08 March 2023

For a long time, I have thought about the existence of an almighty person or persons up above the stars. I mean, that just sounds like I am thinking about aliens but I am not. I mean, technically gods are kind of aliens. We don’t see them, we don’t hear from them physically, and we rarely have any solid proof that they exist. Then, why and how is this institution that we call faith still running so well?

Happy Holi, my dear reader. I hope you are well. I hope you all the best things that one could or should wish another human on a day like this. I wish there are some people out there, as I look through this channel gate of my mother’s house, wishing me the same. I wish that the gods above are listening to those wishes and thinking of letting me have some.

For a long time, I have thought about the existence of an almighty person or persons up above the stars. I mean, that just sounds like I am thinking about aliens but I am not. I mean, technically gods are kind of aliens. We don’t see them, we don’t hear from them physically, and we rarely have any solid proof that they exist. Then, why and how is this institution that we call faith still running so well? I mean, they have got all kinds of branches too. There is religion. There are cults. There is India which has somehow morphed into a religious cult in itself. In the West, we still got Christianity and Atheism, well, let’s not forget Yoga. True inclusion only happens when we include the slim waist girls with their perfect necklines, neon yoga mats, and the workout but very ethnic and exotic-looking headbands, chanting naa-maa-stay and saying how spiritual they have become. Then you have your witchcraft people. All kinds of covens and packs, and herds. You have the political parties, fighting about countries and who the land belongs to, giving reasons on national and international platforms. And it is all being done in the name of god. So, I will ask you again. What is god? Where is it?

As many of you are aware that I only write from my own experiences. Well, when it comes to god, I haven’t had the best luck. I do believe in him, her, or them, all of them. I do believe that there is someone out there or up there pulling the strings. I wake up at 4 AM every day. I brush my teeth while I try to shake off my depression listening to either Jazmine Sullivan or Lizzy Mcalpine. I know, right? They are both so different in their artistry, yet that is what I am doing these days. Then I make my way to the kitchen, and I warm a litre of water. I give a glass to my father. We will call him Kudesh (Ku means bad, and Desh means country in hindi; you can also think of him named after kuda, which means sheer garbage). Simultaneously, I start making my lunch, and I put on the new utensil on the stove to make him his morning tea. I look at the clock, it is almost 5 by now. Now, if it is a little cold, I switch on the geezer. Only for ten minutes, because in ten minutes Kudesh will probably shout, ye itni der se chala rakha h. Bijli ka bill nhi ata (switching it on for so long, do you even think of the elctricity bill I’ll be paying). Ten minutes. It is never more than ten minutes.

I make my lunch and I make his breakfast. I get the water, and I run downstairs. I close my doors and I get in my bathroom. I take off my clothes and wash my body. I wipe off the water and I shave my face. I look in the mirror and I fix my face. I put on my clothes and I get out to go to college. I come back home, and I make dinner. I eat my food and then I walk for twenty minutes.

And that is my day.

It is mundane and it is ordinary. 

It seems nice and it looks fine. Now, you won’t see any difficulties there. I don’t think it is difficult at all. Probably because I am used to it, but it is not that hard.

What is hard is the first ten minutes of every morning. What is hard is accepting the fact that I depend on the right album or the right song, or the right artist to make my day not sad. And 4 out of the seven days, probably even more, I fall apart in those ten minutes. 

Then this is what happens. I don’t get up at 4 am. Kudesh doesn’t get his water and his tea. Now that I have not done my morning service to him, I don’t have any right going up and making myself lunch. And if I am not allowed upstairs, I don’t get hot water. So my options become, cold water, or no shower, No shower, it is.

I shave. I always shave. Now, I don’t have hot water, you listen. So the shave is not going to be comfortable. It is going to require double or even triple attempts. But I will get it. I always get it. All the nicks and the cuts, I hide with the foundation, and the orange sticks and concealer, they will, and they always do, come back to haunt me the next day. But I carry on. There goes Monday. Tuesday. A Wednesday. Thursdays are nice. And finally Friday. By Saturday and Sunday, I am done. And I am exhausted. I have not done my research for my dissertation. I don’t have any real friends. And I hate myself so much because I spent another week doing literally nothing to improve my situation, and then in all that self-hatred and denial, I sleep or watch something on the OTT platforms to numb myself because hating myself is not the option. 

I start out with something sexy, some good nice rom-com stuff. Then I move on to either Hannibal or The Big Bang Theory. Again, I KNOW!!! I am weird. Eventually, I will end up watching an episode of Mom with Anna Faris and Alison Janney, and that will remind me to get my own butt to a meeting because by this time I am sweetly reminiscing about the time when I had drugs and sex in my life. And no ma’am. We can’t go down that rabbit hole, so I get to a meeting.

