15 min read

Many people think about their past.
Many people talk about their past.
Many people live in their past.
But the rest of them?

They slaughter their past!
Murder it. Butcher it.
Take a sharp knife and cut it into thousand pieces. Then collect all of them and throw into a forest.
Let the wild animals devour them!

———

“Are you feeling comfortable?” – Asmita asked the boy, perhaps in his early 20s.
The boy, sitting cross-legged on the chair, looked around the room.

A door, a window, a metallic cupboard, a table and two wooden chairs.
That’s all what the room contained. Asmita sensed his fear and anxiety due to Saahil standing near him.

“Do you want water?” – Asmita asked the boy. Without waiting for his reply, Saahil understood and left.

Asmita went closer to the boy, took his hand in hers and whispered – “Do you want to chat with me in private?”
The boy nodded in affirmation.

Saahil came back with a glass of a water. She took him by his elbow towards the door and whispered something in his ear.
He left the room and Asmita locked the door from inside.
The boy was sitting rock-steady in the chair, looking down to his feet. Asmita was observing him from the door itself. He hardly blinked his eyes.

How deeply lost is this boy in his thoughts!

As a practising counselor for the past 2 years, she knew how to deal with such situations. There is no point in forcing the person to “speak out”.
Specially in such sensitive cases where the person has made a failed attempt of committing a suicide.
In such instances, the person actually wants to speak so much, pour out so much, cut open the heart and let all the emotions bleed out. But is terrified of being judged by others.

This weight of being judged, that keeps on accumulating inside ounce by ounce, for countless nights across weeks and months and years, finally one day becomes so painfully unbearable that a person cannot think of any other way to get rid of the pain but ending his own life.

Beeeeeeeep – the inverter in the room gave a long whistle.
The electricity had went off and the ceiling fan was slowly and steadily dying out – its rotations becoming weaker and weaker.
The inverter needed to be switched on manually.
Asmita did that and then threw another look at the boy.

Cold. Numb. Immovable.
Asmita went towards her cupboard and took out a brand new notebook and two pens.
She opened the first page and wrote on it – I think life is like a ceiling fan. What do you think?

She passed on the notebook and one pen to him.
The boy didn’t respond.
To make him more comfortable and give him his space, Asmita got up and walked away to the window.

She allowed the late evening golden sunrays fall on her body.
It warmed up her frozen mind. Her eyes were gazing out of the window, but her ears were at the boy.
Has he picked up the pen? Is he scribbling anything on the paper?

After a minute, she heard two taps made by the pen.
It was a signal.
Signal of an heart opening up – that had been decaying deep inside the cave of loneliness!
Very very gently, layer by layer. But it was opening up.

The boy responded – I disagree. I think life is like a table fan, not a ceiling fan.
You see – a table fan is always rotating in a semi-circular direction, trying to cool everyone, trying to please everyone.
Our life is also like that. Right from the birth till the end, most of our time is spent pleasing the world.
Other people keep on adjusting our life’s direction – just like the table-fan’s direction – to please themselves.
We are just puppets.

Stunning – Asmita said to herself, in astonishment and awe!

The beautiful but regretful analogy between life and the table-fan. Simply wow!
Asmita replied on the notebook – Do you think your life is in someone’s control?
And passed it to the boy.

He was still continuing to look down.
She counted in her mind : One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi – with a hope that perhaps the boy does not mind she being around him.
But the boy didn’t budge. She understood.
She once again went near the window and allowed her body to soak in the concluding sun-rays of the day.

Two taps.
Anxious and excited as she was, she hurried to the table.

I just do not think, but I know it for sure.
Yes, my life is in the control of other people. The society so to say!
I’m not a kid anymore to get fooled! Tell me – Did you always want to be a counselor? Or something else?

Sharp.
Very sharp presence of mind this kid has – Asmita said to herself.
The boy is taking control over the conversation, which Asmita didn’t want to. Hence she had no option, but to lie to him.

Does it really matter if I wanted to be a counselor or something else?
Tell me – are outcomes the only way to judge if the decision taken was right or wrong?

This time Asmita didn’t count any Mississippi!
She passed on the notebook towards the boy and followed the protocol.
The boy too followed the undecided protocol.

