life, thou art tough…

Chapter 6 (final chapter)

After an hour of sobbing, I was still lying on the floor in my room staring at the cobwebs gathered under the cot visible through the moonlight streaming in from the blinds. I had not even switched on the fan and I was about to drown in my own sweat. I pulled myself up and walked into the tiny attached bathroom. As I took a cold-water bath fresh tears began their assault as I wondered what Anand must have gone through all these years. Never in these four years had I ever seen him complain or bad mouth anyone. He brought out the goodness in everyone around him irrespective of how they treated him. Being a doctor, I was even more shattered knowing the grim reality of his situation, though the details were still elusive. But nothing changed the way I felt for him… if anything I was now deeper in love with this twister of a personality. No… I wouldn’t let him suffer alone… not after knowing how he felt about me. I had to talk to him…

After spending the next few hours twisting and turning in the heat, I gave up. When dawn arrived announcing its amber presence through my window I freshened and dressed up, covering my head with a stole with a hope to hide my swollen eyelids. I didn’t know where he lived so I texted him. ‘We have to talk Anand… please for one last time… I leave for home today evening… please meet before that…

He had seen the text immediately which meant he was awake but for a while there was no response. I knew any amount of pestering wouldn’t work with him and I had no option but to wait. I had a cup of coffee in our cafeteria refusing to make eye contact with anyone around, after the fiasco in the party last evening. I didn’t care and I wasn’t in any mood to answer questions. I breezed out of the cafeteria and bumped into my date for last evening. Dr. Raj nodded and looked away sheepishly. I nodded back at him realizing I didn’t hate him anymore… at least he became the catalyst for the showdown with Anand last night. I just walked away. Finally, after an excruciating wait of an hour Anand texted me. ‘Meet me at Meenanagar supermarket in half an hour…’

It was close by and I was there before time wringing my fingers as I waited in anticipation of the unknown. The market place was quiet as I looked around standing in the center quadrangle. Some shops were just opening their shutters and doing their routing cleaning by brooming or watering the area outside their shops before they lined their wares extending outside the shop limits. Just as the time was up, I heard his bike approaching. He halted beside me gestured me to get on pillion and I just went ahead on auto pilot… no questions asked. We rode for about an hour and my back began to ache. Finally, we reached a building Which looked like a hospital but was actually an NGO. The board read, ‘Thirumalar centre for Rehabilitaion of the third gender’.

 I stared at the glow sign board bearing the iconic Subramanium picture beside the name and looked back at Anand who looked at me with his sleep deprived blood shot eyes, as if watching my reaction. He looked back at the building and sighed. “…Soumya… I don’t even know why I brought you here… but since you asked and before you… can come to your… conclusions, you need to know more… beyond medical barriers…”

“…What place is this Anand…?”

 “… This is where I spent three years of my life… this is the place which helped me cope… with what I went through… it made me feel wanted irrespective…of everything…It gave me the belief that I could do anything… So Soumya… I wanted you to see… this…” He gestured at the building.

I held his hand. “…Anand… I thank you for trusting me to… bring me here… but before that I need to hear about everything from the beginning… so will you tell me…? If… it isn’t painful enough…?”

Anand nodded and this time he didn’t jerk away his hand. Instead, he tightened his grip on mine and took me to the corner of the luscious lawn and sat on the farthest bench. As I took in the morning breeze blended with floral scents form the garden and also the mindless chirping of our avian companions, I saw a few men in loose clothing which was their uniform, in different parts of the garden. A couple of them waved to Anand and he waved back at them with a little smile. All this while his hand was intact in mine and I just wanted it to remain like that…

Anand sighed looking at the nearest guy a few meters away who was trimming the hedges. “I was the second born in my household where only my father had stayed behind to manage the estate in Thirukoshtiyur. All his brothers had migrated ages ago and my grandfather’s wish was to breathe his last in the village which brought him a lot of prosperity and given him everything he had desired. He is a staunch follower of Lord Vishnu and is a regular at all the events of the Sowmyanarayana Perumal Temple…. He was on the seventh heaven after my birth realising… that his bloodline in the village would continue… I have two sisters and the younger sister…I believe she is of your age… in fact we all studied in the same school… I remember seeing your brothers…”

“…It was Kirti…right…?”