I share. I force myself to share. I SPEAK ABOUT WHAT’S TROUBLING ME, MI PADRE, MI HERAMNO, MY DEAD MAA, THE SOCIETY, THE PATRIARCHY, TRANSPHOBIC WOMEN FOR MY TEACHERS, MEN WHO ARE ALL PIGS, and then I will see my own faults. I will admit them. I will begin a new day. I will begin a new week. I might do good, and I might slip and fall. But I will get up and I will do it all over again.

Do you know why? Because sometimes, surviving is not about falling into that deep well of despair. It is not about the depression, the anxiety, the sleepless nights, the dead parents, the addict siblings, or the parent you wish would die. It is about that same faith that those political parties, those cults, those yoga-slaying girls, those witches, and all those hypocritical men preach about. My faith looks different than theirs. My faith compels me to sing hymns and worship songs in the mornings, and light a diya in front of my mother’s photo in the evenings. I say my mother’s prayers too. I sing jai ganesh jai ganesh, and I sing jai sarawati namo var de. That’s what she sang, and that is what I sing. I beg forgiveness for being sad and I feel happy when I do that. In those few moments, I feel happy, because I don’t feel alone. Then, I get back to dinner, and there is that. 

My survival is not always about doing double the work to show that I am working hard. Sometimes, it is. But sometimes, it is just getting up and doing the next right thing. One thing at a time. One day at a time. Sometimes it is about having the most mundane, and quite frankly THE MOST BORING CONVERSATIONS about bags and boys with all the rich girls I go to school with. Sometimes, it is about talking to a complete stranger in your department, because that will allow you to not talk to the fake legendary friends who told you that you can always call them, talk to them, because they understand.

And sometimes, it is simply about crushing on a guy who is nice enough because you see him only once every other week, and well, he is that cute Spanish Teacher, who always calls you by your preferred name. That’s surviving for me. That is faith for me. And right now it is what’s keeping me afloat.

26 February 2023

We all fantasize, right? We fantasize about things, people, toys, kinks, death, life, habits, etc. You hate things, you hate people, you hate yourself for wanting these things, but you don’t stop to think why do I want this? Why do I like this, or why do I only want that exact person? And sometimes when you do want something or you do think about why you want a thing you never wanted in your previous life in your past, you can’t stop spiralling.

My dear reader, I hope you are well today. I hope you are feeling joy. I feel joy. At least in a little way. I am sitting at this table with the sunshine on my face, and it is warm and irritating, but I feel joy. 

I was talking to a friend last night after dinner. I was walking on my father’s roof, and I was looking at all the pink flowers on these little plants my mother planted almost four years ago, and I was trying not to sleep. My doctor has told me I can’t go directly to sleep after I eat, and stupid me, I am like listening to this dumb but sane advice these days, you know to not end up in the ER again. So, I decided to call a friend who could keep me up with some banter. I bantered, and she listened. Let’s call her Amelia.

Our conversation started on some topics of me feeling ecstatic about the fact that my father’s nephew finally left this house, and how I am feeling so damn happy that I don’t have to wait around on another addict or an egomaniac of a man. I mean, I literally have two of them permanently in my father and my brother, or at least for the next few months, and I don’t need more. So, we were like talking and talking, and suddenly I remembered this thing this other girl in class had said about my friend. We’ll call her Lyla.

A week or so ago, our last class had just finished. And naturally, when you are in a class of forty-six women (there is a guy too, not to discount him) you grow to say goodbye to people, and you learn to automatically get to the ladies’ room and find your way amongst these young women to a mirror to fix your face or adjust your bra (not that I wear one, and thank god for that). You do these things out of habit. So, there I was, standing in front of one of those mirrors, adjusting my face mask, adjusting my kurti, adjusting Esther (my humble pouch of a tummy that I named after a beautiful witch in one of my favourite vampire tv shows, and I am fully aware of the dramatics here, so like shut up), and my shoulders. I said my goodbyes, I smiled my smiles behind my mask, conversing with just my eyes the sentiments of those smiles, and exited the room. Amelia was exiting one of the faculty’s cabins and hurriedly looked my way and I waved her a farewell with my hand. Another girl, Lyla, had come out of the washroom, with her group of friends, so I waited a minute with them to do the usual chat about the hair or the eyeliner, or make a sex joke, as that has become one of the only things people talk to me about or think of me being associated with. I have given up on breaking the stereotype, so I just play along and laugh a little and go my merry way. 

Lyla noticed Amelia rush down the stairs and she lost herself for a second looking in my friend’s exited direction. A hint of melancholia had settled on her face and she turned around and said to me wistfully, it must be so lonely for Amelia, to not have friends naa. 

