She ignored me. I was shocked. Her pale face made me feel helpless. She looked shattered. I knew I couldn’t help her. I could only pray to my god to give her the strength to face reality.
A beautiful person
I first met her as him. That morning I noticed a tall man standing facing a bookshelf as I entered my workplace in the morning. The library I managed included books on arts and humanities, cultural and gender studies. I asked him if he was looking for anything specific. He said, “Not really, just browsing.” I came back to my desk. After some time my superior, the institute director, arrived. They started chatting. Then he left.
My superior told me, “He’s my childhood friend – teaches humanities in a university in Delhi. He is a good speaker too. Let’s see if we can arrange a session with him.” “Well, so you want to kill Calcuttan ladies too?” My friendly superior laughed appreciatively at my complimenting his friend’s handsome look. Then he said, “Don’t worry about ladies, he is trying to transform.” I imagined the count of men falling for her if he changed into a she someday.
He showed up again within a couple of months to participate in a seminar at our institute. Listening to a lecture explaining perspectives on gender bias, I felt someone sit down on the chair beside me. I glanced up and it was him – stunning in a colourful kurta and light jewellery! He whispered, pointing at my skirt, “You skirt is beautiful! I will be able to dress like you soon.” His jovial mood cheered me. I said, “You will look gorgeous in a saree also.”
Related reading: What makes her a woman?
The long, painful process
We chatted during lunch that day. His visits to my library in the next few months gave us ample time to develop our friendship. I found out the long painful surgical process of his transformation had started sometime back. It was still going on; doctors needed to slowly change his body part by part. He was taking it all. I looked at his transformation with utter astonishment. Once I pointed at his face, “But what about that blue patch of your beard?” He could be called a she by then, if only that patch could be wiped. “It’s a most painful process, you know? It will take another six months to go,” she smiled. She was bubbling with optimism. She started wearing skirts. We shared a taste for costume jewellery and talked about getting tribal jewellery in Calcutta. She had a boyfriend. They were planning to marry after her transformation.
The mark of marriage
She arrived again after a few months – this time with her man. The bejewelled lady looked beautiful in a saree and a generous splash of vermilion in the parting of her hair. Listening to the chirping of the cheerful newly married lady gave me a kind of heavenly pleasure. Her man seemed monosyllabic. I was hesitant to force him to communicate. They left for Delhi soon. We weren’t in touch for several months after that. I thought she was enjoying her married life.
One evening I noticed my superior’s gloomy face at work.
“Anything wrong at home?”
“No. You know what happened to Shivani?”
“Her husband left her. He turned violent lately. When she protested, he said he isn’t able to bear her in the form of a woman. He is comfortable only in a man’s company.” I couldn’t imagine that gender could play a barrier between soul mates and stood shocked. He continued, “Not only that, her disappointed lover took away all money from their joint bank accounts. Now she is robbed of everything!”
The strength of a woman
I wanted to cry aloud. I knew her friends would extend support. But I also knew how emotionally attached she was to her man. Why did she have to face such a destiny?
Next year, I found her browsing books in the book fair – alone, without any trace of vermilion or conch-shell bangles – her face depressed. I was undecided whether to start a conversation. She looked at me, her expression blank. Then she walked away. I felt a lump in my throat.
She shared the rosy picture of her sweet dreams with me once. I didn’t want my presence to bring her bitter memories back. I prayed for divine help to make her strong like a woman. Her womanhood would support her to overcome her misery, I was sure.