Ground Report: Crime and punishment

Published: December 5, 2014

Dhamini Ratnam
Original Article:

Nagma sits with feline grace on the edge of her black sofa in her one-room-kitchen home in Mumbra, a far-flung, underdeveloped suburb of Mumbai, home to a large Muslim population. She is getting late—her friends have planned a party at midnight to ring in her 26th birthday. But she’s in no hurry when she speaks.

Her words are measured, interspersed with pauses. Her phone rings constantly; each time, the wallpaper lights up, revealing the photograph of a young Aishwarya Rai with piercing ice-grey eyes. Nagma recently got the colour of her eyes changed from dark brown to ice-grey, like the photograph.

Four years ago, Nagma underwent a sex reassignment surgery to give herself a vagina, breasts and a new nose.

Born intersex, Nagma dressed in boy’s clothes till she was a teenager. Secretly, she would meet other hijras who lived nearby. When her mother came to know of these meetings, she beat Nagma, but couldn’t stop her. “I always felt like a girl. What could my mother do?” she says. Nagma, who joined a hijra gharana at the age of 14, works in a dance bar in Thane. She’s the only earning member of her family. Her father, who was working in Saudi Arabia for 20 years, died three years ago and her mother Latifabi now entertains Nagma’s chelas (followers) at home without fuss.

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