I was taken aback for a moment. I thought of myself as a friend to Amelia. She is very beautiful. She has this clear skin that doesn’t require makeup to shine. The girl washes her face with the water provided in the washrooms at Amity, Noida. If that doesn’t say ballsy, I don’t know what will. She has also recently started complaining about these invisible breakouts that I don’t care for. She is so pretty. She has got a nonchalant way of coming in and going out of random conversations; people are never offended by it, and I am pretty sure they all like her. I mean there is this one girl who once told me how she hates Amelia’s way of being chill and well-liked all the time, but then that girl hates everyone, including herself, and makes it a point in every conversation, about how it is the society that has wronged her, so meh, her opinion doesn’t really matter. 

But, when Lyla mentioned Amelia being friendless, it got me thinking about myself. I don’t think I could call people my friends here. Like not that I don’t have friends or the people in my class or uni aren’t my friends. It just means that I don’t know them all like an actual friend yet. I don’t think I know myself yet. These people we go to school with, get coffee with, in a canteen, or in un café, depending on whose daddy is paying, I really don’t know them like that. Sometimes I feel envious of the girls who wait for each other at the gates or in washrooms, or the ones who would only enter together, even if that makes them late to class. Amelia and I aren’t like that. I don’t know what that feels like, to have that much of a person’s life be linked to yours, even if it is just platonically. I am pretty sure if I asked her about this Amelia would say something like Harshi I don’t care. I don’t need that. You don’t need that. Good for them, but that is them, and this is us. Well, at least that’s who I am. Tu apna khud dekh le.

She is quite simply her own person. She has her priorities straight. Sometimes that could come off as rude or cold, but it doesn’t matter to her. Me? I am a little differently wired. I like people. And I like when they like me. I don’t necessarily demand it of them but it does feel nice to be liked, doesn’t it? Even Karen smiles every time we see each other. I also smile back. I mean, it is what it is. We are all these little freaks in our own ways, and it would be so much nicer if people liked and appreciated that about each other. 

Amelia asked me if our conversation might make it to today’s blog when we were approaching the end of our conversation. I am glad she did. Now, it is here. I hope this wasn’t a breach of our friendship, my dear Amelia. I genuinely feel joy when we talk and I hope it is mutual. And I hope, you feel joy, my dearest reader. I hope this week’s entry wasn’t as gloomy as my other entries. I am growing, I think. 

A lot of my Queer friends have recently started on this Hinge app. They are all on there, matching and going on dates. I tried thinking about it yesterday. My father has recently cut off my wifi, so I don’t know if I want to waste my precious 1.5 GB a day mobile data on an app commenting on people’s profiles or sending them messages to keep them interested enough in my tired and restless posterior. I had conversations with two guys this past week.

One of them was from my past, kind of like my first crush. The other one was this cute button I had met during a nice project I did for a national cause. Yeah, she doin it out here. Both of the conversations were similar in their ways and a little different. Similar, because it sealed my fate in those relationships as nothing but platonic. And platonic here simply means they can’t reciprocate what I felt or feel. The old crush chapter closed and I am glad it did. That relationship wasn’t exactly healthy when it existed in my previous life. So, now that the boy I had a crush on has morphed into a not-so-attractive version of a working man with no sense of his life or future, I am glad that I don’t like him like that no more. I mean, can you imagine? Me with one sad-ass penis man with no sense of humour or a decent understanding of grammar in any language? No Fank You. (She said thank you with a mild English accent).

The other guy is chill. He is nice and has symmetrically aligned facial features, which I am realizing is like a certain type for me, but with him, I think there was just this fantasy attached. I fantasize about these knights in their shining armour a lot these days. Sometimes it helps with my depression, sometimes it just contributes to it. So, I am glad that is also done. I don’t need men. I don’t know if I even still like them, let’s check back in two years on my lesbianism. I need money right now. I need a safe place to live. I need air to breathe.

We never know when we start healing. When you face a loss of a parent, a best friend, a boyfriend, or well, anyone, you don’t exactly wake up one day and see a difference. You don’t just go hey I feel real nice today like today is the day I get my shitty life together… Like that doesn’t happen. I wished that so hard for so long. I think I still wish it sometimes. So I hope I notice when it happens, but more than that, I hope it happens. Au revoir, dearest reader. Till next time.

5 February 2023

It happened again
My face and his fist
They met again.

What had i asked,
Let me think.
A doctor and a bed, yes.
That’s what pushed him off the brink.

You say you want what’s best for me,
You say you always thought me and my brother the same,
But does the bruise on my face looks the same as the smile on his face?
Does his hands shake the same way like my hands?

I run.
I fetch.
I blink because he asked
I smile and i laugh,
I tell them, yeah he is the best
I tell them I’m fine, all because he makes me lie.

My feet can’t stop moving
My stomach can’t stop turning
Hands cold, face warm
The flu is coming.

