People from the third gender have been a part of our society since a long time. Of late, they have been confined to such stereotypes that it has become difficult for them to face themselves, to see themselves as human beings, to feel happy, if anything, about their sexual orientation. In India, they are shunned by their own blood, they are denied basic civil rights, let alone education. They are restricted from making decisions. They have become silent spectators of the society who have to undergo violence, harassment, and abuse to earn their livelihood. They are a matter of ridicule in India. Whenever a transgender trespasses, people point them out sharply with their fingers saying, ‘Look a hijra is going!’ as if they have seen a polar bear under the hot sun.
While others of the third gender are living in the security of a community, Srishti and Vijayata have decided to take the road less travelled.
Inspired by the 1980s film ‘Aasha’ in which the lead actor travels to a beautiful city to become a teacher, Vijayata abandoned her home at 15, travelled from Shimla to Ambala, settling finally in Chandigarh to set up her own tea stall. Nearby workers come to her stall every morning and evening to savour her ‘Masala chai.’ Her story does not end there. She has adopted an orphan, named him Vishnu who now helps her in her tea business. Vijayata’s parents aren’t ashamed of her sex and support her in the work she does.
Not far from Vijayata’s stall sits Srishti with her tobacco and sweet products. She told the hindustantimes reporter,
I just could not be a sex worker or go house to house seeking alms. I chose physical labour, even when I was in the village with my parents and later when I ran away to Delhi because my identity had become an embarrassment to my family. I was lucky to find a partner and together we moved to Chandigarh. When I set up this stall, I prayed that I should have the strength to work on the road. Early years were difficult, but now I am accepted in this role.
These women have chosen a more sensible path. They have made the best of their little educational and financial resources.