In my quest to cover the not for profit projects of Ladies Circle India, I found myself in the company of Cr.Anjali and Cr.Buvna from the Coimbatore Penta Ladies Circle No.37. In fact, this was one of the Ladies Circle Projects, which I was looking forward to, because they were known to take challenging projects, like in this case, working with transgenders. In the four months that I had spent on the road, this was the first of its kind project that I was going to witness, and I was looking forward to it. Cr.Anjali and Cr.Buvna first took me for a quick visit to Amrit, a school for special children, where they have donated therapy equipment like trampoline, wobblers and exercise balls. They have also sponsored a water filter, lunches and special meals during Diwali and other special days.
Soon after, we were on our way to take pictures of Beauty Beyond Comparison- a project on transgenders. On our way, Cr.Anjali gave me the background of the project. It had started with a seminar called Akathya- Beauty Beyond Comparison, which is a platform for the community of over 500 transgenders, living in and around Coimbatore. Though Ladies Circle is known for various initiatives in education and sanitation, LC37 wanted to work with the not-accepted section of the public and thus, they chose to work with transgenders. It wasn’t an easy decision to take this project as various family members of the ladies themselves had very negative views about the transgenders, who mostly were thrown into the world of prostitution and begging.
In a recently concluded seminar in 2012, Cr. Anjali got a smattering of the city’s influential men and women to listen to transgender activists speak about their lives, desires and grievances. Experts chipped in with details about the community. The event also threw the spotlight on the success stories — the dance teacher, the flower seller, the cook…and others who have made a space for themselves in a world that is slowly more accepting of them.
Hearing the story from the source itself, I was taken aback by the quality of the life the transgender live. A few of them, whom I met, in Coimbatore were grateful to Akathya as it made them feel wanted and respected. This group of individuals are looking forward to setting up their own community on the outskirts of Coimbatore and start their own biryani catering service. I wish them the best!
Our last stop was at Ashirwad, School for Special Children. Mrs.Prema Joseph (Founder Trustee) was travelling to Chennai one day in 1996, when a chance meeting with a child and his family proved to be the moment of genesis. The child and his family were going to Chennai for the monthly visit to a school for special children for that month’s worth of home-management instructions. The child had cerebral palsy. There were no schools in Coimbatore at that time to serve children with special needs. Thus, in 1998, Ashirwad began in YWCA, Coimbatore with ten children. The school was started under Coimbatore Spastic Trust, which was formed by the coming together of seven people who believed in and backed Mrs. Joseph’s vision for the children. Now, the day school centre is located in R.S. Puram, Coimbatore, and it caters to forty children. Ladies Circle India has been actively involved with them and contribute to various initiatives.
I will like to share my experiences with transgenders. Honestly speaking, like the families of the Ladies Circle, I, too, had a very negative view, as my previous meetings with them hadn’t been pleasant. Once, at a traffic signal in Mumbai, a transgender on the street snatched my friends spectacles and we were made to pay Rs 200 to get them back. In another meeting, the transgenders came over to my place to bless the newlyweds (a common ritual in India) and did not leave till they received a huge token amount in lieu of the blessing. I was happy to give it to them but not at the cost of blackmail. After my recent visit with Cr.Anjali, I have realized that they deserve to be treated well and as equals and that is the biggest transition for anyone. After this experience, in my most recent meeting, I joked and talked to the transgenders who had come over to bless my newly born child. Not only they left happy, but it left me with a great feeling. It took some time, but I am glad that this change happened.
Another memory from my visit to Coimbatore is of girl at Ashirwad. She and her sister, both were inmates at the school. Though she was unable to even stand properly and go about her routine without a physical support, her general knowledge on cricket was far superior than a cricket fan. She remembered not only the Indian cricketing history but also the current news. When asked about placing a bet on the ongoing cricketing series, she decided to bet only on the Indian side winning the World Cup as they looked the best on paper. For everyone’s information, the Indian did win the World Cup! Till date, I am trying to see if anyone can help me get a renowned cricketer to visit her, as I am sure it would the highlight of her life. Can anyone help?