This is an autobiography-style fiction about a son of an upper middle class Indian family, who wishes to learn Indian classical dance (“Kathak”) like his sister. In the local Indian community “acting like a girl” is considered the worst thing that a boy can do for the father.

[Sample – less than 10% of the story is shown due to restrictions of KDP]

Chapter 6. Reincarnation

I was told to eat dinner early and sleep, chanting the name of our godess. When I woke up, Najma ji sat beside me as the ‘Dai ma’, stroking my head slowly telling me to close my eyes and pray to her while she and her chela undressed me. The humiliation of being naked in front of somebody forced me to clamp my eyes and chant Mata on top of my voice. I felt their hands on my inner thighs as they held at my scrotum. I could feel a strong thread restricting the blood flow to my genitals. As I kept chanting Mata, a few seconds later, I felt a sharp pain and I screamed out. Tears streamed out of my eyes and as the pain overwhelmed my senses, I felt like I was passing out. Every thirty seconds I felt myself waning in and out of sense. I knew I was bleeding like crazy because at one point I felt like I was hallucinating things. Thinking and dreaming about my family, my old home in Patna, my sister, and my school. Was I dying, was I dead? I wanted to get up and move but I couldn’t. I wanted to run, dance but I couldn’t even raise my hands. When I finally decided to give up, I heard faint sounds around me chanting, singing, and drums. Was I dead? I tried to open my eyes but that itself took up all my energy. As I opened my eyes to slits to see what was happening, I saw Daya standing next to me. She hugged me as soon as she saw me open my eyes and said I was free. I had made it. I passed out again.

When I woke up this time, I was forced to have water and some kind of soup down my throat. It tasted bitter but I gulped it all down, as I looked around, I was removed from that damp room to a bright room and the windows were open. I tried to get up and someone helped me put up my pillow to an upright position. I looked at the girl who helped me. She was a newbie. No way could she be a boy. She looked so gorgeous with her long eye lashes and a dimple on her cheek. I felt very jealous and wished I was as pretty as her. Daya stood with her back to me folding my new clothes.

Apparently everybody in the area had gifted me something. Now I had new sarees, a Punjabi dress and a new set of makeup. Daya looked at me and smiled, which made her eyes twinkle. She asked me how I felt. I smiled and said, “as new as a baby.” She laughed. She told me I was unconscious for two days straight, falling in and out of consciousness. There was a point when she said I had almost died. She could never have enough courage to go through what I had to. Daya confessed that she ran away when she was suggested to go through the ‘formalities’ and was told about the process in detail, but she was caught and brought back by the chelas. Najma ji entered the room and asked me if I was good enough to get up. She said I had to eat well and get well soon because we still had ‘mehendi’ which is a Hindi word meaning henna leaves used as a dye for tattooing and also is the name of the fortieth day ceremony after the operation. I didn’t know what exactly a mehendi ceremony was but I said I would look forward to it. I still couldn’t get up.

Daya helped me for the business of nature’s calls but I realized that urinating hurt too much and took up too much of my strength. I wasn’t allowed to roam around. I kept resting till I was way too bored to continue sleeping, but the blood had to be replenished. My diet consisted of black tea and sugar. I wasn’t allowed anything solid till the fourth day of the operation, when they washed my hair and gave me a complete bath. I got sick whenever I ate vegetables so they controlled my diet to the roti bread. Every day Najma ji would send one of the hijras with sesame hot seed oil to apply in my genitals to prevent infection and speed up the healing process . I was given a few basic pills of iron and vitamins but I would wait eagerly for the shot of whiskey that one of the hijras brought with her. Alcohol was the actual pain killer.

Alcohol wasn’t allowed in the community but a few hijras who had boyfriends outside helped them smuggle it inside. I started getting used to the tinge of bitter taste but the high that followed was the true magician. It somehow drove away the throbbing, the burning and the constant stinging. Sometimes it felt like I had made a very bad decision because I was still not able to walk, forget about dancing. I was at peace as I got rid of the ‘thing’ but I was scared of the fact that the scar would be with me for the rest of my life. Alcohol always brought me at peace and calmed my nerves down. After four more weeks of resting, I was able to walk small distances without fainting, so Najma ji decided to finish the occasion of mehendi. My diet was now complete and every day I walked a bit more.

On the fortieth day, when I woke up, I was taken to a room where Najma ji waited for me. All the hijras came one by one and applied turmeric all over my body and I was bathed. They said I was a ‘nirvana’, reincarnated. I was now a complete new woman, born again. I was dressed in a new saree, adorned with jewels and makeup, blushing because I felt like a bride. My hands were filled with henna and bangles. Under Najma ji’s supervision all the hijras arranged a function of music and dancing. It was the happiest moment of my life. Even though I could never be a real bride, I got to be the most beautiful one for a day at least.

Around late afternoon, Najma ji came again with some of her chelas. Assorted spices and nuts were offered in front of the image of Bahuchara Mata, our goddess. Chanting of the goddess’ name resumed and the room was lit up with the lamps of ghee. At the end I had to sit inside a steel tub filled with water and everybody poured milk on me one by one. Although I didn’t understand any of it, I was happy to be the centre of attention.

After the rituals ended, Najma ji asked me if I wanted to change my name. Since this was my commencement of a new life, I could give myself a new name but I said I didn’t. I wanted my name to be Niru, forever. She smiled and said, “Okay, from now on, you will be called Nirupa. Welcome Nirupa. Now you are free to be whoever you want to be.”

I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. I rushed into the washroom and looked into the half broken mirror. I looked ravishing, just like I had always dreamed of. I had been growing my hair to look more like a girl and when I removed the heavy makeup and jewelry, I was shocked to see that I indeed looked really pretty, almost like a girl, like the newbie girl whom I was jealous of. I had almost everything I ever wanted.

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