He nodded and now his line of vision moved to the water sprinkler as he continued. “…My grandfather’s only nemesis was Vishnu Narayan Iyengar… your grandfather…and their views countered and colluded on every single area… be it religion, rituals, politics, decision making… just about anything…. Very often my grandfather had the upper hand given that he was educated and well versed with accounts… even the temple trustees consulted him on financial matters and that was a feather in his cap… But all that changed…overnight…”

His grip on my hand tightened and I could feel his anguish. “…Soumya… I was a sports person… tall for my age… and often participated in athletics representing our school… So, when I observed the non-painful lump around my testicles, as a 11 year old … I didn’t really bother… By the time my condition came to light I was diagnosed with stage II testicular cancer… I was only 12 years old and pubertal… My father took me away to Chennai to the best hospital of those times which handed cancer surgeries related to the gonads… I had to go under the knife… only a part of a single testes remains functional… that… was just the beginning of the long harrowing ordeal…”

Anand hunched his back and I felt his shudders. I let go of my hand and hugged him from the side, my little frame not enough for his tall one. “…Anand if it’s painful…”

“…No Soumya…” he wiped his eyes. “…It’s now or never… I have never told this to anyone… But if you don’t want to…”

“…Of course, not Anand…” I interlocked my fingers in his after linking my arm through his and got as close to him as possible and I felt his relax. “…Anand, I want to know everything… please tell me…”

“…I underwent sessions of chemotherapy and also radiotherapy along with physiotherapy spread over a period of two years… I had to leave school and hence I am older than my batchmates… I underwent reconstructive surgeries over a period of time… I went through rigorous counselling sessions…  and eventually some years ago, had to be given testosterone injections too… because I couldn’t… you know…” He looked away stiffening. I caressed his palm joined to mine encouraging him to continue. We were both doctors… and best friends at that. He didn’t have to shy away from me. He spoke. “…My grandfather was extremely disappointed in my condition after the doctors declared I could never sire a child let alone physically pleasure a woman…He stopped talking to me and felt the procrastinating stares following him in the village though my condition was a well-kept secret. Somehow your grandfather got wind of it… and he began to threaten my grandfather to bow to his whims else… he would reveal about me to the entire village… So, my grandfather did just that… till your older cousin eloped…and the balance tilted once again… But a lot of water had passed under the bridge by then. I was a wreck and took to drugs… My mom passed away and my sisters were packed off to the hostel to complete their studies… for which they still blame me… My father then got me here…” Anand sighed and looked around.

We sat still for a few moments, as I assimilated what I heard so far, my feelings for this man only growing by the minute. He finally spoke. “…Do you know Soumya…in Tamil Nadu itself there are about 30000 eunuchs as of today… some born like that and some like me… medically caused ones…and do you know the miserable life they lead…? I leant all about that during my 3 years stint here. I finished my school studies till 12th grade right here… My father arranged the tutors and I did the rest… But the biggest lessons I learnt were… the curve balls life threw…. I realized… I couldn’t go back and change anything… but I could start where I was and try to change the ending… and that’s why I decided to become a doctor…My aim in life is to work towards the upliftment of this community which in spite of being given a gender status in 2011, still lives in despondency… so many beg, get into prostitution… and finally die unheard and unsung… Soumya…” He turned towards me. “…I …always wanted to do something for them… because my friends here taught me…to show respect to even people who don’t deserve it… because it’s a reflection of my character and not theirs… and that’s why I like to elicit laughter form people around me… it gives them pleasure at least for those few seconds…” He looked earnestly into my eyes and at moment he was just a little boy who yearned of acceptance.

