"My life became more and more uncertain and insecure. I was in conflict with myself each day, and by end-2017, I decided to end my life. I clambered onto the railings of the Cheruthuruthy bridge and took the final plunge into the Bharathapuzha..."
But, it was just the beginning for Aneera.
'Aneera' means 'snow.' Her life, however, was never smooth as snow. The world came to know of the young transwoman Aneera after she approached the Legal Services Authority seeking euthanasia.
Her course, to become a woman after being born as Kabir, had not been a bed of roses. In a freewheeling conversation, Aneera Kabir opened up about herself, her thoughts, feelings, and her experience in a world which still views trans persons with disdain.
Right mind, wrong body
I was born as the youngest son in the family at Cherplassery in Palakkad. I loved to dress up and behave like a girl from my childhood itself. I was more interested in playing with dolls, mock-cooking food, wearing ornaments, making henna designs, etc.
My parents were against my interests, and tried to change me. They forced me to play football and cricket. They thought an effeminate boy was useless.
My expressions and gait revealed my strong feminine personality. Right mind in the wrong body -- that was me. It led to mental conflict and depression.
I became the butt of the joke in school. Other students insulted me by calling names, 'she-male' and 'Chandupottu' (the title of a Malayalam movie in which the protagonist stood out more for his feminine mannerisms).
I complained to the teachers. "Why are they behaving this way? Be more like a boy," they advised.
The situation at home was not different. I decked up as a woman when no one was at home. I draped myself in my mother's saree. I longed to learn 'Bharatanatyam' while I was in Plus-II, so that I could wear saree in public at least when I perform.
My wish was not granted. All others opposed my desire to learn 'Bharatanatyam,' I will become more like a girl if I learnt dance. I was threatened into submission.
In search of identity
I first saw a saree-clad transwomanin Palakkad. It was after I had completed my graduation. The sight of her filled me with a confidence which I had never known before. I rushed back home, packed my sister and mothers' saree and other dresses, and made a dash to the railway station.
At the railway station, I changed into women's attire. My journey, however, was cut short. My family had by then approached the police with a man-missing complaint. Police detained me, and took me back to my family.
I was shattered emotionally, and under stress. I felt like I would lose my mind. But I was adamant to pursue my education.
Two years later, I read somewhere about transgenders eking out a living by seeking alms at the Bengaluru railway station. I decided to join them, and boarded a train, and alighted at Salem, mistaking the place for Bengaluru.
I spent some days there and raised money for food by begging. Later, I undertook a ticketless trip to Bengaluru, and waited for the members of transgender community at the railway station. Before long, they arrived.
It was them who first applied a bindi -the dot or, in modern times, a sticker worn mostly by women on the forehead between the eyebrows- on me. They made me wear bangles and women's clothing.
They christened me Aneera. I was reborn.
The commune followed the 'guru-chela' system, an age-old tradition of a guru--a senior transgender person--protecting the 'chelas' or transwomen. I stayed with them. The condition was that if a transwomen stayed with them for three years, begging on the streets, and handing over the collection to the guru, they will perform the sex-change surgery on her.
The surgery was important for us. The penis was an unwanted and unacceptable organ. It should go. The surgery had then cost Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000.
The surgical process was gross and barbaric. A rubber band will be wound tight around the penis, which is then dipped in hot oil, before chopping it off with a knife.
But no one was overtly bothered. The organ was an unwanted burden, and there were no second thoughts before destroying it.
People there treated transgenders as divine, and were generous in giving alms. When I started getting handsome amounts, I forgot about the surgery, and spent the money on bindis, bangles, clothes and other accessories. The guru started to frequently admonish and punish me for not meeting the target.
It was then that I made up my mind to return.
Back in Kerala
I slept under the staircase at Shoranur railway station, and survived on leftovers from restaurants. At times, I begged for money.
I slept wearing a saree under the stairs, and when it became a regular affair, the railway police intervened. I was once again sent home.
The opposition to my identity at home was suffocating. Seeing my plight, my brother revealed the secret to manhood: "Smoke cigarettes."
