The Room was dimly lighted and was painted white, patches of paint were peeling off giving the feel that the room had not been painted for at least 2 years, The furniture complimented this dull look. Arjun and Amar were about 23 years, they were first cousins . Arjun's parents were not in the house and were about to come back anytime.
Arjun, "Amar this was the best day I ever had, but dear I will miss you ," , Arjun took Amar's hand in his , and said,"Bhai nothing can change what we feel for each other, and that is what is important , I wish I could go with you to New York , but its ok, I am glad you made it... but please do not forget me ." Arjun hugged amar, and suddenly the bell rang . Arjun opened the door , His parents had returned. Mr and Mrs Gokhale were looking for a bride for Arjun , strangely they kept Arjun out of this. Mrs.Gokale hugged Arjun, "Beta I am very happy for you , I am sure you will like Shreya". Arjun smiled as he had first thought that accolades was for the admission he had got in an esteemed University in New Delhi, but then he couldn't quite understand where Shreya came into the picture."who shreya?". Mrs.Gokale had a smile , "beta we have found the girl for you, shreya is one in a million, we have just met her family, ". Arjun was shocked ,"What are you talking about ma? You should have asked me once.." He walked towards amar, tried to say something but turned towards his dad and said, "Dad you should have at least asked me once before taking an step..". Mrs.Gokhale did anticipate that Arjun would not take this easily but then she thought she knew everything about her son, " Beta I know you, she is the perfect girl for you, She likes Jazz just like you do, She is also an computer engineer , take a look at her picture, I am sure you would like her.".
Arjun looked at Amar, and spoke to him without uttering a word, Amar simply nodded his head in negative. Arjun wanted to tell something to his parents from a long time , however he never gathered the courage to do so. He felt this was the moment to tell his parents else he would have to be a prisoner of his own body like many others throughout his life but he wanted to be free.
"ma... papa I wanted to tell you something , which I know You both will not take it in the right spirits but I can't live with this duality any more, I need a life, I am fed up of this hypocrisy.. " . Mrs.Gokale looked worried she had never seen her son so tensed.
Amar was pale white, he knew what was coming up but did not know how to react. He walked towards Arjun ,"Bhai whatever you say please think it over again ." Arjun was stern." I know what I have to say, something I should have said long long ago .
I can't marry shreya because I am a homosexual. " Mrs.Gokale couldnt believe her ears she sat down on the nearest chair available. Mr.Gokale went across the room to Arjun and slapped him hard,"Do you even know what you are talking about? Beta Amar what is he saying ? were you aware of all these??", his eyes reflected anger and his face was like a stone.
Amar was speechless he was more like a statue. Tears were flowing out of Arjun's eyes. Arjun walked towards his mother, and sat near her feet, he kept his head on her lap and said , "ma please understand me, I have been living in hell for 22 years, I feel like I am trapped in my own body, Ma please understand I cant marry shreya.." Mrs.Gokale got up, and moved towards her husband, "what is happening, what will we say to the society ".
Mr.Gokahle said with a stern voice,"Arjun you have said enough, Now listen you will marry shreya . whatever has happened , forget it . If you speak like this outside this house the entire society would shun us." Ajun looked at his father,"Dad can you please think about this situation from my side, I don't love her, I would not be attracted towards her, still we would have to live together, it would be a living hell.please understand your son, Amar please say something , bhai do not stand there like a statue tell them.. the dilemma we face , tell them it would be equally painful for shreya".He turned towards his ma, " ma you are a woman , ask yourself how would you react if your husband was not straight , what would you do if you come to know that he married you for the society".