In a land far off, i see her face
In a land far off, i see her smile.
In a land far off, i hate her face
In a land far off, i hate her smile.

I’m sitting in her kitchen
I’m cooking on her stove
One hand holding my stomach, one hand stirring the soup.
Tomato, onion and garlic-
That’s all i could find.
That’s all she left behind.

She used to say he’s the man
He is the Malik
Mera Malik
Tera Malik
Ghar ka malik
Yeah he is the man.

He walks where he wants to
He talks to people i talk to
He smiles in front of them
All to make it seem real.

I don’t think I’m real.
I smile
I also talk to people.
My friends know me, i think
I don’t know if they’re my friends
My hopes and dreams in that sink.

My hate grows by the day
My love reaches its end.
People say you’re so strong
I tell them you’re wrong.

Strength lies in the sea
Strength lies in the waves.
I am the sand
Slowly moving with the wind into the graves.

There’s more the one.
A grave for my courage
A grave for my thesis
A grave for sight of future
And a grave for my mother’s kiss.

That kiss raised me.
That kiss showed me
The love, the opportunity
The tomorrow and the day after
What duplicity!

I went to the doctor
He says YOUR FATHER SUCH A NICE MAN
How should I trust him?
He refused my hand
He refused my opinion.
He listens to the brother
He laughs with the brother
I don’t trust him.

He is your brother, my father said
He is my cousin, it’s not the same
I do have a brother
He is happy
Momentarily.

He laughs
He runs
Not because he has to
But because he wants to
A little Weed will do that to you.

I don’t do weed no more.
I face my life with grace and dignity
I look for the serenity
Two years sober
What a load of shit.

The soup is done.
My feet are still cold
My hands are still shaking
I look off the cliff
But no! It’s not as compelling.

I look down the edge
Peace and quiet.
I look back out in the kitchen
Chaos and pain.
I choose this.

I choose life.
If i die it will be him or destiny
Not my own choice.
I will run.
I will fetch.
And one day i will leave him for death.

In a land nearer, i see you, mother
You still smile and reach out
your feet aren’t letting you
So you smile and say
Revenge looks good on you.

28 January 2023

The reason I am writing today is quite unclear to me. I don’t have an agenda or a simple topic today. I do not have any inspiration as well, I seem to have run out of ideas. While I do appreciate your candour and support, my dearest reader, there is a chance you are reading this space on the promise of a sassy and fun-filled recount of a time I met another Karen, or perhaps even a bickering Becky. But I am, in the simplest of terms, sad today.

I have a life that gives me enough to be sad about, but I can’t put my finger on the reason what particularly is the reason for my sadness today. I woke up on the good side of the bed. I watched the new Teen Wolf movie, and despite its known lack of serious and thought-provoking content, it delivered me to a satisfactory enough orgasmic bliss by the end. So, you could possibly understand my confusion about this sudden burst of melancholia that has sprung out of nowhere.

As I chew on these three nine months old almonds in my mouth, I start on a quest. A quest of uncovering the roots of my desolation. The first thing that comes to mind is the room. This room that I am sitting in. This table. The table that my mother bought me three months before she died. This laptop, I got this on the day I registered for a creative writing course at the British Council, in 2019, if I remember correctly. My mom bought that too. She took up the money from her self-help group, or as the ladies in this country say, committee se uthae the. 

I am sensing a pattern here. My mom. I think I miss my mom. The noon I spent on the roof of this house today was quite contributing to my mood. I sat up there trying to read this book that I have selected to write my dissertation on, though all I could do, while I read a nationalist’s account of a woman he loved and how he could save her, was write with these big white-cement residue that had over time transformed into chalk. I was writing in Hindi, which took me by surprise, not because it was a miracle that I still remembered the letters, but because of the words I had chosen. The words weren’t Hindi, they were Urdu. QAATIL, I wrote. KHOONI, followed next. 

I won’t go into the details to decode those words. It probably had something to do with my mother and her husband not having the most peaceful marriage and the ways in which he, over the years, slowly and steadily snuffed the light from her eyes. The normal teenage years, I am sure you all can relate to. Though I do have some concerns about the things that followed. 

As soon as I wrote the words down in big, bold, and clear lexicons of Hindi and English, a devastating fear flashed before my eyes. He had a voice. My fear was male. Darr, he was called. He asked, ‘are you crazy what if he sees it and decides to throw a bigger kadhai at your face? How will you explain that bruise, haan?’

I did not reply. I complied. I do that these days. In my last two years of living with alcoholics and drug-addicted egomaniac men, I have acquired a pearl of great wisdom- it is easier to comply most of the time. I think it is so much easier to temporarily silence the voice inside me that says no this is wrong I hate this I am not your slave than to let the voice of natural subservience spring out of sheer helplessness. I don’t want this phase of my life to be my life. The natural subservience will never be the root of my behaviour. I will let that inner strength out sometime. I know I will get out. I will have an actual life. Do you want to know what that life looks like?

