“The creator has strangled me with his own hands.”


“It was 1999, when I first realize I need to focus stories on a helpless community. For that feeling, there was a story behind. As a child, I was a frequent visitor at my uncle’s house at Narayangonj, somewhat 25 kilometers north of Dhaka. My uncle had a hermaphrodite locally called as Hijra, whose name was “Khushi”-meaning happiness, but that is what she very much lacked in her life. During these visits I often saw my cousins with their friends taunting and making fun of Khushi, often even worse happened as when they were drunk they forced and made her to strip naked and dance in the tunes of common Hindi film songs. Since Khushi had no place to runaway to and had no means to save her from this humiliation, she gave in to the insults and harassment’s silently. Images of Khushi gyrating and quietly exposing her underdeveloped sex organs left a lasting impression that haunted me ever since.” –

Gmb Akash

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

The Hijras live in-groups far away from a regular world. As for them living in normal family becomes an unending series of taunts from the society so the circumstances lead them to leave their regular family. They come to general people but live a life far different and painful in the dark allies, in isolation.

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Hijras live in their groups; each one has a leader often called “mother” or “Guru”. Members of a group do not take part in any activities without the permission of “mother”. Even the trimming of hair requires mother’s permission. Failure to get such permission results in a fine ranging from 250 Taka (US$5) to 5000 Taka (US$90).

The norm is, for a Hijra to leave home and join a community of Hijras. This happens mainly because living in the normal heterosexual surroundings becomes is unbearable due to constant taunts, insults as well as neglect. Hence joining other Hijras is normally the most logical thing to do. However, it often happens that the other Hijras will claim any Hijra child on the basis that it is a member of their society and should therefore live with them. Stories of the Hijra community accepting a Hijra baby as a gift, trying to buy it, or even stealing it are not necessarily untrue.

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

Like in the case of Najma, the occurrence was regular that in the case of any other Hijra. Najma grew up in a well to do family in Barisal, a river port town. When she was 13, a group of Hijra from Narayanganj went to her parents, but failed to persuade them to give Najma away to the group, but later due to the increasing adverse social environment she herself joined the group of Hijra latter in life making her home about 300 kilometers. Away from the parents home in Narayangonj.

 Najma is now the leader of a seven-member Hijra group that I studied is bringing up two young Hijra children. Rubi and Chanda are now 14 years old. Najma told me that: ” I cannot be a mother in my life .so It gives me great pleasure to hear them call me “ma”-mother. They will inherit everything whatever I have”.  In order to get Rubi; Najma told me that she had to pay 5 000 taka (US$90) to Rubi’s impoverished parents.

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

 

Because of their socially prescribed role as performers and spiritual healers, the Hijra appear to live their lives in merriment. In their own homes, Hijras prefer to live in a colorful manner. Their houses are almost always well organized and elaborately decorated. The same goes for their garments and ornaments. Since the Hijra believe they are women, they dress in saris and have ears and nose rings. Most of those I often met also had false breasts made with padding and often with the help of some oral contraceptive are thought to give growth on the form of breast. The hair is kept very long. But the voice and facial features are distinctly masculine, which they try to eliminate endlessly. They are physically strong and very well built. Generally the Hijras have two names one from their family when the were born and the other from the Hijra groups he joins, but often death their tombstone bears the male name that was given by the parents.

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

They are not only striped from their basic rights but are also made to feel ashamed of themselves. Hijras get a mixed reception from the people; the middle class thinks them as bad omen even the sight of a Hijra in the morning is regarded as the same and believed can spoil the whole day. Where as among the lower class they are believe to posses spiritual powers as they are deprived of the joys of a normal life, their prayers are believed to be answered. They sustain themselves through their performance of singing and dancing at various ceremonies, paying them is regarded as an act of piety but even then getting the events and ceremonies are becoming scare. I saw them as somebody not different from myself and want to clear the common misunderstandings that circle them, the common idea about them is very vague and negative and their never ending pain and struggle is never brought to the book. My efforts will be to do the entire undo and uplift the images of these hapless groups of people called Hijras.

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

“One day they sang to me a song written in light of their painful life. One of the lines that stand out goes: “The creator has strangled me with his own hands.” Yet they dream— repressing in their hearts, these strong sentiments and emotions they bear towards the Creator — a dream of their own independent community. As one of them told me – “You know Akash, if we had a great amount of money then we would have brought a four stored building and all ‘Hijras’ like us would have lived there. Then no one would have dared to neglect us.” And holding on to this dream in their hearts they aim for a normal beautiful life. So even in such a state of negligence some are continuing school and colleges; in the hope that after studying they will get a job like a normal person and will be recognized and condemned in the society not as ‘Hijras’ but as any other ordinary individual.” – Gmb Akash

 

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

© GMB Akash / www.gmb-akash.com

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34 thoughts on ““The creator has strangled me with his own hands.”

  1. Akash … You are a gift to the Hijras. You see and hear them, and extend yourself to them. Not an act of pity but acknowledgment … man to man. Amongst our aboriginal people in Canada, they are known as the two spirited people. Why can’t we just exist and be seen as a spirit … why do we have to define ourselves as man or women, gay or heterosexual…

    Thank you again for sharing the realities of your country, and travels … It teaches me again appreciation and gratitude.

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    • It is a matter of great regret that being a human they are suffering in a worst way. Thanks for reading my blog& for sharing your thoughts. We all are encountering differences in life but for few these differences are cast as curse.

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  5. The title is such a powerful statement. You have created a powerful series of images and accompanying text to convey an important aspect of life.

    The Canadian news just posted an account of how a transgendered person was not allowed to participate in the Miss Universe Canad contest even though “they concede she is a real girl”.
    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1151386–miss-universe-canada-yanks-transgendered-contestant-from-pageant?bn=1

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  8. u wont beleive this but i found u accidently searching for the best photographer in the world in google, and i accidently came acroos u r name .as u are an indian i was intrested in knowing u r work. i m touched with your photographs, u r effort to bring out the pain that is in our society thorugh photographs is amazing. i have becmw a great fan of yours . u r doing a good job. taking up so much risk every day. god bless u borther :)

    Like

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