Amar spoke with a tensed tone,"Arjun uncle is right, whatever has happened is history you should get married to shreya. "
Arjun could not believe his ears, "bhai at least you don't speak like this, you know how much I love you, I need you by my side now bhai do not desert me please .." . Amar could not believe what he had just heard, he knew he was being a coward , but he did not have a choice , he had to go to New York for pursuing MS, and if he gets caught in this trouble then his parents would refuse to fund him, he went towards Arjun and slapped him with such anger that Arjun fell down to the floor, blood was oozing out from his mouth. He knew this anger was not for Arjun but for himself as he lacked the courage to face the society. Amar said,"What the hell are you saying. I do not love you, I am straight, Do not drag me into this. You are just jealous of me , as you cannot go to New York you are defaming me, you are a shameful perjurer and nothing else . "
Arjun was in a state of shock , he watched helplessly as amar walked out of the house. "ma I am not lying please at least you understand me , you always said that you understood me completely please now I need you ma ." He could not complete what he was saying, Mr.Gokale caught Arjun by the arm and dragged him out of the house,"You shameless brat , how can you play with the family image and Amar that lovely boy you can't even appreciate the hard work he had put in to get a seat for MS. Now you dare not show me your face till you decide to marry shreya. If you want to live a life against the society please don't call me you father think we are no longer there go wherever you want to go just get out "
Arjun was left helpless in the footpath in front of his house, the house where he was born , the house which he thought belonged to him , to his family, the house where he was raped when he was 12 years by the same man whom he called MAMA, the man who did not even spare Amar, and now again he was helpless, bleeding and hurt. He wanted to scream his lungs out , feebly he said," ma please don't do this to me, your beloved brother on whom you have so much pride had snatched away my innocence when I was 12, then you did not help me, because I did not tell you, today I am telling you please ma don't leave me. Help me ma "
The road in front of the cemetery was empty but for arjun who was sitting at the foots of the great peepal tree,he resembled a dead body , he had no expression, the breeze which was blowing failed to absorb his pain. Sukhmani the local eunuch, was passing by, she was 40 years old, and was proud of what she was. She saw arjun , she knew by experience that this man was in trouble but she also knew that like everyone else he would also insult her . She walked towards Arjun, she could see by his attire that he was from a middle class family. She saw his face had no expression , his eyes were like stone, he was staring into infinity. She walked right up to Arjun and demanded money in the traditional style of local eunachs where the dialogue was accompanied by atleast a dozen claps and laced with abuses, and threats to expose her private parts. Arjun looked at her with indifference , "I do not have anything to give you ,as a matter of fact I don't have anything to give me either. please leave me ..".
He said this with a dead tone, Sukhmani felt that this guy needed help. His voice and his tone had a feminine touch to it.
20 years ago there was someone else in the same place where he is now. His pain reminded her of what he has gone through . She just hoped that his was not the same case .
Sukhmani was also shunned by the society because she (then he) was more feminine then the normal society , and finally she had to leave her house to join the eunachs because there at least she could behave the way she wanted to, among them she found friends who understood how she felt as they also felt the same. That one incident changed the entire course of her life.
Her intution was telling her that the guy sitting in front of her had similar problems.Perhaps he also had no where to go, but how could she help? She was afraid to ask directly as her help was generally not taken in the right spirits. That one incident always made her shiver, it was the day when she was expected to die by everybody in her colony including her father . But now she wanted to desperately help this young man and not get lost in those bad memories.
Arjun's mind had a conglomeration of thoughts ,he was not sure of what to do. If he went back to his house he would have to marry shreya, which he could not do,as he knew that he would not be able to give her the love of a husband, and he had no right to spoil an innocent person's life. He was still not able to hate amar for what he had done, he loved him so much, they had been together from child hood and right when he wanted his support ,amar dumped him ! , how could he do this , that was the only question in him mind. Arjun's phone was ringing from a long time, it was his ma, but he did not recieve the call because he knew that she would not understand him, for her the social image was more important than happiness of her son.He picked up the phone to switch it off but this time amar was calling him.
Arjun had to speak to him, he had to ask what made his love changed to indifference. What made him abandon the person whom he called bhai..
"Amar why did you do this to me ??" he couldn't complete, tears were flowing out of his eyes.