Well, like all the good old fairy tales, there is a house. There is also a white picket fence. It could very well be a terrace balcony on the twentieth floor of an apartment either on Fifth or Park avenue, we can settle on Madison too. We’ll see. So, there’s the house. There is a table on that terrace, or the yard, whatever I end up on. There is a swing. There is a porch. There is grass. There is the flickering light of a bulb I forgot to change. There is the moon. There is a clear blue, and black in the night sky. There is tea. There is the twenty-year sobriety chip with the same words on my two-year chip god grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference right next to my ninth book that came out recently and has already been selected in the Oprah Book club. Yes, Oprah is still around and kicking like the badass queen she is now.

What I don’t see is a man. Or a woman. I don’t see any children. I don’t see any household noise. Hell, I don’t even see a cat. That is not my dream. My dream when my mom was alive, used to be of a husband who looked like harry styles, sang like him, flirted like him, and yet chose to be mine based on the fact that he loved me and on the brilliant miraculous grace of god that I loved him back. There were children. The house was full of noise and chaos. The flickering light bulb was long gone, in its place was half chewed teddy bear which meant that after ten years of marriage and five migraine-giving yet somewhat decent children, there was yet another toddler in the house.

Perhaps my current person does not want the chaos and the joy of the older dream. But I am also scared of the isolated solitude of the current dream. I am wistful. I am sad. And most of all, I think I am still grieving. They don’t tell you the magnificent scope of grief when you lose the person you lose. I bought this book titled, It’s okay to not be okay, an account of this psychologist woman when she lost her husband. He drowned right in front of her, as she was stuck in her own situation. I thought, well, here is this person. She lost someone. Tragically so too, I mean if she could get out of it and then go on to write about it, maybe reading about her experience might help me too. I know what you are thinking. You are like dude, her and your loss are different, like bruh wtf?  But gworrrl, I was so fucking out of mind and in so much pain that I thought, at that time, this was the best thing ever. I so desperately wanted someone to come and pick me up, and tell me everything was gonna be alright. I wanted a saviour. Little did I know that saviour would eventually be me, and I don’t think I am doing a good job. I started the book with all kinds of hopes and aspirations, like yeah this is gonna be good I am gonna be like totally not sad after this. Needless to say, that did not happen. I did not finish the book. Her experience and observations were spot on, but I simply was not in the headspace to read about anything. Maybe I will give it another go one of these days. I am technically older and hopefully wiser.

But right now, I am going to wash my face off. I am going to go drink a glass of water, maybe two. And then I am gonna send this out. I hope this sudden stream of consciousness doesn’t scare you off, my dearest reader. Maybe I will be happy with the next blog post. Till then, I hope you the best of health and some deeply satisfying orgasms. Au revoir!

14 January 2023

I didn’t sit with tea or coffee this morning, though it is still quiet. I do have a topic in mind. I have been tiptoeing around a lot of people this new year, you know the people who you find in your life at a certain crossroad where you recognise something similar, something that you both share, a common enemy or a common struggle perhaps, and you see yourself with them. You see them for who you think they might be and given how lonely you are, you say, oh there you are! You are my friend!

But soon, soon you realise, no! that person is not your friend. They might see you in a friendly way but they are not your friend. 

Women, as a species, and as a broad gender, have always felt that they needed solidarity. We feel like we need this because if we don’t have this, what do we have left? Men? Sure, there are some men, some decent men, who identify as a feminist, the ones who want to talk about their feelings, the ones who are like, yeah, I’m okay with having period sex, etc. But can they truly offer that friendship that one finds with someone from her own gender?

I have been pondering and observing these facts and my experiences on this ever since I came out as a Transwomxn. I still don’t agree with the ‘coming out’ as a term, but it is the closest I could come to an analogy that would get the message across.

So, I decided to note down a series of my experiences with the cisgender women that I met during my grad school education at a private university. I will list one experience every week, and though they may read like a personal attack, I will do my best to make them soft and pillow-likely to tend to your delicate sensibilities. I understand that you may feel offended, thinking, yaar Maine to nhi bola aisa, or I didn’t mean it like that, or the ever-so-refreshing, it was not my intention to hurt you, but that’s just your own interpretation, not what I said, so I would suggest you be gone; especially if you think you might be in these thought-provoking and mind stimulatingly descriptive pieces, I suggest you don’t read ahead. 

And be aware, women, gays and non-binaries (i am pretty sure that is the only demographic reading this) that I shall be using the most ostentatious English names, to maintain these people’s anonymity, and their personalities will be reflected in their respective names, however supple or thorny they might be.

