Rohini was on her way to Vaniga Sangham Hall to deliver a lecture on ‘Beti Bachao’. She was a popular social activist and many organisations used to call her for their programmes as guest speaker. Occasionally she used to go well prepared, but many times, it was extempore. This time it was a mix of both. She had added her own personal experiences and made the speech very effective. Though she did not tell the audience about all that she went through, she did throw light on fallacies and myths, men carried two decades ago, may be holding good even now, like -- men believed that only women were solely responsible for birth of male or female babies; boys carried more of father’s genes and girls those of mother’s, and so on. Any woman delivering a male issue was considered great and was pronounced lucky while a mother of baby girl was treated as an ill-fated one. She spoke emphatically, how such wrong notions led the society to a downfall. The women population had fallen down drastically and at this rate society might remain lopsided. That was the main reason for banning all Scan centres. She urged the audience to strengthen the ‘Beti Bachavo’ campaign. Needless to say, her speech was well appreciated and for long they kept clapping. The best part of the irony was, she doubted herself whether she was competent to talk on ‘Beti Bachao’ and she remained silent on that point.

She remembered her days of pregnancy. Her husband Rajesh and his parents wanted only a son be born in the family, so that the name fame and legacy could be carried on. But, Rohini? All she wanted was, to become pregnant before they would proclaim her as barren lady and look for another spouse for her husband. Birth of boy or girl did not matter to her. Such were the prevailing customs. She readily followed all tips and rituals suggested to her. She even took rounds of temple tree, so much so, that her friend teased her saying she should have covered more rounds of her husband for the boon of baby, than the ‘tree’ in the temple. Whether it was the temple tree that granted the boon or not, upon confirmation of her pregnancy, her husband took her to Singapore to ascertain the sex of the baby. He strongly believed that it was okay for them to be barren than be parents of a daughter and in Singapore the test was not banned. Luck was in her favour and she escaped the cruelty of abortion. The family had all reasons to celebrate the birth of Dushyant as, along with his arrival, came all prosperity, riches and high status into the family. Gradually, both Rajesh and Rohini became elite citizens and social celebrity-figures. She developed her inherent skills and sharpened her knowledge. Rajesh was busy as a businessman and Dushyant, was now a college student. She shirked off her nostalgic thoughts and focussed on driving.

When she slowed down for signal, a lady well decked up with all cheap accessories and in a designer saree and with a matching designer blouse, tapped the window with a peculiar palm clap. Though it was a common sight in Bangalore, Rohini never paid any attention to such transgenders. But, today, more than anything else, her lipstick drew special attention. She handed out a crispy note and asked for her name. Pat came reply in a gruffy manly voice, ‘Ambalika’. As the signal got cleared Rohini vroomed. But Ambalika and her lipstick dodged her mind for long. Suddenly she felt a tremor as the thought stuck her…Is Dushyant, an Ambalika in offing?’  She must check his room for any clue. That should be her priority. Rohini recapitulated Dushyant’s applying her lipstick. Just a few days back….

She had gone to his room to get a reference book and he was caught unaware when it all happened …. he did not know that…..

His mother walked into the room just as he was about to apply her new lipstick. She was startled. He was startled. "What are you doing with my lipstick? It's new...I haven't used it so far. Couldn't you have waited?" He smiled and handed it back to her. "I forgot to tell you...I am playing Draupadi in our college production... rehearsals start this evening."

Except for a mild shock, she took that day’s incident lightly. It was possible that he was correct and innocent when he said he was doing a female role. But now everything seemed different. Why did he apply lipstick at home? He was not draped in saree either. Good, she caught him red hand when he was about to apply. Or else, she would not even know. She went to his room and searched his ward robe for blouses, churidars etc. She had seen kids use their mom’s chunni or dad’s shoes and pose like adults. But Dushyant, a teenage boy now, trying to use lipstick … now in his teenage? Certainly, it was a matter of grave concern and painful to accept. To her utmost horror, she found, lots of hairclip, ear nose studs, bindis, mascara pencils and such other feminine fancies, all found in the drawer of his ward robe. She was frantically looking for dresses… she knew that people with such hormone imbalances found themselves comfortable in ladies’ robes. They, more often preferred to dress up like women. Once again, she digged his clothes and searched --- kurta pyjama – No, saree blouse—No, brasseries petticoat—No, not even a chunni.  She was not successful in her hunting, but that only made her feel happy.

