Where I was born, they sing and dance, bless and curse, and usher us into the world. This world is their legacy. We inherit their sigh.
Did I not see you at some traffic signal? Some tourist attractions? Near the temples standing on the slippery ground? Was it in that place I shall not admit passing through? Perhaps I merely remember the songs they crooned or the shadows of their jazzy hands scurrying in my sight zone.
We fear them. They are the Bermuda Triangle. Here my radars fail. My perception wrecks and sinks. We stare at the void they are, and not all of us are transphobic. Some are a tad less liberal and some open-minded with a shadowy closed corner.
I did not realise you dance so adroitly and gracefully, Laxmi. Oh, you are Kinnar? Rubia? You are Tagore's Chitrangada? Your existence questions the partition of inside and outside, gender and sexuality, twilight, and the monsoon night? I was glad that I had come to watch your dance performance. Fate almost thwarted me from attending the fete. I was glad that I had come to the program titled, ‘Nagar Gram e Ritu Naame’. Music obliterated our differences.
The recital was organised by Rabichaya, an institution founded in 1975 by Shri Buddhadev Rudra. It continues under Shri Biswaroop Rudra and Smt Sudeshna Sanyal Rudra. A member of the cultural body, Rituparna, told me that Smt Sudeshna Sanyal Rudra is a disciple of maestro Kanika Bandyopadhyay. She led a group of talented transgenders, bound them in the freedom of their thoughts and dreams, conceived this dance sequence, and executed it in a manner Tagore would have appreciated. The performance left you touched in the head; you had a little fresh breeze in your lungs, and it burned inside; ‘Khola Hawa’, Tagore would have crooned.
Ninth July, the year of lifting your mask, the auditorium was Ajitesh Mancho, and the choreographer and performers were shivering as if they were neonates and only this performance could welcome them. You remember what I said about being born where I am, only, in this case, the songs sprawled like love, and Tagore was as alive as the first time I had heard those lyrics.
Someone from the organisers proclaimed that ‘Nagar Gram e Ritu Naame’ was an endeavour to spread Tagore’s message of universal love, and also to attempt to bring the Transgender Community into the mainstream of society.
I clapped. Laxmi, remember how we, the ‘mainstream’ made the gesture of clapping slang, ribald, and argot? If you are happy, dear audience, clap your hand.
Actually, in the past few decades, several activists and organisations had been laying the towpath to inclusivity. Imagine this society as a house. Transgender people have been living in the corner room or the one beneath the staircase. You remember them when someone knocks on the door, and shout at them to open it and to see who is there. They accept the position until little black stains their inside. Mind rules existence. Let them sit with you in the lounge and have tea.
Tagore spent his life writing and working for the fringe elements, social justice for the ones living beneath the stairs or in a room way back.
Rudras definitely adopted those ideals. The performers excelled at expressions. Many of Sudeshna’s students toiled with her availing of the online facilities. Some were initiated into Rabindra Sangeet during the pandemic period. Yet, the skill surprised me. The singers mastered the music, and the dancers morphed their everyday physical expressions into art in tune with the sensual and sublime music. Some of these singers came all the way from places as far away as Gurugram, Rajasthan, Agartala, Chittagong, and Dhaka. The dancers although seemed natural must be taught with care and sympathy. The guru must win the students' hearts first. It showed.
The performance was concluded by glimpses of a Durga Puja moment with Monoroma, niece of the erstwhile great Angur Bala Debi in the role of Maa Durga. Autumn came to the city early. I can smell heaven. I can see the undulating Kash or Kans grass.
No gender exists in this sphere.