The first person I will be talking about is Karen. Yes, she is named Karen. And yes, she is that Karen- privileged, white (fair nay, milk-skinned in the Indian context) and she likes to gossip. This woman was one of the first people I met in Amity. Back in the first semester, we had a hybrid thing going, where some students were online and some offline. She and I were among the handful of offline students. She was also one of the first people who gave me a hug, like oh my god, you are so pretty, and tall, gerrrl look at those legs. Yup, that’s how she greeted me. Nothing says ‘I am okay with you being gay’ more than the incorporation of the word girl in the first sentence.

Karen, at one time, saw me coming from afar and hid her lunch while she lipped the words, yaar ye lunch dekh lega. Funny, isn’t it? Sure, she had lunch, prepared by a mother who is caring, and alive, but how dare I see or share that? Her actions were probably provoked by my previous enthusiastic affirmatives when she offered me a bite to eat. I wake up at five o’clock in the morning, to do menial chores for my father, as it is considered my rent. I know it sounds degenerative and negative, but that is simply my reality. So, when a person smiles and offers to feed me when I don’t know if and when I’ll be having my next meal, I say yes. 

 The fact that she said gerrrl not Gworl, told me right then and there that this was the first time she was saying it, and that she probably hadn’t met another alternative person, as she’d like to call me, hitherto. But that’s the thing, Karen always viewed me as ‘a’ gay, which in her definition was a gay male, simply cross-dressing. Somewhere deep down, I think I have been telling myself that at least it is better than her straight-up hating you, or creating havoc of you being in her personal, and female space. So, when she asked me one day during a metro ride together, why can’t a boy just be effeminate or feminine, you know he can behave like a ladki (girl) if he wants, but still be a boy? Why does he have to use she/her pronouns?

In her mind, she was simply asking a question. She did it respectfully, and politely. I understand that. Women are inquisitive, and they shall ask as much as they want to know. But here is the thing: what you say and communicate are two different things. What is mentioned above, is what she said. Now here is what I heard.

Hey, I have a question for you. And I am going to be very polite about this, as I am growing up in a culture where ‘people like you’ can shout homophobia and xenophobia as loud as you can at the first slightly insensitive thing. I would like to know, in my very polite and privileged way, nay I demand to know why a boy, such as yourself, is forcing me to admit, in every sentence I utter in a social setting, that you are a woman. Because, honestly, I simply would like to understand why I should be forced to say something I don’t believe in. But, I can’t say that, so I am going to smile and nod as if I am open to a conversation. Who knows, I might even be open to a conversation, but could you please explain your whole life to me, because, honestly I don’t understand. I get that your mom died, and I know you have a hard life, but like. get over it and put my queries above all that. I deserve to know why I should be calling you a girl. So, answer.

If that seems to you an exaggeration, my dearest reader, I implore you to go back up, and read what she said, and then come back down and read what I heard. If you can bring yourself to understand the difference and yet, the most correct interpretation, I invite you to read further ahead.

Firstly, I understand that in some ways, it is somewhat exaggerated. But what you may not see, is that there is a microscopic sentence behind every word, every smile, every hair tuck, and every nod. And that, that is exactly what my years of repression and chronic self-reflection have taught me to see. I have been non-consensually trained in this sea of anxiety and self-hatred, and I positively don’t expect you to see it when you interact with me. I am very good at hiding it. I am sitting on the floor, as I write this, on my 6-year-old laptop Sophia named after a Disney princess, with a set of cold hands because my blood sugar is probably low as I haven’t had anything to eat or drink after dinner last night, not because I don’t want to, but because it is not available. And it has been more than 12 hours since my last meal. So, bear with me as I complete this. 

What followed that question in that conversation, was a simple explanation of the difference between gender and sexuality, and how interconnected and not-connected they are at times. I hope and wish Karen understood it. I explained it to her with the same smiles and nods and hair-tucks, and here is why: I happen to understand what she meant to say- on the surface and below the surface alike- but in order to bring a shift in her attitude, I needed her to see understanding, not hostility

I could have very easily been like- oh I am so offended right now, like how dare you question my identity, and like I have suffered so much, and can’t I have a moment of peace?  I also could have actively or passive-aggressively attacked her- oh what a shameful piece of shit-feminist you are, like don’t you know the difference between gender and sexuality, or like I guess not because that’s the difference between, a B.A. honours degree and B.A. program degree, and yeah bitch I know where you been, you ain’t foolin’ nobody.

Of course, there were other options too, but I chose to take the query part of her question, and I chose to ignore every other aspect of her personality. What I got in return was a Karen who never asked me that same question again. She now never fiddles when addressing me as she, or her, and she is pleasantly more tolerable. 

