The Sangeeta Library
My name is Danny Roe and I am a eunuch or what we are better known as in India──a Hijra. However, I’m very different from the regular eunuchs of India who beg on the streets and at times enter into prostitution to earn a living. I work on my own. I’m a Hijra who owns a library which deals in second hand books. Therefore one can certainly say that I am a librarian of the ‘Sangeeta Library’ in Bandra East.
My parents knew from my birth that I was a eunuch but they accepted me and brought me up as their son. However, I preferred the female gender as I grew up and liked to dress myself in skirts and tank tops. I would in the privacy of my home wear make-up and paint my nails. My father and mother were intellectuals and so they accepted even this part of me.
I studied at an government school and passed off as an effeminate boy of the class. Once when I was in the 3rd grade, I got cornered by some 5th grade boys in the students’ cloakroom and they made me pull my pants down. When they saw that I had a very small penis and no testicles, they laughed to their hearts glory and spread the word throughout the school. I did not feel intimidated by their actions however and immersed myself in my studies.
I loved to study, especially English and History. We had a small but well-kept library at school and it was there where I started to grow a fondness for books and reading. I read many books in that school library, especially classics like Great Expectations, The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, The Moonstone, The Lady in White, Frankenstein, Pilgrims Progress, The Phantom of the Opera and much more. My father a University professor teaching Medieval Indian History was happy that I was interested in reading and lent me some of the books from his own library tucked away in his cupboard. I read my father’s books from cover to cover and he was pleased with me. It was therefore not long before I fancied myself as a writer and started excelling in writing essays and summaries in class. However by this time things started to change…puberty came about and it was a disaster where my body was concerned.
One day I suddenly stained myself in class. The brownish red stain had drenched my whole bottom trousers and I was sent to the students’ cloakroom to wash myself…but the stain would not come off. I wondered whether I had accidently sat down on some sort of wet chewing gum or maybe on some red paint. However, when I unzipped my trousers…I realized that the brownish red stuff was blood…and it was coming from my tiny penis.
My mother had to pick me up from school that day and began to teach me how to wear a pad to school…wearing a sanitary pad with a penis sticking out…not such a very good combo but I went along with it. On the days I got my periods I would not play football with my other classmates but would sit in the library reading books and writing long essays to impress my teachers.
Then something else happened. When I graduated to the 9th grade, I started sprouting facial hair and my hips became broader, like a girl’s hips does during puberty. I was okay with the facial hair but the broad hips made me a laughing stock in the whole school. Every student would jeer and mock at my delicate walk and call me a gay. It was at that time when I stopped playing football and became an absolute bookworm. I knew from the time that I was three that I was a special child and if my family cared for me…then I did not care about what the world had to say.
I graduated from school with a distinction and went on to do something that I think no Hijra has ever done before…I started studying to become a librarian. It was something my parents never thought I would do. My mother also voiced her opinion whether I wanted to join a Hijra campaign group or a Hijra NGO but I declined all of it, I was a Hijra but I was not going to make a fuss about it and make an issue about it. For me…it was who I am but yet it was not all that I am.
It was during my college years that I met my friend Fiza Pathan who has remained a close family friend for over seven years. We were the best of friends and used to hang out together in the college library and study together. Fiza did not know that I was a eunuch until one day my mother told her in a fleeting conversation which shocked her for a second. I think Fiza was having a crush on me and after hearing it from my own mouth, she smiled her dimpled smile which she was famed for and said that she liked me anyway.
I graduated from the University Of Mumbai with a Library degree and Fiza went on to become a teacher. We kept meeting and it was then during our meetings that we decided on opening up a library of our own. Fiza was the one who was totally excited about it which gave me courage to pursue the idea.
We started collecting books and started making deals with book sellers all over Mumbai for second hand books. However, it was during this time that I fainted on the steps of our college library and was rushed to the hospital…I was detected with ALL──Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia…blood cancer.
My parents were devastated on hearing the news. I never informed Fiza about my condition because I knew that she was attached to me and would become a wreck if I told her that I had about a year or two to live. We continued building up our contacts with private and second hand booksellers. To make two ends meet for ourselves, Fiza took up a job as a teacher at an I.C.S.E school while I enrolled myself as a librarian at the Gandhi library down town. Our idea was to collect enough of money so that we could buy a place and start our own library. My condition started to worsen and I had to undergo several sessions of chemotherapy and blood transfusions. Fiza was having another problem of her own back at the school where she was teaching. The teachers there were bullying her and the students were driving her crazy. She would send me long e-mails about her sad situation and even joked once saying that one student actually called her a Hijra to her face infront of the whole class. That joke went on well with both of us; it was easy to make a joke with Fiza around.
Fiza eventually left the school frustrated but determined to make the ‘Sangeeta library’ happen. We were walking hand in hand one day going towards my home when I coughed blood on the road…Fiza then knew and she was shell shocked. She remained annoyed with her Hijra friend for a week but our friendship was too strong to be broken. She showed up after a week with an address which suited our requirements for a second hand library. That was the first time I hugged Fiza and she wept on my shoulder.
“You are the weirdest Hijra I’ve ever seen,” she cooed into my ears as she rested her head on my shoulder. I then told her that I had only a few more months to live so she dried her tears and we got to work.
The ‘Sangeeta Library’ was opened on the 6th of March, 2014 with fanfare and a lot of books. I became the main librarian in charge while Fiza who had already started her own tutorials and who had become an author by this time spent less time in the library and more at the book godowns to get me the supplies that I wanted.
Many people ask Fiza why she is so concerned with the theme of transsexuals. Fiza never gives her reason but I know she likes to write about transsexuals because she loves me…Danny, her Danny.
My name is Danny Roe and I’m not like other Hijras. This is the first time I’ve ever put my sexuality down in print for the world to see. I have got a few months to live and I’m going to live them quietly…among the pages of a book and in the silence of a library. I do not beg on the streets and I don’t sell my body for a few bucks. I had parents who accepted me for who I was and I would wish that all transsexuals should have parents like Clyde and Cassandra Roe and a buddy like Fiza who has her heart in the right place.
Copyright © 2014 Fiza Pathan
Image courtesy: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/870334 (photo for representative purpose only)