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Tuesday, Oct 19, 2021
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Chucking Badhai For Growth

A journey into Mumbai’s transgender spaces reveals aspiration, hopelessness, drudgery and ties never to be broken

Chucking Badhai For Growth
Photograph by Apoorva Salkade
Chucking Badhai For Growth
outlookindia.com
2016-08-12T22:02:51+05:30

At Gauri Sawant’s two-room house in Malvani, Malad, one of Mumbai’s largest slum clusters, her pet Labrador Malhar greets visitors with vigorous tail-wagging. One portion of the barely painted, peeling walls are covered with framed photos. The bonhomie and infectious laughter belie the hard lives of the transgender community settled here.

A rusty, narrow staircase leads to the off­ice of Sawant’s NGO that works for HIV prevention, among other things. Some young hijras are busy at work. Mona, Gauri’s ‘grand chela’, potters around, instructing staffers, ordering milk, feeding Malhar and managing Gauri’s schedules. She is also eagerly awaiting her sex change operation. This is the new face of an age-old structure—the guru-chela system among Mumbai’s Kinnar or hijra community.

Mumbai’s hijra community is estimated to be over a lakh strong, but there is no official figure. Around 40,000 had identified themselves as ‘Transgender’ in a survey two years ago. They are mostly concentrated in slums in...

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