The Third World…Reality frights!

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One hour had passed. Kokila still lay unconscious.

Someone threw water on her face! Her facial muscles twitched violently in response. She fought back her pain and fatigue. The ache was overpowering, her head hurt and so did her body.

Wake up you *****!  The SHO screamed

A horse-shoe heel landed right on her lower back, she yelled in anguish.

A few seconds later, another kicked her in the solar-plexus knocking the wind out of Kokila’s lungs. Her eyes rolled in pain. A lathi prodded her in the ribs before crashing her on the shin. The skin peeled off, exposing a part of the tibia and the fibula.

That hurt! Kokila cried.

‘Tanni, konjam tanni’, trembling, she made hand signs for water.

‘Thoo ninna’ they spat on her face.

The expletives rained. They had now stripped her naked and stubbed burning cigarettes butts into her belly and chest. Her heels were sore too from the beating she got.

What followed later made even the ghost in Kokila’s body cry.

Later, they gave her a tattered shirt and mundu and said ‘Bevarsi, haako iddanna’

Kokila was dragged by her hair and booted out of the premises. The chanting in the temple had stopped. The night had gone silent once again.

Byappanahalli slept, Kokila remembered that fateful evening in Sathyamangalam.

A small town near Erode- Bordered by dense jungles, often combed by the special task force in search of the fearsome poacher bandit Koose Muniswamy Veerappan.

By the banks of the river Bhavani, a medium sized tiled house owned by a temple priestess – Santi , was in a festive mood. About 20 people had gathered in the patio.

At first glance, it looked like group of housewives in a rapturous mood. Pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses lined up the walls, a garland of interwoven mango leaves adorned the main door. The place smelled fresh, of Sandalwood Agarbathis and flowers.

Someone sat in the middle on a hurriedly drawn kolam. She was dressed up like a bride, She seemed shy and for some reason in pain.

The singing was loud, the lyrics lewd, they clapped and gyrated around in vulgar gestures.

More clapping and they stopped suddenly.

The priestess Santhi, a hefty and dark muscular figure in her sixties revered by this crowd, came forward with a brass plate with burning camphor. Anointing Kokila with a sandalwood paste, she said ‘Welcome to the family, choose a name for yourself’.

‘Kokila’, the figure replied.

Hoots and real loud clapping followed?.

Kokila had now been formally initiated into ‘The Third World’.
A new name, a new religion, a whole new world where she was at home!

Vailankanni – Tamil Nadu

Aruldoss (Arul) was a shy 4th child of a restaurateur. The father Mariadoss had a flourishing restaurant close to the Holy Shrine of the Lady of Vailankanni. Theirs was a devout Catholic family. Arul’s mother had died delivering his younger sister Kanni. A few years later, Maridoss had remarried Shashi, a widow without encumbrances and a cousin of his deceased wife. She was a very kind lady, especially fond of Arul and Kanni. The children fondly called her Chittamma.

Arul was a very reserved child, never mixed around with his classmates at the local boy’s school. He spent his time dreaming away or at the church grotto looking and admiring the statue of Virgin Mary. His teachers complained about his short-attention spans but maintained he was sharp.

He never took part in sports; he preferred playing girl games, mostly with Kanni. At times, they would play Chinna Veedu, Arul wearing Kanni’s clothes; Kanni sporting her brother’s. Arul’s childhood games grew into a fetish, as a teenager he now stole chances to wear Kanni’s clothes. He loved the feminine feel.

Arul’s effeminate traits came to the fore around that age. He now strutted like a girl, fought with his nails instead of trading punches, sat cross-legged at gatherings unlike the way boys did. He even wore nail polish & kajal. His classmates teased him; called him a Pottai.  He grew even more conscious of his alternate sexuality as the years passed.

One night he left his family & the holy town for Chennai’s Triplicane.

His ambiguous sexuality didn’t deter him; he found his calling when he met an Ali named Salma who introduced him to a jamaat.

The Alis lived all over Chennai. It was here that Arul met beings like him; most of whom took great pride in their sexual affirmation. He met the dangas & double-deckers ? heterosexuals whose clandestine tryst with the world of Alis normally began at dusk and ended at day-break.

Arul was now introduced to casual sex; he enjoyed the companionship more than the money that he got after his ‘full service’ jobs.

