Shizu, 22 worked at a beauty parlour in Mumbai.
It was a hot sultry Sunday morning in June. I woke up feeling weak and famished. Just yesterday, we all decided to skip one meal to save money and ration. Reema, Saira and Karishma, my roommates, decided to keep a stone on their stomachs because hunger was making it impossible for us to sleep.
Food was perpetually on our minds. On top of that we slept without a fan on hot summer days. We were trying to save electricity so that we don’t have to pay the bill. We charged mobile phones on alternate days.
While many people I knew, my customers mostly, were enjoying the privilege of working from home, my friends and I were stuck at home, without money, jobs or even food.
The same morning a few government officials came to our area and instructed us to maintain social distance and buy soaps and sanitisers while I was desperately thinking about getting food to cook and eat. At that moment, a neighbour informed us that ration was being distributed in our area. I dropped everything and rushed there.
‘Not for hijras’
My roommates and I stood in the queue, hoping to get some food to survive for the next few months. When it was our turn finally, the women stepped back and said, ‘Hijre ho na? Hum tumko nahi de sakte.’ We were shocked.
We didn’t have the energy to argue and did not want to create a scene. We were hungry and feeble. We left without a word thinking there must be some rules. Maybe because we were outcasts, I thought?
While I saw every other underprivileged person getting help, there we were, returning home, without any food. I felt extremely angry, frustrated, hungry and depressed. How are we going to survive this lockdown?
We all came back home and drank tea without milk and sugar. I wondered how easy it is for people to say no to us on our faces.
‘I wish I had studied’
Before lockdown I was working as a helper in a beauty parlour. It made me feel confident and independent. I was grateful that my ammachi (head of the group) provided me with five years of basic education, insisting that our masterji came home to teach us.
I wish I studied a little more. Maybe then I would have worked from home too, just like all those people who came to our beauty parlour. Today ammachi, the lady who raised me when my family left me as a child, is no longer with us.
The second wave of Covid was hard on us emotionally, mentally and financially as well.
I never assumed that this pandemic would go on so long, that it would make our lives extremely difficult. Everyday seems like a battle. Every morning when I wake up, we wonder how to survive today - what to eat, how to earn.
I am thankful to the owner of our room, who forgo the rent for three months taking pity on our conditions. But this may not last. The parlour lady has not given me any salary. She now says she does not have money even to run the parlour.
Begging to survive
My roommates, who used to beg or dance at marriage functions, have asked me to join them in begging.
Nobody in our area is ready to give us work even as a maid. People think we are unhygienic and we can be the carrier of Coronavirus. I have decided to go out and beg but even when I go to beg in trains, people behave awkwardly. The money I get from begging is not enough to eat or pay rent.
Sometimes I wish I was not a trans woman and should have hidden my true identity. Many people think we are cursed. Looking at how things are going, I now feel, maybe we are.
It has been more than two years since homosexuality was declared legal in India and Section 377 was abolished. However, life is still hard for individuals and couples from the LGBTQIA+ community, as they do not enjoy the same rights and freedoms as heterosexual and cisgender people. For them, the fight is still on. So to mark the International Pride Month 2021, Love Matters India will publish a series of stories to highlight the LGBTQIA+ struggle for equal rights on issues such as marriage, adoption, insurance, inheritance, social acceptance as well as livelihood. #JungJaariHai
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model.