"Arjun why are you being impractical? i still love you.. but I cannot accept this in front of the society. Uncle and aunty are still not able to cope up with the news, where the hell are you come back, your parents need you.."
"you of all the people you are telling me this. If i go back I would have to mary shreya, I cannot live a life of duality, I just cant, I feel like I am prisonor in my own body.I cannot go back, I dont know where I would go but I cant go back home.I cannot be a hypocrite like you."
Arjun saw the eunuch looking at him with eyes full of tears , he didn't know what to do, he realized that he had been screaming..
Amar, " enough of your nonsence come back home now, where is the problem, come back get married,you have to do it,you call me a hypocrite , I don't care. at least this way everyone is happy , my parents are proud of me... I am having fun.. what's wrong in this.... "
Arjun suddenly felt that he was speaking to a stranger... He kept the phone down..
Sukhmani came close to Arjun ,and sat down beside him, " Beta do you need any help.. You remind me of my past. . I was your age when I left home and decided to go my way... I had no where to go "
Arjun had read about the lives of Eunuchs, He knew that many of the eunuchs are not born that way instead they were men like him who feel like women and hence decide to live life that way. Her eyes were watery by now,they reflected the trauma she must have gone through.
Sukhmani thought loudly ," If lakshmi mai was not there I would have not been there today,She protected me like a mother protects her child, That one night changed everything my life. " She wiped off her tears and looked at Arjun with a warm smile, " Beta Do you need help " . He couldn't help but ask himself, If it was him who needed help or was it her?
He smiled back , trying best not to look helpless ," No I am doing fine , just a bit of normal fight with family..." .
Sukhmani got up, " Ok then as you wish, ", She knew although that he would need her help sooner or later.
He lied there quite helpless. He realized that he had no where to go now , because of Amar's possessiveness he never could make another friend and thats what he needed now a friend who could help him.
1 month later :
Arjun now lived with sukhmani , he was now among one of them . Sukhmani had got him there after she found him in the same place day after day without food or shelter , He had refused to go with her initially but when he suffered from high fever and he had no control over himself, she bought him to her house with the help of her friends. Later he CHOSE to stay as there he felt there he could be how he always wanted to be - he was a WOMAN now, he called himself Sarah.
Later he was told by other friends the horrendous incident which Sukhmani always referred to.
It was when she was 22 years of age , and lived her parents in a remote town in Tamil Nadu, her name then was Sagar than. Few of her college mates had spread the news in her community that she ( then he) was a gay, and that was the end of his happiness the entire community shunned his family and his family cursed him day and night ,He bore it all as his family meant the world to him and he simply could not leave till one night , when around 10 pm he had gone to buy milk in the neighborhood shop , when on the way 3 guys, started assaulting him ,they thrashed him because he was a gay . In front of his own house where he was born and brought up now he was being beaten up by drunkards, he kept shouting for help but nobody came to save him not even his father. Things were going a bit too far , the guys were now poking him with a knife , all over the body . Blood was oozing out from each part of his body, He was numb then. He felt nothing , his life would have ended that night but for lakshmi mai. When the entire neighborhood had lost its conscience , a group of 6 Eunuchs came to his rescue , they saved him and were taking him back to his house , but his own father refused him shelter when his own son was bleeding to death. lakshmi mai took sagar to her house , and healed his wounds , and thus Sukhmani was born from Sagar.Arjun now realized why , Sukhmani had been so protective about him right from the starting.
As days passed by Arjun soon started to learn how their community worked , and was soon a part of it all as Sarah .
They now went together to the houses where a baby was born , Initially Sarah felt humiliated to beg for money but soon realized she had no other choice.
