In a world where environmental toxins drastically alter human biology, we would face brand-new pastoral difficulties. Despite the decriminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the mindset of people still seems to dwell with inhibitions. Most eunuchs eke out an existence by performing at weddings and birth rituals or by beggaring because they are shunned by society and ignored by the State, with discrimination in terms of access to school, job, and health care.
Eunuchs are thought to have existed in India’s history during the ancient and medieval eras. The rulers used eunuchs as guards for the queen’s rooms or the royal kitchens. It is also believed that being castrated, they made great soldiers as they had no reason for lust or love and loyally fought for their king. The widely held superstition holds that if we give them money and receive a coin in return, it will bring us fortune. I also found the 1998 Bollywood film “Tamannah” to be enlightening. In the film, Paresh Rawal plays a eunuch who struggles against social degradation and shame.
My first encounter with them happened in the most unique way. I loved walking around the city during my college days to explore small eateries open late at night which served the yummiest meals apt for a student’s budget. There was a connecting bridge above the local train station, which was my daily route to access the other part of the city. That night, it felt eerie as the streets were deserted. As I approached the bridge, I saw a man in his late 40’s urinating on the side of the bridge.
It’s a general notion that kissing in public is illegal but pissing in public is justified. With my usual pace I walked closer, and he turned towards me with his flyer open masturbating shamelessly with a malicious scowl on his face that still haunts me. He started to walk towards me, slowly, with his eyes fixated on my breasts. I felt numb and even though my head said run, I was standing there, frozen with fear.
Faint sounds of flat horizontal palms hitting and perpendicular to each other, with fingers spread, unlike the common clapping technique, engulfed my ears and I immediately recognized what this was. A group of Kinnar’s (a mythological being that excels in song and dance) sprinted towards us. The panic on the man’s face was palpable. Without zipping up, he ran for his life swinging his microscopic manhood in the air.
I was sweating profusely and broke down in tears confused about the last few minutes. They surrounded me and one of them, draped in a silk yellow saree came forward and wiped my tears. I looked up at them as angels who saved me from something heinous. It never occurred to me then that they looked abnormal, or they were different in any sense. They were as human and as fragile as any of us. They took me to a nearby tea stall and treated me with Dabeli and chai. We spoke for hours and laughed about the man’s humiliation which served him right. Since that day, every evening post college, I would go to meet and spent most of my evenings chatting and getting to know them more. They were the family I had away from my own. I felt protected and loved around them.
It shames me to admit that the democracy I support compels me to embrace rapists, terrorists, killers, and perpetrators of the most heinous crimes with open arms. Oh, let’s give them another chance, says the government. What awful deed did these people commit? Why have we been excluding them ever since the dawn of civilization? Why should a mother feel so ashamed if she gives birth to a eunuch, and why is a child expelled from his family and forced to endure lifetime rejection for no special reason of his own? Although as common folk might not be unable to assist them, we can at least take pride in appreciating them rather than mocking them by allowing them the room and decency to lead a better life alongside us in this wonderful world.