Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Nagin Hijra, my inspiration

People, Oct '14
Guddua remembers her guru, who dreamt large and inspired others to do so as well

Nearly 40 years ago, a trans woman who was just 19 years old and had run away from home, was found alone at one of the ghats in Banaras. A young Hijra named Reshma was the one who found her and brought her to the Hijra daiyar or ghar (household) in Habra, West Bengal. Reshma Hijra was amazed with the newcomer’s dancing and singing skills, who was short in height and fair in complexion. She never kept any links with her biological family and whenever asked about them, she kept mum.

Nagin Hijra (left) at the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2011
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
Manasha Hijra, also known as Nagin Hijra, was educated, intelligent and never shouted at any one. If she was angry and upset, her body language would do all the talking. Gradually, after the death of her guru Reshma Hijra, as per the Hijra community’s hierarchy, she came to be the Shyambazari Hijra gharana’s motia (head of all gurus in a Hijra gharana or clan). This was a far cry from the day she was found all by herself in Banaras.

The Shyambazari gharana is said to include many Hijra ghars, including those in Habra, Barasat, Bongaon and Park Circus / Ballygunge in Kolkata. Nagin Hijra was from the Habra ghar, which according to some accounts dates back to the Mughal period.

I remember that during times of turmoil, she used to keep her head cool and never took hurried or wrong decisions. She resolved all sorts of complexities that arose within the Hijra community in a calm and diplomatic manner. She always dreamt of settling her gharana in a remote but beautiful place. In fact, she chose the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. There she even built a beautiful daiyar, which is also known as her peace abode.

Nagin Hijra had a deep interest in setting up a registered community based organization for the Hijra community but alas, this wish of hers remained unfulfilled. She died earlier this year on June 5, 2014 at the age of 59 years while she was on a visit to Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This happened just one year after her guru Reshma Hijra passed away.

I was very happy when Nagin Hijra said she was interested in connecting with other queer communities in West Bengal. Along with me and other members of the Barasat Hijra ghar, she participated in the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk in 2011 and also joined one of the planning meetings for the walk at George Bhawan, a popular meeting space for queer groups in Kolkata.

Nagin Hijra’s interest was in the empowerment of not just the Hijra community but also the larger trans woman community. Whenever Bakul Hijra, one of her chelas (disciples) from Bangladesh used to visit our daiyar in Barasat, Nagin Hijra was the only one to listen keenly to Bakul Hijra about the health and development projects for trans women running successfully in Bangladesh.

Bakul Hijra used to tell her all about the Sustho Jibon Hijra Project in Bangladesh, which she had started. Later, Pinky Hijra, Nagin Hijra’s poti chela, formed the Badhon Hijra project in Bangladesh and took her there for inaugurating the project.

As yet another Durga Puja comes and goes, Nagin Hijra’s memory, her guidance and firm advice will always stay with me as cherished treasures.

The author is a member of the trans woman communities of West Bengal and has long years of experience in working on their health and development concerns.  

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