for the sake of making a livelihood albet in a non conforming manner.

  11. Eunuchs have to be blamed for what is happening to them , its a fact most of them retort to nuisance activities during marriages , in lovers park , in places where new born babies are born.

    They have made it into a business from where money has to be minted

    With the emergence of cross dresser and celebs like bobby darling its not an inhibition

    respect is not given …it has to be earned and this can come only with deeds

    there are few eunuchs who have contested elections and one of them have even managed to win

    only if most of them are willing to come into mainstream and do some work then only can they earn respect

  12. Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

    A very bold topic to write on.I feel it is not by their own will that they show such unethical demeanor at times.It is because we regard them as a separate inferior human being.This reason is enough for them to go bizarre.Sometimes,even the parents do not accept them…….what more would they suffer after this.

    I was really pained after having come to know about the plane crash early this morning.May Allah grant Jannah to those passed away and bestow His mercy and give Sabr on those who lost their near ones.

    • Salman – Thanks for your comment. you have raised an excellent point, re -the immediate family too does not accept them and probably is the instrumental cause for their bizarre behavior.
      Yes, the accident is a terrible tragedy.

  13. MonaLisa Says:

    Its a cruelty on part of family and society who can accept physically challenged or mentally challenged but outcast sexually deviated or deficit- one who doesn’t fall into the category of the one (man) or the other (woman). I wonder that really make them incapacitated to live normal life or perform the chores to lead a normal life and make living as other genders do !? why are they so much deprived and not allowed to have options available as ‘a normal person’ do !? Why are they considered Less of a Person and made a ‘Laughing stock’ in society!?
    In such case what exactly should or could we expect from them when fault lies within the social structure!?

    • MonaLisa – Agree with all your points. The problem is within the social structure, there is only a show of equality on paper, never a reality!

  14. Aishwarya Says:

    Death and discrimination are both unfair.

    The attitude of a eunuch is a survival mechanism against society’s discrimination I suppose. Painful and menacing but true.

    News like these bring us back down to harsh reality with a jolt. Death awaits us all. The one place where there shall be no discrimination – man, woman, or intersex.

  15. S.M.Vyas Says:

    Sharmilaji,

    Simple but yet a subject which gvs mixed feeling of pain,anger,disgust….

    It is easy to roll up the window mirror & advise.It is more easy to keep the mirror/window closed & be stone faced.

    Is it the Solution ? Problem lies not only those what you hv pointed out. Certain issues like traffic indiscipline & the resultant & possible incidances of accidents,violent behaviour because of accustomed to get money by coercion;if not easily gvn in the first instance & certain person/grp taking advantage of easy money by falsely reprsenting as Eunuch.

    The remedy lies in accepting them as a part of society & behave normally with them.
    And not a normal child becomes more abnormal when we react abnormally with them because of their defficiency.We see mental cases becoming more violent when intimated & calm when when gvn due consideration to their defficiencies and/or their feelings.

    Customs & outlook needs to be changed.Gvng by way of eatables
    instead of money hardly affect the attitude.They will continue to beg.Traffic Police will continue to get their share.They will continue to hv nuisance value.Begging is not an easy option as we make out.A child beggar is better than criminal child.A healthy man begging must be out of severe constraints/circumstances — generally spking – although exceptions are always there. We read about millionaire beggar! A healthy girl/woman begging is better than those standing nr designated spots to look for clients.I am not advocating begging.But it is very easy to advise them to work.Do all are capable/lucky/patient enough to get the work ?

    I feel bad when I donot gv to anyone who asks for. A thought comes to my mind — if we donot gv money or eatables/cloth, to a child or a woman,they may turn from this bad option to worst option. Solution doeenot lie in some gvng or not gvng.Apart from mind set & attitude,we need NGO like organisation who can provide work to them in lieu of shelter, food & clothings.

    No –not the clubs who spent more on advt/parties/fun & fare etc. & do little bit & specific charity.Even a jail has got better concept when they provide food & shelter & ask the inmates to WORK & gv that money once out of jail..Can’t org.like ISCON or others come forward & make small/cottage industry for ALL the beggars like class ?

    I am again not sure how logical or rational I sound.

    But I am sure I am expressing my views as it comes to my mind/heart! I donot say or write anything just for sake of sounding intelligent/intellectual/kind hearted etc.

    I am equally sure U will forgive me for writing anything wrong/indecent.

    Regards,

    S.M.Vyas

    • Vyasji – Good set of thoughts. Education and employment remain the key to a better and evolved society. Once these core values are in place, acceptance too becomes a lot easier. Please do not apologize, your thoughts as always are valuable on this forum.

      • S.M.Vyas Says:

        Sharmilaji,

        Very true that Education & Employement are the key factors.
        But,how many of them are allowed to hv normal education ?
        How many can even dare to ask for normal employement ?
        Here,customs,mind set/attitude of the society in general
        & of the parents in specific AND above all,the person himself
        plays a vital role.And some benefits/facility from Govt./
        Social Organisation will hv impact on reducing the gravity;
        albeit gradually;of this & all begging class nuisance.
        And that is what I hv ref.above.Thanks for not totally rejecting
        my point of views.

        Regards,

        S.M.Vyas

      • Vyasji – Than you, yes,it requires a change of attitude first from the Government which then needs to seep down to the general public. If the Govt takes up the responsibilty towards their education and employment, the rest will follow too.

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