Some of you know who Karen is. Karen, if you are reading this, I would you to know that of all the people in my life that I have had the displeasure of educating, you have been one of the few surprising positive ones. These are not all the events that we share a common memory of, but these incidences are the ones that have marked our relationship in my mind. I hope you won’t be offended, but I do not care anyway. This isn’t about you. 

The main reason I started this blog, was to chronicle the series of events that I as womxn am going through. I live in a hostile society, a hostile house, with dangerous, mentally unstable people. There is an absolute uncertainty about life that I have come to accept. It is exactly the reason why I am jotting down these details in a blog, for it to be out there, and not just in my diary. I hope I have earned the privilege of all the 4 minutes you have spent reading this, and I wish you all the good things in life, my dearest reader. Au Revoir!

7 January 2023

It is a quiet Saturday morning. I have my green tea resting next to the yellow cloth I wipe this laptop screen with as I lament the fact that I don’t write as much as I used to,  even though I still have a rigorously maintained journal. However, yesterday’s events have made it very hard for me to not use a plainly quiet voice to enunciate the fact that being a transgender womxn in a city like Delhi truly is excruciating. 

I am a Master’s student in the English Literature program of Amity University, Noida. Considering the fact that I came from a central university like the University of Delhi to a highly funded private one, I hoped my experience would be somewhat different here than the very homophobic one I had witnessed in my undergrad. To some extent, I realise it is different. I was not out as Transwomxn in my undergrad, and I felt open enough to do that in this school. The reason? Probably the fact that it is easier to be something alternative to the system’s already existing subjects in a private university because you do have a right to be there. You are paying the same money (speaking equivocally) and the culture is somewhat of a hybrid nature. 

Hybridity here exists in varying degrees. Let’s talk about men first. Boys, if we are being real. You would find your desi men, the ones with the big beard, tight expensive jeans, and a car and pair of shoes that their parents bought them the day they realised this is the only way to ensure their offspring can be controlled. Then you have your nerds, I know it sounds derogatory, but it’s not. They can also be divided into two categories. Their similarities must come first. They all wear glasses; they all have a tone of condescension in their voice that when they speak to someone from a literature background shines through exponentially; and they majorly happen to be business or some sort of tech majors. The only thing that differentiates them is their outer appearance and their class. Yes, I am talking about the faces and jawlines, and their height, the hair, the legs and eventually their wallets. It sounds superficial, but that is how I have come to understand it in the Amity world. 

The women, on the other hand, are completely easy. It sounds so shallow, and as a womanist myself, I agree that one thing we as a gender are not is easy. Yet, it is my understanding, that the women, cis-het kind, happen to be far easier to make out than the men. There are simply two categories- the ones who talk about their purses and their makeup, and the ones who are more balance-oriented. Now there are varying degrees of balance-oriented women- there is always the one who will be plain, and simple- easy to understand and talk to, non-problematic, and no-nonsense types, and they will have similar plain and simple friends. Their topics of discussion include their studies, their homes and their prospective boyfriends. The other kind happens to be more discourse oriented- they will know the things happening around the world, they will know the difference between womanism and feminism, and they will be the first to tell you they are so proud of you for simply existing as a minority gender. Regardless of their background, all the women I have met here are intelligent and aware of their life choices. They do what they do shamelessly. I found it quite liberating, to be honest.

Sure, there are problematic people as well. You know the ones who become suddenly bi-curious, and eventually bisexual, when in a presence of a visibly queer person; they are manipulative enough to think this gives them some sort of an edge to talk the Twitter meme language, but not sensitive enough to know it leads to the problems our real bisexual community faces within the Queer community, simply because the last bisexual they met turned out to be woke phoney. This may be a sensitive topic, and I fully acknowledge that. I have had enough bisexual experience to know and read a fellow person, but that’s not the case with everyone. 

All in all, women proved to be my safe space at this university. I am in a class of 45 women and one man who rarely ever shows up, and 90% of my faculty happens to be female. The ten per cent male faculty are supportive or stoic enough to not make my life hell based on my gender. I know that is a low bar, but that’s simply just India. I make do with what’s given and I say my gratitude for not being accosted in the street. At least, that has been my life’s way of living as an out and proud transgender womxn. But it is still not that simple. 

The fact that I can walk out of the house dressed as a woman simply relies on the fact that I pass. I pass with my voice, my hair, my legs ( believe it or not, they are excellent), my traditional Indian clothing choices such as salwar-kameez, or Kurtis (after my mother’s chosen fashion choice) and no Adam’s apple. Then why are you here, the reader must think right about now. Well, bear with me my dearest reader.