After a minute she heard – two taps.

Does it really matter what I think? Or what you think?
The society largely believes that results are the only way to judge the righteousness of a decision.
That’s all. Their is nothing to debate over that.
What people think about you – cannot be simply ignored.

Asmita quickly wrote another question on the paper : Imagine you are at the last moment of your life.
What would you be more proud of – you loving yourself for what you are OR the society loving you for what you pretended you are?

Then she came near the window.

It was a bit risky question, indeed.
Making the boy think about his last moment of life.
No doubt that a suicidal person has thought about his last moment hundreds of time before committing the act.
And now making him re-think on it was directing his mind into the same dangerous territory.

Two taps.

The boy had written – I am gay.

Finally!
The move has worked.
Asmita felt like a detective, who has discovered a hidden treasure.
Finding the exact reason of a suicide is as tedious as finding a needle in a haystack.

Now Asmita knew what to do next.
She wrote back on the paper – I want to show you something. Can I?

Asmita passed the paper towards the boy and without waiting for his response, she got up from her chair, and walked towards the cupboard.
She took out a photo album and put it in front of the boy on the table.

It was covered with a layer of dust.
The outer plastic cover was turning lemon-yellow in colour and had become so fragile, that it might come-off just by a flick.
The boy carefully touched only the lower rightmost end of the album with his index finger and flipped open the cover.

“ALBUM : BUTCHERED AND BURIED”

Read a label put right at the centre of the first page.
All in caps with a red colour marker.

The boy flipped to the next page, in the same meticulous way as before.

“HATING GOURAV”
Another red coloured label in all caps.
But this time not in the middle, but at the top.
Below this label were five photos, four at the corners and one in the centre.

Next page.

“LOVING SAAHIL”

The red colour of the label is now replaced by blue colour.
There were three photos, arranged in a diagonal line.
Top one at the rightmost corner, one in the middle, and the lower one at the leftmost corner.

Next page.

“KILLING GOURAV”

This time a black coloured label, with just one photo at the centre.

That’s all.
The rest of the album was totally blank, no photos at all.
The remaining plastic pages were stuck to each other, as if untouched from their manufacturing date.

All this while, when the boy was going through the photos, Asmita was standing still at the window, as a part of protocol.
The dawn sky now showing shades of black and the twinkling stars popping up one by one.
With folded hands, her body was resting on the wall.

Is the boy crying? – Asmita wondered.
Yes, he was.
She went towards him and stood behind his chair.
Putting both her palms on his shoulders, she was consoling the boy.

The boy rubbed off his tears and turned around.
“Tell me everything.”

Too many firsts!
First eye-contact between the boy and Asmita.
First time he moved his frozen body.
First words spoken by him.

Asmita closed her eyes and inhaled a deep breathe.
Its going to be painful – she warned herself.

But perhaps that’s what the boy needs.
Just the way snake-venom cures snake-bite ; just the way a diamond cuts another diamond ; similarly listening to someone’s pain can surprisingly be an antidote to our pain.

The boy picked up the glass of water that Saahil had brought, got up from his chair and went near the window, viewing outwards.

Asmita felt a little amused by this position-reversal – she now in the chair and the boy at the window.

She cleared her throat and begun : “I don’t know where to begin from. You have seen the photos and must have got an idea, haven’t you?

Lets begin from this current state of mine.
Yes – I wear a saree and blouse now.
Yes – I was born a male.
Yes – I’m a transgender.
A transwoman.

But that’s the social identity – a transwoman.
You want to know my self-identity?
A woman! W-O-M-A-N.
I take offense when someone reduces my self-identity of a woman into this unreal, indigestible term : transwoman!

I feel nauseating whenever my ears have to listen to the sound that this word makes : transwoman!
You know what is the purpose of that term?
To uncover my past, to dig up my buried grave, making it bare open!
It tells others that this person was born a male and is now “modified” into a woman.

How do I explain to the society that I was “born” a woman.
In my mind, deep inside my heart – I was a woman, I am a woman and I will be a woman.
People just don’t get it, do they?!”

Asmita paused for a moment, realising that she is getting too emotional.
That’s what Saahil had taught her – if and when any negative emotion is building up inside the mind – just pause.

