Former sex workers, Akai and Chandini interview

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Sangama is an organization which works for human rights, sexual minorities across the state of Karnataka. Recently Akai and Chandini both who works for Sangama were interviewed. The brief of the interview is as follows:

Akkai: We had lots of pain to become female. At that time we had no tablet and medicine to get our wounds healed. We had to apply hot oil on our wound to be healed. It is so painful even if we hurt from a small blade. I feel it is a great strength that god has given to me. I had the strong desire of becoming a female, to fulfill my desire I tolerated all this terrible pain. Because I always felt, I am a female, there should be a female in me, this has come to my mind hence we cut our parts of the body, I feel god has safeguarded us. Question: Chandini you have been called and recognized as female, female. After big struggle, taking lot of pain you have become female. But still god has not given you female hood. You don’t’ have natural uterus. Chandini: Yes we don’t have uterus. We also feel the same pain what women would be having during monthly cycle. In our community people convert from male to female. Our women don’t experience monthly cycle. To feel same kind of happiness we also say ooo, haa…..we feel to have child. We want to become pregnant and deliver the baby. We enjoy doing this when we play. But we have not got opportunity to become pregnant. Q: Life is like this Chandini, Everyone will have same desire, dream and feelings. You have to have limit for the desire. Q: Do you like Kalpana very much? Chandini: Yes I like her very much; I am a big fan of her. Q: Akai you are also from Bangalore? Akai: Yes I am born and brought up in Bangalore. Q: What’s your full name? Akai: My full name Astariti Sampanmula Akayamma, Jagadish is original name put by my parents. In my community I selected the Akayamma name. Q: You have born and brought up in Bangalore. How the people have understood you. How the community has treated you so far? Akai: I have not experienced anything different here. The people here are not treating us like people. They treat us like as if we are come from other planets. They won’t respect our feelings. It is so painful to say this. They should understand that we and our feelings are different, but we are also human beings. Q: You said you have studied? What education you had? Akai: I have completed class 10 th. Afterwards I discontinued. Because of my behavior, subsequently my feelings changed. Q: After you discontinued your education what you have done? After discontinuing studies I joined sex work. Four years I did the sex work. I suffered lots of pain there. Q: How old were you when you join Sangama? I was 16, after doing sex work for four years, I joined Sangama. Sangama provided joy and opportunity for me. Q: How did you get into Sangama organization? When we were doing sex work, two workers from Sahabigini organization, came and gave us information about Sangama, when we went there to know more about it, we saw lot of others like us were happily getting the makeup done there, had flowers on the head, were looking joyful, independent. Immediately I felt, I can do this neither in house nor outside. After seeing all the facilities, opportunities I felt like weeping, I broke down. Subsequently I came to know that Sangama is working for human rights, for sexual minorities who don’t know English, who can’t, read, write and speak English. I joined Sangama for Rs 1800 monthly salary, now I have elevated to the top post in the information department. I pat myself with lots of joy. Q: What are you doing Madam Chandini? Chandini: Sorry, sir if you call chandu, chandini with love that is more than enough for me, which makes me happy. As my friend Akai said I joined Sangama as a community mobilizers. Since last seven years I have been promoted to different positions in Sangama now I am a project Manager here. I took my license as a woman, in entire Karnataka I and Revati are the only two who went abroad as females. Q: Have you got the driving license done? Chandini: Yes definitely. What all things which a woman has got I have all of them. But society has not yet recognized me as women. I have the desire to be called as a woman. That’s why I adopted a girl baby. She is going to LKG, her name is Bhumika, and she lives with my mother. Where ever I go I express that I am a women but not a Hijada. I am a woman and live like a woman and die like a woman. Q: Chandini why you are you feeling so painful? Your community society is very crystal clear than anyone else. No caste, no politics, all are having satisfied living? Chandini: You say ours is a calm, cool and satisfied life. But how much we suffer everyday you don’t know. From police, society and home, how much we suffer, I will tell you one incident, I have got a chance to go home after I got the operation done. Finally when I go home I found it very difficult to tell them. When I told this to my dad he did not agree. My mother fell unconscious; there was big scene created in the house. Neighbors came and cooled us down. (Song) Q: How did you get this chance at the age of 16, you know that time you were still young? Akai: Yes I was very young at that age. When I was going to college in the bus my community people used to watch me differently. They were looking at me as Hijda, and then I was feeling like talking to them, at the same time I was feeling afraid. When I look at the sex worker Hijida’s my feeling were arousing, I used to follow them after getting down from the buses. They were going to Cubbon Park and used to change their sarees at a hiding place, after watching that I was feeling happy. When I saw their ear rings and their decorated head with perfumer flowers, was feeling to do the same. When they ask me, when they decorate my head, I used to feel, becoming a woman. Q: You were very young boy. How did you get into the sex work? Akai: I had no options. I still feel to continue my education. Because of my homosexuality status I feel no one will accepts me, I want to continue my education and wants to occupy top post in the society. Q: You complained that this life has not treated you well. Nobody has thought of the reason why this boy has become like this. Everybody stared at you with lust and a sexual desire. You were blaming everyone that all of them have kept you out of life, what happened to you? Akai: First my own people did not accept me; they threw me out of my home. After coming out of home none of them were giving opportunity for me to do anything. Police were harassing me. We were allowing them to have sex without using condom. Police used to assault us just to snatch money from us. This was a big harassment, not a small problem. Q: How much you earn? Akai: 70, 80 rupees per day. Q: What were you doing with that money? I was collecting it adding it at one place, when it becomes 5, 6 thousand I used to give it to the home. They did not know that, that money was earned out from sex work. Q: Has anyone on the society ever told, suggested you that you are a boy, not to indulge in such kind of activities? Akai: No, No, our society has not grown up to that level. If somebody would have scolded me, thrashed me at that and properly guided me I would not have indulged in this kind of activities, I would have started new life, would have grown like a big person. Q: Now you are the back bone of your house. You have done the job of the man. You have got the house

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