Queer Self-Reflections - Ramya
Duration: 00:24:18; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 102.354; Saturation: 0.017; Lightness: 0.778; Volume: 0.062; Cuts per Minute: 0.370; Words per Minute: 117.812
Vanakkam hi, how are you? My name is Ramya. I livein Vannarpet. My age is 32, I was born in 80 now I am 32.
Somehow time is flowing. In my house I am the third boy born to my mother. I have a younger sister. I am a Muslim.
Like everybody else my family also did not accept me. I was in and around my house. My brother has a tailor shop and I used to work there.
In my childhood I would put false breasts and put around towel as Davani. I was around 8 or 7 then and I would go all around.
The whole area people would ridicule me. They would then come to my mother and tell her “it okay, let him be a girl child to you”.
Along with this my brother’s friends would say “what Machcha, you younger brother has become like this”. He would beat me in the house.
Both my brothers would beat me. Life was going on like that. I was also getting old and my brother got married. I was waiting that my brothers should get married so that the family would not be in disgrace.
I was around 10 or 11 then. I would still go for sex work (Dhandha). I loved sex work. I would always go for it from my younger age.
I would always be in sex work i would never sleep at night. After my brothers would sleep I would wake up in the morning at three and run for sex work. I would go all around the city I would not return without doing sex work.
It would anyone a riksha driver, a street hawk or a goon I had no selection. I would take pain, I did not know all this then, HIV nothing .... I did not know what a condom is.
I did not know anything in that age. Before everyone would wake up by 5 in the morning I would come back and sleep.
Time was moving on. My second elder brother also got married. I had a desire inside. I would think how I can continue like this. I was around 14 years of age.
At the age of 14 I thought I should go somewhere. My brother got me a job in Lin Company. While working there I got close to one person. .........My boyfriend.
I too loved him and he too loved me and we were together. He would get me what I would ask and I would get him what he would ask.
Our live continued like that for a year. He would not be quiet. He too had craze for (Dhandha) sex work.
He would also not sleep. He was of the character that he would go with anyone say like Paris and have sex there.
And so our live was going on in this manner.
In the meantime his family people said they would get him married. This disturbed my mind.
Why does he leave me and get married I thought. It is because I am in Male attire? That was the feeling inside me.
I was also growing old! I was 15 or so and I was thinking.
One time he came home. We were fighting. After that he came home. Before that we were to talking to each other for two to three days. He came home.
My mother was not at home. She worked as a domestic help and my sister had gone to the school.
It must have been in the afternoon by around 11. Only two of us were there at home and we were doing mistake!!! (Sex).
We were doing mistake but had not bolted the house (laughs). Suddenly my mother opened the door and saw us.
It was just a hall. She saw and was shocked. She just closed the door went out and was crying.
He wore his pants and ran...from the house. I was embarrassed to see mother’s face.
She said “you do so much of injustice, somebody told me secretly, today you are doing it inside house, ok fine I came but if that was sister who would have come and seen all this what would have happened?”
She said that I should not be there. Our family members said I should leave house and called senior Aravanis gave her 500Rs and put a nose ring to me and sent me off to Mumbai with her.
Even he did not know that I went off to Mumbai. I left for Mumbai. I was in sex work house there. I did begging. I spent my days very happy there in Varpur and I had all the freedom. I put the dresses I wanted and I also did the sex change surgery.
I finished this surgery when I was 16. After surgery I was at home. After about 6 months I had a dream that my mother passed way.
I wanted to go home but I did not ask them that I wanted to go home. They had trusted me a lot. Without their knowledge I took the train and came back. I had some 400 Rs in my hand and I returned.
When I came to my mother’s house, she saw me and started crying. I was in sari then. She cried and I cried. I was at home and after about 5 day I went to meet my earlier partner.
When I went there everyone around told me that he was admitted in Tambaram Hospital because he was HIV +.
They did not know how to say it was HIV but they said he had a TB attack. I had the revenge in mind so I asked him to have sex with me again. He gave me a tight slap and said I have become like this, do you think this is a joke or what and consoled me.