Yesterday was one of the very few times I had worn a gender-neutral outfit. You know simply a sweater and pants. It was also the first time I had a top bun instead of my hair down. I reckon that was probably the reason why. It started out as normal glares. I have a round face with what I think is a prominent nose, and I am 5’9, so when they see a tall-ish woman they usually tend to glare. (And let’s not forget those delicious legs). But something… something was off. I didn’t notice it very quickly, as I usually block out the male gaze, male stares more specifically. And I carried on with my day. It was with my friends from class that I finally noticed that there was something going on. 

One thing one finds when in and around women all day long, is that there is a certain beauty and a very fitting Indian grace that these cisgender women carry themselves with that I can never replicate. I am speaking in a strictly Indian context, and I hope it is somewhat understandable to the reader. Maybe if I was acting all day long, I would have been better but not in real life. I pass as an educated woman, the kind that goes to college and learns something. I don’t pass as a desirable one, and that is what became apparent yesterday. I have acquainted myself with my lack of bosoms and a thick posterior, and frankly, I have no need for them. But, yesterday, I realised that is desired of me by my surroundings. And the fact that I have no inclination to hide for a day under a shawl or a big jacket, outs me as the other. And the funny thing is, I wasn’t even the first person to realize it. My painfully beautiful friend, who shall remain anonymous, saw a group of men staring directly at my body with suspicious and conspicuous smiles on their faces- something that the women in India are all too aware of. And when she broke out in her precious Urdu, telling them off in a witty passing fuck you that only Indians can understand, asking them if there was a spectacle (numaish was the word she used) that they were gawking at, it is then that I turned away from the friend with whom I was walking in arms with and saw their faces. There was not anything different. They were still the same desi men I have come to not fantasize about, and I was still the other they are used to laughing at. 

I did feel a bit taken aback by my friend’s brave middle-finger-like attitude. I also for the first time felt solidarity in a group of cis-women. I have been friends with cis women my entire life. But it doesn’t usually happen that one of them ever speaks up for me. My inner trans-child felt not loved, not accepted, but simply content that my existence meant something to someone that they chose to say something. It doesn’t happen often, I will tell you that. Those who have the privilege of anything rarely ever take a stand for those of us who have none. That was primarily the reason why the Queer community came together, and how it always speaks out against any and all injustices if another minority community ever gets in trouble with this system we have so eloquently accepted as the real world and its red tape.

That high did not last very long, as I soon parted with my friends, they were leaving the campus, and I had to stay to catch my bus. Once I was alone, roaming the campus with my lunch bag in one hand, and my smartphone in another googling to find something to write my thesis on, I realised the spot I had chosen to rest my heavenly bottom on became a tourist spot for a couple of men. I found them unabashedly staring at me trying to figure me out. My eyes met theirs and they suddenly tried to disperse, but not fast enough. They looked away; one of them looked at his phone and the other one looked at his friend. I knew enough to not be there any longer, so I moved. They started following me not long after, and when I stopped again, one of them ran right in front of me. The other one soon followed, and the former clapped his hand twice with his fingers out. Then, they both laughed and I exited.

I knew what that clap meant. You know what that clap meant. 

Chances are if you are reading this article, you probably are someone who has been at the other end of that clap hurled at you as an insult. But it is not.

The clap was them trying to call me hijra, hijri, chakki, various words that I have heard often and never with a valid context. When I did know what it meant I was told to be scared. I wasn’t. There was not anything to be scared of. They are just people who lived like me, breathed like me, drank water, ate food, and the only thing that set them apart is that they choose to not listen when they are told that they are wearing the wrong clothes, kissing the wrong person, dancing the wrong way, or feeling joy when they ought to feel ashamed. That’s not different from what I do. 

Hijra is a word that the people in India use for a community comprised of intersex, transgender, and eunuch folks, who choose to live together accepting each other as their kin. I hope I explained it right. They usually get discarded by the “civilised society,” so they make their own. They make their living doing whatever they can, and they feel no shame in that, as they ought not to. Every human does that- trying to live however they can. Some of us have more resources owing to our respective privileges, and that’s how the world works. It’s just that some of us choose to use those resources to do our part. My writing is a resource I have accumulated because of the privilege that is my education. One would think that education is a right, or that everyone has a right to it. It is not, and no, not everyone gets that. We may live in a country where we are taught to say and think so, but the reality is far, far removed from it being a right. 

It took me almost five hours to complete this. I seriously underestimated the toll it would take on my depression, but I am glad I did this. I am still trying to come to a conclusion that would make sense, or give hope as my name suggests. Perhaps, this time I can’t. But there is still some hope in hopelessness, my mother used to say. She said, one ought to get knocked down before one starts to get up. I learned to confine my expectations and conform to keep myself safe after yesterday’s events. And I hope to keep writing, for as long as I can. It has been an honour to have you here, my reader. I hope you are not too disappointed, and I wish you a good day.