I looked though the ‘magic eye’ of the door to see a red polka dotted sari and a big bag. Another saleswoman selling foreign lingerie, I grumbled, and opened the door to keep her from waking up my 3-month-old boy with her frantic ringing. I do not know what I felt in my chest that one second in which I saw her face. I think it was my heart that had frozen still, as did the rest of me. What I do remember with photographic clarity is her large hands pushing the door forcibly open and entering, as I tried to close it on her face. At first I thought it was a man, dressed as a woman, barging in to rob me of whatever I call mine. My mind was racing towards my sleeping baby, but I could not feel my legs. My voice I could not find.
It was she who spoke as she clapped – ‘Don’t you dare close the door on my face! Where’s the boy? Where’s the mithai?’
I was alone. No neighbours no one at home no one in ear shot to hear me scream, if it came to that. So was she, thankfully, for she came without her dancing troupe. I knew I had to get her out of my house. And there was no other way but by giving her what she wants. I asked her to sit with feigned confidence and warmth in my voice, served her mithai and juice with hands struggling to stay still, and made a sorry face to tell her that I have nothing on me, my husband just left for work, so could she come again, another time? She rose and walked from one room to the other, as if sniffing for gold, as if sniffing over my little boy, and then handed me a chit. She took what was there in my purse, and left me alone to latch the door and break down, finally.
P, a 6 feet tall eunuch, the leader of their community in my part of Delhi, just left me her number. Named after a goddess, P threatened me of dire consequences if I did not pay her as much as was befitting of a new born son’s mother. She promised to be back; alone if I called her up in time and with her gang if I did not. My husband wanted to call up 100, but I wanted to get it done with. Leave no threads untied. Saturday came, P came and made off with money I could have built a whole new room for my son with.
And no! I did not feel extra blessed. I only felt defeated, and very enraged.
Would you have felt fortunate in my shoes? If she had come in her festive red silk on a certain Saturday, loaded with gold to murmur a blessing for your baby in return for money, clothes and whatever else she could forcibly take?
In the name of what does this custom find customers? Is it just in the name of Tradition – the great grandfather of righteous living who has to be kept pleased? Or worse still, is it just for keeping a certain myth alive, where eunuchs are considered lucky? Out of sympathy it cannot be, because as I see it, all they do is threaten, extort, arm-twist, harass, blackmail and trespass – acts which are about enjoying power, not seeking solace for where biology apparently left you powerless.
Why I did it? I gave my fortune away to P out of fear, nothing else. Fear for times when I will be home alone, again. Fear of seeing 10 of them outside my house, embarrassing my family. Fear of hearing them pronounce curses on my 3-month-old boy. And fear of being made to feel so vulnerable and so defeated, yet again.
I see them shop lifting in broad day light and picking fruits off carts as the vendor pleads to be left alone. I see them harassing motorists on red lights for whatever they get, or giving what another needs in areas that glow red. I have seen them kicking away imploring hands of mothers who just wed their daughters off or noisily harassing my mother-in-law for diamond sets. And I do not feel sorry for them.
If beliefs and traditions had once tried to prop them up to a pedestal in society’s psychology, their power-play has left them very naked in my eyes. And no quotations from any of the sacred texts of yore or sacred quotes preaching equality about the ‘third sex’ contained in today’s books will be able to change my mind.
No blessing can come in such a disguise.