This week the Municipal Corporation of Delhi extended its pension scheme for deprived sections to the city’s eunuchs. They will now get a monthly pension of Rs 1,000. One cold evening in the courtyard of a sufi shrine, we came across a group of eunuchs, better known as hijras.
You, too, must have seen them — in public gardens, at traffic lights, and perhaps also in your apartment complex if there had been a wedding, a birth or some such happy occasion in the next-door flat. Rarely with regular jobs, the hijras earn by asking for money; in exchange they offer their blessings. This is the general perception about this mysterious community.
Their other side
In the shrine, however, the hijras we found, were as ordinary as other pilgrims. Most were in white salwar kameez, with a dupatta covering their heads for modesty’s sake. Strange, you might wonder. Aren’t hijras immodest people by nature? Aren’t they always in bright sarees, backless blouses and heavy makeup? Isn’t their entire effort focused on looking different so as to excite curiosity or even repulsion from the people?
But these eunuchs were going unnoticed. Sitting in a cluster, they looked like other women in the vicinity, except that they were a little more feminine, more elegant, more beautiful and had beard.
They start talking. “Meet Mummy,” said Nimo, the prettiest of them as she invited us to join the group. Mummy, whose name was Reshma, had movie-star enigma written all over her face. She nodded at us and offered the Pepsi she was drinking. Next to her sat ‘Papa’ who had... err, a deep cleavage! Apart from Nimo, Mummy and Papa had two more ‘daughters’ — Muskan and Vimla. Muskan was the only one in man’s clothes.
Nimo told us that they had come from Shahdara, a trans-Yamuna locality in east Delhi. Their lives were similar to that of other hijras — moving around in tolis (groups) and extracting money by making a show of their sexual uniqueness. Mummy said that they keep a record of the auspicious events happening in the neighbourhood and make sure to land outside each happy home. There, they sing and dance till given money by that household.
While we talked, the evening progressed. Mummy invited us to her home in Shahdara. It was then that Guruji, the master of the family, appeared. She was at the dargah mosque all this while. Sporting a turban and wearing a long kurta and lungi, the guru blew air with her mouth over the heads of her disciples. It is a Muslim way to protect someone from evil forces. She then turned to us, hesitated a little and then blew the air over us, too.