I am Amrita

I am Amrita.
Born, Amrit.
On an April morning,
in Safdurjang National Hospital
Apple of my family’s eye.
“Badhai Ho! Ladka hua hai!”
Dadaji distributed laddoos to the entire neighborhood.

Neatly wrapped in the hospital sheet,
Lay someone who’d grow up to be Amrita, not Amrit.
Had Dadaji known, he’d have been less enthusiastic with the laddoos.

October, 1995.
4-year-old Amrit. 4-year-old Me.
Playing cricket in my gully.
Getting out for a duck,
“Arey, Ladki hai kya?!”
I felt like saying “Yes”
But I just blushed and stared at the ground.
They came at me.
Menacingly. Like starving man-eaters.
I took off. Ran for my life.
They cornered me.
They always did.
Neighborhood bullies and the bitter, cruel society.
“LEAVE ME ALONE. LET ME GO”
“Shhh….”
The one sound that’ll go on to haunt me forever.

January, 2001.
Fancy Dress Competition in school.
“Would you like to be Krishna, beta?” Ma asked.
Diligently looking for a suitable costume.
“But maa, why not Radha?”
I asked, thinking of how beautiful I’d look in one of her printed sarees and glittery bangles…
“Shhhh….what are you saying? Chee!”

Again.
“Shhh”
I didn’t win.
I envied the Iron Man, the Fairy Princess, the Hanuman…
How comfortable they were!
You know what hurt more?
The fact that I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable, even if I wasn’t Krishna.
Even if I wore my own clothes.
Even if I wore nothing.
I wasn’t comfortable in my skin.
In this…this body.
It was strange. It was terrifying.
I felt like telling Ma.
But then, I remembered.
“Shhhhh”
And I shut up.

November, 2006.
I was 15.
Everyone I knew had relationships or crushes.
I didn’t even know who I was.
I thought boys were really hot.
I wanted to wear pretty dresses and heels.
Go bra shopping with my bestfriends.
I loved to imagine myself in long soft curls,
And lots of jewellery.
I nearly asked a Janpath shop owner, the price of a jhumka,
But shhhh…. My conscience said.

July, 2015.
Many years since I was born.
A lot of flak, I had to face.
For walking like a girl.
For talking like a girl.
For silently admiring boys, but not desiring to be like them.
I had to go through hell, before I realised who I was. Amrita. She was my destiny.
Skipping past the gory details, I finally decided to become Amrita, my dream.
When I began bringing Amrita to life,
Ma and Babuji didn’t speak to me for a month.
A week before one of the dozen surgeries, Ma was running her fingers through my, then shoulder length, hair.
Perhaps blaming herself for my actions.
I wanted to reach out..But…
How could I tell her of the bi-monthly anti androgen injections that left me in unbearable pain for hours…
Of the lakhs that were thrown down the drain when my vaginoplasty was declared “unsuccessful”…
The night I spent crying to myself uncontrollably after Kapoor Sir, my boss, creepily fondled my ass, saying “ab to tera gaand marunga”
The days I covered every inch of my tainted body with cloth because I couldn’t bear to see its twisted surgery scars.
The endless shades of lipsticks, eyeliners and expensive makeup that lay untouched on my dressing table… Because I didn’t dare to know how I’d look…
The black zara dress that I wore with so much pride to a friend’s party…
How do I tell her that someone called me Hijra that night, and I drove home sobbing and looked at my ugly self in the mirror. How I tore that dress off my body, and thought of how I will never look beautiful. Of how she was right and I was wrong.
When Mishraji’s son innocently asked whether he should call me uncle or aunty…
I just smiled. But I was in pieces…
somewhere, Ma knew.
She had tears in her eyes.
In the vain hope, that her silent tears would be the healing balm I needed.
If only I had it this easy!

But now I had started my fight.
I wished I could tell her how liberated I had begun to feel!
How excited I was for my new life!
How relieved I was to get rid of the things that made no sense…
But shhh….closed in on me, like a catacomb upon my free will…

January,2019
4 years since my Amrita came into existence.
She loves herself now.
Her beautiful new B-Cup breasts. Wide hips.
Oh! How she, sorry I, love washing my waist length hair on Sundays…
Admiring my scarred but sexy self in the mirror
Putting on brilliant blue eye-liner without a care in the world!
Grabbing my purse and sashaying down the street…

A lot of people say a lot of things…
Some aloud, some to each other, some wordlessly, with shock in their eyes.
You know what I tell them all?
“Shhh….”

Picture by Arushi Saini (Unsplash)

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