She got her son as a gift of God, almost after a long penance. Now this new tragedy was a mockery of the gift or her penance. After having been haunted by suspicion of Dushyant’s crazy behaviour, she wanted to know more about the third gender. She had some vague ideas … the teenage boys once they realised about their gender imbalance, unable to get along with others, got teased and ridiculed, shunned their studies and ran away from home; some of them risking their life, cut off their male organ in a most unhealthy manner and join the rest of transgender community. She wanted to know whether Dushyant was having any such traits. So, she searched through internet for details on transgenders, their behaviour patterns, their lifestyles, their present conditions –in particular in India. Unfortunately, it was all tragic stories, almost all of them living in horrible conditions, worse than beggars or leprosy patients. Almost all ended up as pimps or criminals or underworld agents. Strangely, a stray case of one or two exceptions did pop up-- like dancer Natraj Nartaki, or Mousi MLA, and of late, a few cops in police departments… But on the whole, there was no description of any one having a decent living with dignity. Rohini felt terribly sorry for those Ambalikas, left on the lurch with palm-clapping. She, even in her wildest imaginations, could not think of Dushyant as one such guy. She closed her eyes and prayed to God that such catastrophes did not strike her doors. Even if the worst had to befall on her, she wanted the Almighty to bestow strength enough to withstand the calamity and combat the situation for betterment of her dear son.

She, then phoned his college and confirmed the cultural event programmes and her son’s participation in one such event. She was slowly gaining confidence that Dushyant was not a fallen guy. Applying lipstick, that too, when left alone was, after all not a great criminal offence, on account of which, she should rush to presume that he could be one more Ambalika. Why so much, for that matter, even she was a fool, when she uttered, ‘couldn’t you have waited?’-- admitting as though it was in fitness of things for him to apply lipstick but the only condition was, she should have used it first. She did not realise then that in her startled moment she had not chosen appropriate words. She had let loose her feelings and may be in a fit of rage she uttered those words. In spite of all these ifs and buts, still an issue remains unexplained… how come so many effeminate things in his drawer. Were they also meant for the role he was to enact?

“Hi, Mom”, came in Dushyant, in his usual gusto, throwing his shoes and swinging his backpack. He wanted to show her his selfie, dressed up and decked up as Draupadi. Jokingly, he said some his friends wanted to propose and go for dating. Rohini was not amused. She was already upset about his effeminate attitude. “Cool, Mom, cool. Bad mood now? Dad did not call you? Worried that he must be flirting abroad? Come on, cheer up.” Dushyant’s words did not please her. She dragged him to his room and showed all those stuff and demanded a reply. “Ha, Ha, Ha”, he laughed aloud and said “Not all are yours, Mom. My friends offered them for my Draupadi’s role. I know I have to return them, once I am done. Is that okey? By the way, why did you meddle with my stuff? Even if one pin is lost, I need to put up with their ugly remarks for life.” His anger, instead of irritating her, was simply an icy cool shower of benign bliss. ‘What a relief’, she whispered to herself. Such an instant reply would not come from a boy, if he were to be undergoing changes.

For a second, it occurred to her that she had been spared from the gruesome blow of fate, but what about those countless parents who have to accost such adversities. ‘Oh God, show me a way, let me do something for those innocent victims of palm clapping. After all, it was none of their fault. Of course, they are also part of this society and they also need to lead a life of dignity, and not be a menace any more’. She being a social activist, decided to campaign for an exclusive forum for their education, skill development, rehabilitation and possibility of providing a decent livelihood. They should not be left to thrive on palm clapping. No more claps, please.

Once determined, she firmed up her course of action with those already in the field. When she returned home after one such meeting, she was greeted with Dushyant’s clapping in a happy gay mood and that too, loudly. He was even singing, “If you are happy and you know, Clap your Hands. If you are happy and you know, clap your hands.” He was nodding and jumping. There were some tiny tots, who also joined him in his clapping. All those gathered there were trying to cajole a small baby from neighbourhood, who was in riot of laughs at their claps and nods. Baby surely did not understand the language nor the words, nor even their pranky rhymes. But it enjoyed their claps. Sounds of claps echoed everywhere and spread waves of joy and happiness. Rohini also instantly joined the gang, adding her doses of clapping and singing. All that mattered was she was happy and she knew.

December 20, 2019 09:29

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.