I smiled blinking back tears. “…Anand…I am so proud to have you as my friend… so proud to have known such a wonderful person and … my love for you has grown notches higher today…”

His eyes filled as he struggled to maintain his composure. “…Sou…Soumya… do you still… in spite of… knowing about me…?”

I nodded. “…Of course, Anand… You are way beyond all this…and I am with you in every step of the way…”

He smiled a weary one and looked down at our clasped hands. “…Do you know Soumya…? My doctors had given up on my… I just couldn’t get it up… never…there was this huge mental block… but that day when you fell and I caught you… the first time I saw you… it stirred… I mean for the first time in my life… I was semi erect and during our first outing together I was full mast… I am sorry about talking in this manner… but it meant a lot… I can’t be a father… my recent reports too reveal a very low sperm count but I can now…get an… erection… and that’s only because of youfor you…” he looked away looking embarrassed. But he kept talking. “…Soumya… you were the only person in this world with whom I could talk about anything under the sky and just be myself… just Anand and not only… a jester…”

I held his cheek making him look back at me. I wasn’t offended one bit… in fact the doctor in me knew what that meant to him. “…. Anand my answer is the same… and the rest we will figure it out as we move on in life… together…” He nodded blinking away tears and I couldn’t help but tell him. “…Anand… if I ever get together with a guy… it has to be you and no one else… I need you… to talk to, to bicker about… to vent out, to guide me… and then to make me laugh whenever the going gets tough… I need just… you…and I promise I would be there for you…always… you are no longer alone…”

“… Soumya… I was never alone in the last four years… with you being there as my friend… they were beautiful moments… that’s why I tried to stay away… but I couldn’t…. I was miserable… even recently… it took all courage in the world to let Raj date you… but I felt… you deserved a complete man…”

“…What is a complete man Anand…?” He looked at me confused as I continued. “…A man is complete not by his physical appearance but by his character, by his thoughts, by his deeds…you were my lifeline Anand, in these four grueling years… still are… It’s my honor to be by your side… like forever…”

He gave me a hug and we sat there for a while oblivious of our surroundings, lost in our thoughts as I bathed in the glory of his warmth in his arms. I would not like to trade this for anyone or anything else. He then took me around the center. The three storied building housed training and counseling facilities for the transgenders from all walks of life and different age groups. It was a massive revelation for me. Some of them were dressed as women like the one I was used to see at traffic signals. But they were the most cordial of the lot and exuded warmth like I had never known. My heart went out to these people who were shunned for their looks and despicable behavior which was nothing but a means for them to survive. Being a transgender by birth or by medical means was not a choice… But still so many of them were disowned by families at birth and left to fend for themselves in the big bad world. All they needed is acceptance and compassion and most of all, dignity to a life.

As I looked at Anand interacting with the staff and the lone doctor in the center my heart swelled with pride. Every second moment I heart laughter and I knew the Jester’s cap actually suited my guy in the true sense of the word. As we left the place, I was a different person with a whole new perspective and I realized I didn’t even worry anymore about what I was to face at home. Anand too had an extra bounce in his steps, his grin that I loved the most had returned and I had renewed energy to fight anything. Anand was accompanying me home today evening and he was to meet my father tomorrow. We both knew what was in store but we had each other’s support and we could conquer the world.

As our bike zoomed along the highway, I knew, we had our work cut out for us… He was to use his inheritance for the welfare of this group of people and many others who suffered in silence. He promised to fund my studies if I wished to pursue MD. As for me I understood what the Goddess had hinted… I was to study endocrinology.

Being a jester wasn’t his weakness at all… it was his greatest strength.

Author note:

Thank you for reading this story and for the lovely words. As you now know, the topic was highlighting the issues faced by the third gender in our country, albeit in a milder way using fiction. Here is an article which shall give you some insight. Do take time and go through if interested.

 http://thingsasian.com/story/eunuchs-indias-third-gender#:~:text=On%20rare%20occasions%20when%20the,as%20one%20of%20their%20own.

Ciao… till we meet next.

Regards,

Priya.

© All rights reserved with the Author and no part of this can be copied or published anywhere without the author’s consent

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