It was 11 pm , she was with Sukhmani , both of them were returning from work , and were happy as they had earned quite a lot for that day . Sarah was walking on the same road where she had spent her childhood. She was telling Sukhmani excerpts from her childhood. Sarah wandered if her parents searched for her , if Amar still loved her . She was contemplating that amar must have gone to USA and her parents must have taken her to be dead. A Strange feeling made her shiver . The road was darker than usual , they realized that the Street Lamps were not functioning . Most of shops had closed , the only shop opened was the medical shop nearby. Suddenly a bike came near sarah and started passing obscene comments. This was the first time sarah was facing such a situation , but Sukhmani was used to this , she started abusing back, But those guys were not affected by her threats. Sarah just kept numb she did not knew how to react .She grasped Sukhmani's hand and held it tightly. One of them got down and started snatching Sarah 's jewelry and her purse , Sukhmani tried to intervene , when the guy who was on the bike grasped her hair and started the bike, he dragged Sukhmani into darkness. Sarah shouted for help, but there was no one around . She wanted to go and save Sukhmani, but now her own life was at stake. The scream of Sukhmani was echoing in her ears . The guy had already snatched away all her jewelry , and was now trying to snatch her purse. The purse which had all the money they had earned for the day. Sarah protested, she knew it was going to be a tough fight.The man called her unfit for the society, started kicking her , she still hold her purse as tightly, it was not a fight for the money ,it was the fight against her dignity.She soon realized that Sukhmani could be in greater danger perhaps. She gave away her purse, but the man's agitation did not stop, he started slapping her , she had started bleeding ,her protest was in vain.
As soon as the hooligan walked away from Sarah , she got up and started running in the direction where Sukhmani was dragged into . She suddenly saw her lying on the road, people crossing her simply chose to ignore her. Sarah ran towards her, only to find that she was in immense pain . Sarah shouted for help, people simply gave her a sorry look and kept walking. Some people laughed at them and said that they deserved it as they were the curse for the society. Sarah looked at Sukhmani , she needed immediate medical help ,but she was not in a position to walk . Sarah realized that she had seen a medical shop nearby. She ran towards the shop. Little did she know that a Eunuch has no civil rights in our civil society.
She went to the shopkeeper told her that she had no money , but she would return the money the next day. She pledged him to come and see Sukhumani once. She was in tears , but all she got from him was curses , he simply refuse to help her.
Sarah was shocked the same medical shopkeeper who was helpful and courteous to Arjun , was now abusive to Sarah, She wanted to scream , she kept pledging but soon realized that it was of no help.
She now ran like a mad woman amidst the few people who were there at that late an hour . She somehow managed to get a bottle of water .She went to Sukhmani washed her face. Sukhmani mumbled, " There is no point seeking help , no one would help,us" .
Sarah had realized that she would not get help there. She alone could not pick Sukhmani up either. She knew if they did not return by morning , their friends in the clan would come searching for them and would find them . She had no other choice but to wait , she sat down beside Sukhmani , held her hand , and waited for the darkness to get over. Suddenly someone dropped a 50 INR beside Sarah, she looked up and was transfixed. A lady had taken pity on them and had donated the amount, The lady was about to leave when , Sarah held he feet and whispered ,"sorry ". The lady at first did not realize what was happening , but the moment she looked into sarah eyes, she couldn't move either. She glanced at Sarah's neck and found a mole- it was her birthmark. Tears started flowing out of both her and Sarah's eyes. She wanted to speak so much but couldn't utter a word, She wanted to help , but she knew her husband would never allow her to do so. She took out another 500 INR and placed it on Sarahs hand. Her Husband stood few meters away , he was asking her to come fast as it was well past midnight.
She started walking towards her husband , away from Sarah. Sarah kept looking at the empty road where the couple vanished into darkness .
Sarah eyes were red, hew face was white, she resembled a dead body, she was questioning the sanity of the society in her mind, she was questioning those beliefs that forbid a mother to help her own son, those conventions which made a father forget his son . Soon the red eyes gave in and tears started flowing out from her eyes and she howled like a mad, all that came out from her mouth was "MA".