Harassment is condemnable, unless it’s perpetrated by a eunuch

The other day I was stuck in traffic at the crossing at Camac Street. Behind the wheel was my friend suffering a nagging pain who I had accompanied to the hospital for a post-surgery check up. We knew it would be a long wait at the signal (after a point of time you learn to accept certain realities of city life and figure out ways to make peace with it) so I got busy making the best of my new 4G internet connection on Instagram learning how to contour my geometrically accurate round face. My friend studied the token the hospital had handed him as a reminder that when a person meets with an accident, the damage extends beyond anatomical confines and into one’s bank account. I’m talking about the bill.

A loud rap on the window next to the driver’s seat made us abruptly quit the activities we were respectively engrossed in, and shift our focus to the source of the blow. I half expected a crack on the glass. Instead, I was met with the sight of a looming figure, largish in size with broad shoulders, strong arms, but with wrists – though wide and sturdy – adorned with red glass bangles. This person had her hair pulled back tightly in a bun and was draped in a sari that showed more than it covered. Her bright-pink lips moved to to say in a gruff , loud voice, “Kuch dede na, hero!”

You see, the problem was that this friend of mine behind the wheel was male, and our visitor outside, a eunuch. The following ordeal would stretch over the next ten minutes.

The “hero” in question instinctively pretended that the person now repeatedly banging her fist on the window beckoning him, demanding he give away a part of his hard earned money just to placate her whim, did not exist.

While he continued to ignore her, I committed the folly of making eye contact – and, she now having being ensured of an audience resounded with her demand, and moved from the window to the bonnet of the car started to bang on its hood to attract the poor guy’s attention, all the while shouting “idhar toh dekho… behra hai kya?” 

By then passengers of surrounding cars were riveted to the ruckus the eunuch was creating, some rolling up the window of their taxi or fishing out whatever cash they could from their wallets to avoid the same predicament. But what happened next would take the show to the next level.

Deprived of the desired response, she switched her attention to me and made the same demand for money to which I, by then dazed by her sense of entitlement, simply nodded and had the audacity to say “Na.” This was enough to make her see red.

Infuriated, she glared at me and challenged, “Kya boli? Na?”  and proceeded to summon her companions who seemed to appear out of the and assembled before the vehicle, blocking its way. One of them asked what the matter was, she replied angrily pointing at me “Ye mereko na boli!”

As the sun’s rays converge through a magnifying glass to fry a helpless ant trapped by a sadistic kid, I felt their death stare converging onto me from every direction. The vehicle’s German make did little to reassure me of my safety. To my horror, she decreed: “Gari pakdo!” – a command her pals happily complied to – clapping aggressively, glaring, sprawling on the hood of the car, banging their fists on the windows.

Around us, the traffic had begun to flow, while the car we were in was held hostage. People swiftly passed by and a policeman watched on from a corner making no effort to intervene, even though their shenanigan was holding up the traffic in the lane behind us. The nightmare ended when finally one of them, short and stout in a baby pink salwar-kamiz suggested they abort mission. All five departed, showering expletives loud enough for all in the vicinity to hear.

 A very common sight in streets of Calcutta 

As we drove away, shocked and mortified, three things sadly became clear to me.

First, the code of honour that applies to women in instances of molestation does not apply to men. Over the ages, the idea of masculinity in men has been so fortified that the scope of someone trying to mess with their dignity with unwelcome sexual innuendo is thought to be nonexistent and a non-issue. And when it does manifest itself in broad daylight, people are supposed to look the other way, or even laugh it off as harmless jest.  When a woman is subjected to such harassment, ideally one’s immediate response is expected to be to jump to her defense. Then why are we so indifferent when an identical harassment  is directed at a man?

Second, despite all the show of progressive thinking our beliefs are still thoroughly embedded in superstition. No one dares to speak up against this legacy of bullying lest they be cursed by these entities believed to possess superpowers – just because their gender was a mystery to many for a long long time.

Lastly, though the Rajya Sabha in 2015 passed the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, guaranteeing the community a slew of democratic rights that were denied to it before, a handful of miscreants have taken upon themselves to practice an extra right – that of intimidating others with impunity. These few narcissists think themselves above the law and expect one and all to accept their antics without any resistance, setting the transgender society two steps back when exemplary individuals such as Kalki Subramaniam, Padmini Prakash and Manabi Bandyopadhyay, have worked like the devil to push it one step forward.

What could be a better way to show their efforts some respect than banning these bullies who are bringing the transgender community a bad name?

P.S.: Please don’t start ranting about how this article insults the entire transgender community without understanding that the folks written about here are a specific and limited kind who routinely harass, humiliate, and threaten commuters if they don’t give in to their demands of extortion. Yes, not every eunuch you find begging is like that. But it would be plain hypocrisy to deny that bullies, often in the garb of a eunuch to draw sympathy, exist.

-by Zaiceka Ahmed

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