Attempts to 'make' me a man continued. I underwent hormone replacement therapy, and popped pills for erectile dysfunction. Nothing worked.
(Incidentally, I should say that quacks are a bane for the transgender community).
It was around this time that I signed up for BEd. I loved a girl in my class in a bid to know if I have any musculine feelings left in me. The affair did not last long.
My family found the bride. I revealed all about myself before the wedding. She, too, was against the marriage. But later, we decided to live together, and our 'nikah' was held in 2013.
Dressed as the groom, I sat at the wedding marquee. Emotions overwhelmed me, and I burst into tears in full public glare. After that incident, I took stimulants and suffered several side-effects.
I married her in 2014, and brought her home after I felt somewhat brave enough to tie the knot. The two years that followed were eventless. In fact, I was away from her, working at far-off places that helped in avoiding physical relationships. She knew that I could never be a complete man.
She understood me, and we were best friends. She draped me in saree, drew designs with henna on my palms, and slipped bangles onto my arms. We tried for employment together.
The separation was her initiative. "You are my best friend and brother. But we could never be a good man and wife," she told me of her decision. We separated before long, and I gave her 11 cents which I had in my name.
Enough is enough
My life became more and more uncertain and insecure. I was in conflict with myself each day, and by end-2017, I decided to end my life. I clambered onto the railings of the Cheruthuruthy bridge and took the final plunge into the Bharathapuzha... . The river was dry, and I landed on the sandbed.
A man, who was watching me from near the bridge, called out: "Climb back up if you are not dead yet."
Fight for survival
I climbed back, not as the one, who a few minutes ago had decided to die, but with a steely resolve to live. Afterall, even death had failed me. Within days, I founded a non-profit, 'Oruma' (Unity), and registered it at the District Registrar's Office in the Palakkad Civil Station under the Societies Act.
I brought the transgenders in the district under Oruma. The members wanted to establish a canteen, and we went ahead with the plan. It was not smooth. We had to go on strike to get the Rs 5 lakh allocated for us in the panchayat's Budget.
Our efforts bore fruit when we opened the canteen on the Palakkad Civil Station premises on December 13, 2019. Throughout the efforts, I remained backstage, fearing to face the society.
We submitted a memorandum to Minister G R Anil in 2020 seeking ration cards for the members of the transgender community. The plight of a trans woman, Sreedhanya, living in abject poverty, even without food, after the breakout of COVID-19 pandemic, made us approach the minister.
Following our initiative, the government issued ration cards to transgenders. We were initially given the white card (non-priority), but after we protested, it was converted to BPL cards.
After the Supreme Court verdict ordering reservation for transgenders in all sectors, we submitted a memorandum to the chief minister. We received a reply from the Chief Minister's Office, saying necessary action would be initiated after taking a count.
We have filed a petition in the High Court, seeking reservation for transgenders in government jobs. Our demand is that Kerala, too, should have reservations for transgenders like that of Karnataka and elsewhere.
My family now is Shafi and wife Neilofer of Edathanattukara. Shafi, an officer with the Indian Reserve Battalion at Pandikkad, handheld me back to life after my botched suicide bid.
I am now employed at Block Resource Centre, but teaching is my passion. I will become a teacher one day, says Aneera.
Plea for mercy killing
MA in Political Science, MA in Sociology, MEd in Social Science and awaiting the result of MA in History: despite holding all these degrees, she was rejected by 14 schools after interviewing her. Ameera was not offered a job of even a salesperson, which forced her to submit a plea seeking mercy killing.
“I had got fed up with life, and I thought my death would aid our society. I did not expect such a huge impact. Minister for General Education V Sivankutty and CPM leader M A Baby intervened after learning about my request for mercy killing. I have now got back the job which I had earned as a male - after tightly binding the breasts to the body -as a woman. I gave tuition and did odd jobs to fund my education. I studied most of the courses through distance education programmes. I am now planning to pursue Gandhian Studies and MSW. No one else in the family had cleared Class 10. I want to study more.
Churidar is my favourite dress. I want to live as a woman, wearing a churidar and hijab”, Aneera says with confidence.