He recovered and came home. He was recovering. But we did not have sex. It was Boyi that day. I was happy wearing new dress and going around. I had not seen him for some 10-15 days.
Then I got the news that my boyfriend died. I cried. I cried a lot. What can anyone do? If you are born as a human being you have to die.
For three day I did not eat thinking I will also die. Later my people came and beat me up to eat and said why you are doing all this for a man.
I looked after myself and tried to forget that. Forgetting all that pain I started living like earlier.
I had a close friendship with my Gurubhai (like cousin in Hijra community culture) Geetha. She desired to get sex change surgery done.
I did not know about operation then. I went along with her. She told me that I was looking better after surgery.
She saw my surgery and said she too wanted. That was I took her for the first time to Kadapa for surgery. There they did surgery and I brought her back.
After coming back it became sore and she said she needed my help and insisted that I should go with her to treat it.
That is when I got the name Dayamma (mid wife). When Hijras do surgery I will look after everything.
If there is a mother how she will look after I would look after Hijras in the same manner.
Whatever it is to clean or dressing, if there is a mother will she not do.
I would do all that to Hijras who would ask me. Now it is 11 years since I have been doing this service to Hijras. I got many friends.
I also started living alone. By that time I got another friend called Srijith and I met Mayamma other friends.
Through Kalki I met Srijith. One of my best friends is Kalki; Kalki Sudha and many other friends.
All these friends told me that they were going to do a theatre play and asked me to join. This was to be played in front of advocates.
In that play I got a small role to play. So I did that role well and got huge applause for it.
After that Sri took me to another play called Molagapodi. That play went running for 6 months.
The rule is that when you learn the art of acting you cannot just run away from it because they would have kept that trust in us.
That trust is really big and because of that they are able to do theatre. Till the end we have to be together whether it is fight or not. I got a role in Molagapodi play. We struggled hard for some 7-8 months.
I don’t know to read the dialogues. If they ask me to tell the next dialogue I could not. All that Srijith helped me learn and keep in my memory.
He taught about women being treated as slave and how women rebelled against this. I did not know what is Dalith.
There are still many Dalith women who are oppressed. There people who clean toilets, there people who are cobblers and there is a system that oppresses them. This play is about how this system is broken and people rebel against such oppression.
They gave me a small role in that play and it was a great success. We went to Delhi and Punjab.
We got good name through that. We are preparing our next play called Solagarthotti.
I don’t know when they will do it. The director of the play will tell it. I spoke a lot.
Namaste! I realised myself in the beginning only in pant shirt but I liked to dress in silk saree like women with lot of flowers when they go for some functions.
I could not dress like that as my parents would rebuke me. So I would put a towel and then put a lot of flowers.
I would put clothes like a saree and would walk around. That is when I felt I am a woman. I could realise the woman in me.
I knew somehow I would change into a woman. I would always play with girls and never mingle with boys.
My brother would beat me. He insisted I should play marbles. I did not know how to play marbles.
I wanted to have ling hair plaited. All the feelings I had were of women.
I thought I was a girl and would always be with girls. For first 13 years I would always be girls and play with them.
I would were women’s dress. I desired to be a woman; desired to have breasts. Through surgery I wanted to remove male genitals and have female genitals.
During that time we could not get to see many Thirunangai (hijras). Very rarely we could see Thirunangai.
In Vannarpet for the first time I saw Perumaramma a Thirunangai. She was a senior and she was the one I mingled with. That was for the first time I saw the Sappadi (male genitals removed).
Near my house there were two three others like me Kala and Gomathi. Kala was very fit to be a woman. She was the first one in our village to become a woman and everyone in the village knew about her.
She felt very much like a woman and she identified very much like a woman. He would carry water pot in her waist and the way she walked was very much like a woman. Seeing her I too desired to be a woman and be like her.
But in my house my brothers were there so I could not do it openly. We could go out to some unknown place and do all these.
Then I realised why we should be afraid of parents and siblings. This is our identity.
Thirunangai, Kalaingar (Mr. Karunanidhi) gave this name to us, before that we were being called Ali.
