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(A two part piece)

Chennai, or Madras as we fondly call it, is defined by a varied spectrum of things and happenings, be it the busy market streets, historic buildings and artefacts and the recent trend of expansive wall arts. But apart from all this, I find public transport to be a strong marker of what Chennai truly embodies. If Chennai is best represented through the people and their behavioural palette, then let me say it out loud that the public transports are a carrier of people and their variety of emotions and stories. The electric trains and the MTC buses always have my heart, in terms of all the memories and lessons that I have gathered, in a nomadic ritual. Here's a snippet of one such memory that changed my perspective for the better, a memory of my journey in the electric train featuring the lesser known gems of the society, the transgenders.

So what made me write this? What is this fondness that I seem to display to the transgenders? A lot is being said about them in an unruly fashion, but what is never known about them is their ability to keep wishing you the best no matter what. To be honest, I have a memory of these transgenders, a fond memory borrowed from my mother who shared an incident of a group of transgenders knocking at the doors of the house we lived in Delhi. She remembers them standing at our doorstep for money. She would get them her small contribution, while carrying me (I was five months old) to the doorstep and giving them the money. Upon receiving the money, they would bless me by placing a hand on my head and praying that I "live as a queen and make it big one day". Twenty five years later, I am writing this, to tell you their presence in my life and how I never missed receiving a blessing from them.

Part I: The Ten Rupee Note

I always prefer travelling by the local electric train, otherwise known as the EMUs for two reasons - one to feel the wind on my face and the other, the blessings received. So much happens in every compartment of this train. From vendors to policemen and yes, to transgenders, self-empowered, self-employed collecting funds and donations perhaps from passengers, blessing them as they receive every penny.

"Mothers, fathers, brothers and my dear sisters, please help us." They request in unison, mostly misinterpreted, misunderstood to be "begging without integrity". Some of the passengers speak unaware that they too are beggars to someone in charge of all the bills.

One such lady comes to me draped in chiffon silk, bindi on her forehead palm outstretched, with eyes filled with a sea of kindness that knows no bounds, and a face plastered with a smile that battles the insults from the everyday public. "Dear girl, please help your sister" she asks, and without a second at hesitation, comes a ten rupee note from my hand, all in a flash, and before I could even realize what just happened she smiles in a warm gratitude places her hand on my head while telling me those lines "May you live long as a queen" and continuing the routine of collecting those funds from passengers.

"Beggars, huh?" I thought to myself "How could someone call them beggars when all they do is wish you nothing but a lifetime full of blessings in return for the money you give?" We humans have gone so far on great expectations and cursing ourselves for not having the luck to have such associations. But all that I can now say with all the pride I've at measure is that, I am the richest person on the train.

Part II: The Empty Purse

Comes another day, in another train, another compartment, another seat, another bunch of passengers carrying their own stories and another group of transgenders doing their routine collection of these funds or donations but what remains constant is their blessings, their wishes with every penny received.

This time again one of them comes with a similar tone of request and I look at my purse, only to find no ten rupee in my hand to give to her, but get a blessing in return. I am afraid to look at them in defeat until she looks at me with a smile tells me that it is okay, blesses me and departs, to continue her work of receiving funds from other passengers.

I still am the richest person on the train.

About the Author:

M Lakshmi Supriya is an architect, artist and self published author to two books 'Musings by a Spearhead' and 'Petals and Thorns-Love and a little heartbreak'. She started writing from the year 2010 and published her first book in the year 2018. She has been a contributor to Genre: Urban Arts, New York and is a blogger with blogs, one on poetry and the other on miscellaneous observations. You can check out her work at @spearheadpoetry and @_stroked.

Photo Credits:

  1. Aleksandr Zykov

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