The Alis earned their livelihood by extortionist methods of begging normally at Child-births or wedding parties where they gate-crashed for alms. Rejecting them normally ended up with the eunuchs belting out a volley of obscenities, considered bad omen. Some of them were even priestesses in temples in Tamil Nadu.

They were now subjects of research material. Their annual Koothandavar festival at the Eunuch’s village in Koovagam, TamilNadu had been covered by award winning documentary makers.

Arul even got a chance to visit Hyderabad during Holi one year; the revelry of the Hijras there was unparalleled. They all seemed happy to the outside world- though cloistered, shunned and reviled by the higher mortals.

They were neither males nor females- they were the third gender who had carved out a little world for themselves.

One they fondly called The Third World.

Arul, for the first time felt happy and accepted, unlike the rejection and humiliation he was subject to, for a good part of his life. But he missed his Chittamma, he called her one day to learn that his father had passed away three days ago from a brief illness. She coaxed him to come home for the requiem mass. He crossed himself in homage to his father’s soul, while refusing to come home.

Unlike the dangas, Arul had decided to go the full way- one of the hardest decisions a eunuch takes in his life. He had decided to dispel any shadows of ambiguity, secrecy and dual existence that loomed over his alternate sexuality. This he thought was an affirmation to the way of life he had chosen. The decision to sever the male organ from his body was irrevocable. No going back Arul had decided. Nirvana!

If he had the money he could choose surgical removal at the hands of good doctors that specialized in the job. He had none, so Arul left for Sathyamangalam. He met Santhi, a temple priestess who introduced him to a charlatan with a legendary expertise in the trade.

In the forest, under the influence of narcotic substances, trance by mendicants, crude tools, Arul’s last connection with the male bastion (samudrika lakshana) was severed.  After 40 days of herbal medicines, extremely painful ritual healing, Arul was ordained Kokila- a name he had chosen for himself.

Kokila went back to Chennai, where she lived for a few years till she met Kumar. He was a danga & a married businessman from Byappanahalli, Bangalore who traded in lube oils and lubricants. He was a regular visitor to Triplicane.

Kumar coaxed Kokila to come and live in his town. Kumar had over the years been silently instrumental in setting up a jamaat in Byappanahalli by providing monetary aid to the Third World.

""…Arul had decided to go the full way- one of the hardest decisions….""

The Alis had even managed to erect a temple in honor of their deity Koothandavar ? whose annual festival was attended by hijras all over Karnataka and neighboring Tamil Nadu.

June 28th 2004- Cubbon Park, Bangalore

For over a week, a group of hijras along with some human right activists sat in protest demanding justice to ‘The Third World’ and Kokila. 

March 2007

Byappanahalli Station Limits

The SHO and Machiraju were suspended and imprisoned. Kumar’s schedule to Kovai and Chennai haven’t changed. Sailaja & Selvan pummel away on a squeaky cot, Kokila’s anklets still punctuates the twilight in Byappanahalli.
‘The Third Gender and their Third World’ incessantly continues to be detested and shunned!

Kokila is real, her name has been unchanged. Her abuse is real, maybe even more gross than portrayed; the rest of the characterization is a figment of the writer’s imagination. A sincere attempt!

Glossary of terms: In order of appearance

Lathi- Vernacular, Police baton

Tanni, konjam tanni- Tamil- Water, Please water

Thoo ninna- Kannada, abusive cursing enacted with spitting

Bevarsi – Kannada, abusive Bastard

haako iddanna- Kannada, wear this

Koose Muniswamy Veerappan – Veerappan

Agarbathis- Vernacular, Incense sticks

Kolam- Tamil, chalk-powder drawing

Chittamma- Tamil, Aunt literally small mother

Chinna Veedu- Tamil, small house; colloquially – mistress’ house

Kajal –  lead & arsenic based eyeliner

Pottai- Tamil, Eunuch

Jamaat- Slang, Gathering of Eunuchs

Dangas- Slang, normal men who acted like females clandestinely

Double decker- heterosexual, normally married men

Ali- Tamil slang, Eunuch

Hijra- Hindi Eunuch

Koothandavar- Deity of Aravan (Arjuna’s son)

Koovagam- Temple town in Tamil Nadu devoted to Koothandavar; village of eunuchs

Nirvana- Hindi, spiritual enlightenment

Author: Amarnath Bantwal- Kuwait