He was 17 when he decided to escape from his house in Jalalipura village of Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh. It was the last day when someone would know him by that name, or by the name people used to call him – ‘Abdul Haqeem Hijra’. It was only when Haqeem was five that his parents realized he was a transgender woman, while they had already given him a boy’s name ‘Abdul Haqeem’ which means ‘worshipper of Allah’. Read Abdul Haqeem’s story brought to you by The Second Angle.
His father Gani Haji, who is a local saree weaver, admits that he was disappointed when he came to know that his son was ‘Hijra’ (a local word for transgender women), but he had faith in Allah and he decided to accept what Allah had given him so he raised Haqeem like his other six children.
“We’d never let him feel that he was different than his brothers. All of us went to mosque together on Fridays and he would always stand beside me in Namaz”, says Gani Haji.
From Abdul Haqeem to Gudiya Kinnar:
Abdul Haqeem is now known as ‘Gudiya Kinnar’ in her locality. She lives in Padav, Ramnagar area of Varanasi with her husband Khursheed and two adopted daughters –Zainab and Nargis. I had called Gudiya the previous day to meet her and she had invited me to her place. I vividly remember that she said, “Padav ke paas aakar kisi se bhi puch lena Gudiya Kinnar ka ghar kaha hai, sab jaante hain mujhe yahan (ask anybody where Gudiya Kinnar lives when you reach Padav, everyone here knows me”, while giving her address.
It was true. Everybody knew her. Her house was far away from the main road and I had to walk some five kilometers on dirty narrow lanes to trace her house. At every turn I used to confirm if I was on the right path and every single time I asked the same question –‘Gudiya Kinnar Kahan rehti hain (Where does Gudiya Kinnar lives’; and everybody knew her address!
She was sitting on the stairs of her small two-storey house with her neighbor Salma when I reached there. Looking at me, she said, “Aap hi ne phone kiya tha (Are you the one who called)”. She then went to her neighbor’s door and asked for chairs, and returned with two red-colored plastic chairs. As I sat on the chair she had offered me, she called a girl who was passing by to bring us tea. It was quite a scene to watch how a transgender woman was so normally accepted in a village when her neighbor Salma said, “Gudiya Aapa, akhbaar chhape wala hai ka (Sister Gudiya, Is he a journalist)”, while pointing towards me.
Gudiya told me about her power loom business which she had started after coming back to the city. On asking the reason of her leaving her home, she says, “I was fed up of the taunts of people on me and my family. I always wondered if I was the reason for shaming my family’s reputation. I was seventeen or sixteen at the time when I left my home.”
She was near Cant Railway station of Varanasi when a group of transgender women found her, and took her with them to their ‘Guru’ who gave her the name ‘Gudiya’. Her Guru, who was the boss of these transgender women beggers, she taught Gudiya skills of dancing, singing and begging for three years before giving her a chance to beg. She was allotted the trains between Cant Station (Varanasi) and Mugalsarai Railway station.
Although Gudiya had left her home, her elder brother was still in touch with her and came to meet her once in every alternate month. He persuaded her to come back, and he kept on doing so for a couple of years.
“I would have never stopped convincing her to come back home if I hadn’t seen her doing what she was doing”, says Abdul Rafeeq, Gudiya’s elder brother. “It was when I found her begging in a train I was travelling in, and she looked happy –much happier than I had seen her at home. That was the time I decided to stop asking her to come back”, adds Rafeeq.
Gudiya confesses that she was never happy about what she was doing. Rather it was the feeling of togetherness with her colleagues who used to beg with her, that made her happy. “I never liked begging, but I was just so comfortable being with them”, says Gudiya. “More because earlier when I was at home, people used to taunt me but when I left home and came in their company, I used to ridicule those men”, she adds.
Although Gudiya’s elder brother stopped asking her to come back, he guided her like an elder brother. He advised her to come back and start her own power loom business. “I knew that she was happy there but I feared about her future. The profession she was into is very limited you know, you can only earn till a specific age”, said Rafeeq.
Gudiya appreciates and thanks her brother for his concern, and she came back on her brother’s advice. Initially, she used to live in her home town –Jalalipura itself, though in a different house her parents had bought for her. However later she bought her own house in Padav, Ramnagar with her savings and started her power loom business there. “I could have lived there, but I feared my family would be mocked because of me so I left that place”, reveals Gudiya.
Gudiya is happily setteled now. She has plans of contesting the upcoming gram-panchayat elections. She wants her daughters to carry forward the legacy of her name and business.