When I started openly speaking about this at home there used to be huge fights. My brother was a person who would iron clothes for living.
During fights he would just keep the hot iron box on my body. My hand and body would be burnt. I would go to the temple and smear oil on to it. This trouble became too much.
If I wear a saree he does not like but I don’t care; I wear a saree and I am living.
From my childhood I wanted change myself as a woman and even when I had kept a life partner I wanted to be a woman.
Till today I have lived like woman and I don’t like to be like a man or wear men’s clothes.
There are people who change, they will get married and have children and even then they will change. All this depends on their sexuality.
When we talk about the Molagapodi play, I am a person with soft character and that is what everyone says.
I might look very scary with the kind of my body and my eyes.
But I am not like that. Because of this there are many people who do not speak to me.
They get scared and run away from me. Many have said that they are scared that I might just hit them.
But they don’t know me. I do not get angry easily at all. When my director gave me the role it was just opposite to my nature and I sat down for some time thinking if I could do the role.
I thought that these people are troubling me too much.
Gangamma is a feudal village leader. She keeps the entire village in her rules.
Even police get sacred of her. They come too come to her house. She owns the entire village. He husband has left her and she does not have children.
She has a huge bungalow. In that village if there is anyone who has 2-3 storeys of building it is her. All the land around which is mostly like forest is hers and the police station is also her property.
Nobody opposes her. Labourers and the entire village is under her.
Moreover from her ancestors’ time there were bonded labourers under them.
It is ancestral property. The way she is pictured in the Molagapodi play is very scary.
In reality Gangamma and Dayamma are very different.
I did not know how to bring together Gangamma and Dayamma for the play. It was beyond my imagination.
I would get scared even in the nights thinking about it. But I don’t know how to deliver dialogues. So I would be given food and made to sleep and memorise the dialogues.
First of all there were many dialogues that I could not get.
I am very soft character unlike Gangamma. I had to internalise all those and become a woman like Gangamma; Gangamma whom even the crying children would get scared just by hearing the name.
The very name of Gangamma would make even the trees and space become stand still in fear.
The character in front of me was very different than me. I had never seen the stage too. That make up that face… even now I can never get angry. I will always be laughing.
I never expected that I will ever be able to act that anger.
I was told that in the play I should play the role of Ganagamma with that entire make up and that character.
All people in Kattiyakkari (the theatre troupe) encouraged me to do this role when I felt nervous. I acted as Gangamma. I changed to Gangamma.
I love my Gangamma.
She with her anger never lets anyone escape of her power. She will beat anyone. Everything is under her.
In Molagapodi Srijith helped do this character wonderfully.
Dialogue: Endi kalavani kaluthey, vere edeyile inga vanthu yen kaltherka nee romba thimiru puduchavane Kalinulle Pombale ille an sollval. Adu sariyatha irruku. Intha Gangamma karina ….
I took lot of time to say this dialogue.
Then next dialogue.
All those people tease Gangamma and laugh. The play became a great success all over.
Even people whom I did not know came and congratulated me. I was never used to this.
As soon as I would come down the stage a lot of people would come, congratulate me and continue to speak in English. And I would be just smiling as I don’t know English.
I only know that they are saying something. I can only figure out from their faces as you can see happiness in their faces.
Some people even get scared to congratulate me. They will run away seeing from far away. I can figure out that fear too.
I am very happy with this character Gangamma. Only the director will know who best will play which character.
Now I am very happy in my life. On one hand I have theatre and on the other hand I have children of third gender.
Both of them are settled now. Now there four people, I need to help them out with the operation, take care of them and see to it that they are settled well.
That is my desire and that also I will do.
I am third gender so I will not have children but all the younger third genders are my children and I will see to it that they are well settled.
I am very happy now. I don’t go to my house much these days. In the selfhelp group Suavathi Kuru we got money around 2 lakhs.
Yesterday only we got the cheque. We want to invest this money into business. We around 10 people have to decide about this.
Solagarthotti is also in hand and so I am very happy.