Kinnar is the Sanskrit translation of the word transwoman and the theme Kinnar Ka Ki is a play on the significance of the transformation of the bodies, souls and minds.
The project ‘Kinnar Ka Ki’ was born from the sheer hope of portraying the stories of four beautiful transwomen hailing from various towns in India. It is not a story about them, it is by them. I stand as a mere mediator. ‘Kinnar Ka Ki’ is a photo essay account of their daily life – verbatim translated into English for the convenience of readers at large – bringing to light the perils and biases of being part of a society they continue to fight to find their rightful place in.
Overwhelmed by their transformation stories and the fire in their bellies, I document ‘Kinnar Ka Ki’ as a tell-tale for all of society to empathise, not sympathise and to create a safe space for them to be heard and seen the way they want to be.
Neither a ‘how’, nor a ‘why’ – ‘Kinnar Ka Ki’ is an investigation to instigate the idea of embracing all lives as equal, break stereotypes about the trans community and see them, particularly Poppy Banerjee, Tarana Patil, Sweety and Bhavika for who they really are – aspirational transwomen of our society.
I moved to the city of dreams from Kolkata to become a make-up artist. I want to work so hard and be so good that I can grace big stars like Priyanka Chopra one day. Being a make-up artist, I know very well that everyone has flaws. I have never been in front of the camera, only behind. But I know I’m beautiful because my heart is beautiful.
Growing up, my mom and I had a strong connection. I love her food and miss it very much in Bombay. A line that I think about every time things gets hard is something Ma used to say to me–“Never do anything that would hurt your family or cause them pain.”
I want to achieve big things, work even harder so that someday they look at me and say, “No matter what shape or form you come in, we are proud of you”.
I look like my mummy. When I compare her younger photos to me now, I see the similarity.
At least mother tolerates me for who I am. On the other hand, my father does not even look at me. He tells her, “If he is going to come in front of me, he has to come as my son only.” I hope that someday they will recognise me for who I am and all the things I have doing for them. I hope they will accept me as Tarana.
As a young girl, I would feel very jealous watching my sister dress up. Now, I appreciate it so much more. I adore the idea of wearing a bra. I want to save enough money to be able to do my implant operation quickly.
It is my majburi that I have to take up odd jobs and even beg to collect enough money since it’s so difficult to get regular work. I know people look at me in a certain way. I’ve been called names and teased on the road. But some take my blessings for money. Some even say that only when I come to their shops, their business kicks off for the day, and I hope it’s because I’m doing it with a true heart.
I feel very proud that God made me this way. I can stand for myself. I came to Bhavika’s house only two months ago from Pune. I had a good life there, you know? I got everything I wanted–food on bed, clothes, everything; everything except the liberty to breathe freely. So I ran away to be able to live.
Being a part of this community has taught me the true meaning of love. Unconditional and equal to all animals and humans. We have been through so much that we do not want anyone else to go through what we have survived. I believe education and awareness can go a long way in understanding our stories.
I think about my parents every day. They must be in so much pain, dealing with so much backlash from the society. I think if they are even 10 percent as proud of me as I am of myself, I’ll be satisfied.
I want them to feel proud that I am a transgender person. I’m what they colloquially call the ‘third gender’. But third person is still a person, right? I want to achieve something big for that change to happen.
I started taking people in to my house to support all those who were lost in their transformation. I’m 30 years old, but it feels like I’ve lived up to 60 already. I can relate to a teenager as much as I can relate to an older person. If I’m like a brother to someone, I think about what kind of a brother I want to be, if I’m a mother, what kind of a mother am I? I think about all these roles and only then take decisions. I don’t know how powerful my decisions but I feel very strongly about them.
I believe that no one has to suffer alone. My family and my trans family play a large role in my growth and I can go ahead in life with them always by my side. I have achieved a lot in life, seen a lot in life. I am India’s leading third-gender Bollywood actress, singer and model. Money is not everything, but can be a lot of things– this is my motto. Most important is to remember that the only way forward is when we all walk together!
Shreya Basu is a photographer, writer and memory hoarder. Her vision is to blend her work with humanism. She can be found on Instagram @shubasu13
This project was possible only with the support of Anat. Anat is a gender free content collective that has been at the vanguard of supporting artists who do not conform to the traditional gender classification. They can be found on Instagram @anatspeaks
This article was originally published on Feminism in India and re-published here with their permission.
All images provided by author