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She’s the man

A boy-turned-girl story of the author’s life accompanied by anguish

books Updated: Sep 03, 2010 23:28 IST
Yadavendra Singh

‘As I re-emerged in my man’s garb, I felt that I was in disguise, and that I had left my real self behind’ In her autobiography, Revathi beautifully captures the essence of her life, struggle, aspirations and hopes, including intimate details of a life in a hijra household.

She narrates her early years as a shy but hardworking boy who always felt as a girl and enjoyed doing the daily household chores. She poignantly captures some moments where she questions her identity and her existence — her teachers used to cane her for not being a boy enough, the PT teacher punished her for not playing boys’ games, parents and siblings constantly humiliating her for doing household work.

Revathi writes, “I didn’t know that I behaved like a girl, it felt natural for me to do so. I did not know how to be like a boy.” It was Revathi’s inner desire that made her flee from her house to join the hijras where she received respect and recognition for being who she was.

But life among hijras was not comfortable due to a strict hierarchical nature of the community. Revathi describes her days among hijras, how she was made to work endlessly for ‘senior’ hijras, how she was tossed among different hijra households, her nirvana and how she negotiated her way with her gurus, chelas and hijra fraternity to be where she is now — an activist fighting for the rights for her community.

Her autobiography goes beyond her personal journey — it captures the day-to-day struggles of a hijra, her ongoing negotiation for self-respect, dignity and recognition as a human being. Revathi has written about her personal relationship with admirable honesty.

Though this relationship made her complete as a woman yet it had a bitter ending. Revathi was troubled by the growing indifference of her husband towards her. “I gripped his hand and tried to stop him from leaving,” Revathi writes, “He threw the bag he had in his hand at me furiously and went out....I screamed and wept, afraid that he would leave me, hate me and not have anything to do with me.”

The Truth About Me is an excellent introduction to a hijra’s struggle, vividly displaying vigorous and graphic details of society’s attitude and perception towards a hijra life. The autobiography stands as a testimony to Revathi’s undying and undaunted courage and her irresistible and gracious personality.

Yadavendra Singh is working with India HIV/Aids Alliance

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The world of the castrati: A papal decree barring women from singing in church led to the castrati — castrated boys who sang like angels. A history by Patrick Barbier.