She found it amusing – about the role reversal that has taken place in her counselling room.
The lines had gone blur.
It was difficult to say who was counselling and who was getting counselled.

Asmita continued – “I have personally spent years, not days or months, grappling with this confused state of mind.
What is happening with me? Am I different? Is this just a phase?
Whom should I talk to? How will my family and friends and relatives and neighbours react?
Should I even tell them what I feel? Or hide it forever? Is this a disease? Am I going to die?

So many, so many questions running in mind – back and forth, back and forth – day in and day out.

The result of all this? I hated myself. I felt disgusting about myself.
I lost self-esteem, self-confidence, self-identity.
One by one, like a slow, decaying death.

All this phase was the first label you saw in the ‘Butchered and Buried’ photo album – Hating Gourav.

Then came Saahil in my life. Yes, he is Trans-Man himself. Very strong and confident person.
He picked me up piece by piece. Literally.
I was a mess then. I had lost all hopes in life and was full of negativity.
He instilled the required spirit of life in me. It was not really easy – for both of us.
I had given up innumerable number of times in this journey of being comfortable with myself.
But he didn’t. He kept on supporting me, motivating me, at times even shouting and lecturing me.

This phase was the second label – Loving Saahil. Had it been not for Saahil, I was seriously thinking to …”

Asmita opened her mouth to say something, but then stopped.
Nope, not an apt thing to tell the boy at this point of time.

“Then came the third phase – Killing Gourav.

Yes, I did have a supportive life-partner and I had told my truth to my parents and a few close friends.
But still I was not 100% comfortable with myself.

Just imagine – you are male and are told to wear female clothes.
Nope, not just the outside saree or punjabi salwar.
Right from the innerwears you should wear all female clothes. And you are “asked” to do this for 10-15 years, every single day.

How will you feel?

That’s precisely how I used to feel.
Enforced and Enslaved.
Something was missing. Every single day my mornings used to begin with this haunted feeling, after I took my bath.

As selfish as it may sound, but I hated my body.
Like really really hated it. It creeped the freak out of me.

That is when I decided to actually change my body parts so as to align them with my image about myself in my mind.
It was a lengthy process indeed, that began about a one and half year ago.
So the last single photo you see in “Killing Gourav” is just a day before I began Hormone Replacement Therapy(HRT).

After a few months post HRT, my external male features – like the facial hair slowly and steadily became bleak and went off.
Then I went for Sex Reassignment Surgery(SRS) – which basically altered my genitals.

I still remember the day of the surgery. In the operation theatre, just before giving me aneasthesia, Dr.Kumar had asked me what would be my new name post surgery.
As it is I was going through a lot of mental stress, so I had honestly not thought about it.

He promptly replied – Your parents must have named you Gourav because they took pride in you.
To keep this feeling, you can name yourself Asmita, which also means pride.

Thus Gourav was killed and Asmita was born. At the age of 30.
A makeover.
Infact – The Makeover.

No doubt I’m very very lucky to have got a great support system of people around me.
Not all are that fortunate.
Many of the LGBT+ community people have to go through a lot of pain – both physical and mental.

Hence I decided to be a counselor. To give back to the community.

Do you want to know how Asmita feels now?
Peaceful. Calm. Quiet.
The SRS was an undescribably relieving experience for me.
I am now feeling so much myself. Not just externally, but also internally!

A part of me, which I was ashamed of, which I was guilty of, which was in a way suffocating me from inside, is finally gone.
At this stage of life, I feel like a criminal, who has been relieved of his charges, who has been set off from the jail, for the crime that he didn’t commit in the first place.

But ofcourse, this is not the end.
Infact this is the beginning. I know that the future life is not really going to be a cake-walk.
Some would accept it, some would ignore it, some would make fun of it, some would reject it.
I just hope I have the patience and confidence to go through all that lies in front of me.
I just hope it’s not as bad as I sometimes imagine it to be, on certain nights.”

 

Hussssh! Asmita was feeling exhausted.
So many things to recall, so many things to describe.
Much against her expectation, she didn’t burst into tears during the entire re-opening of the scar.

The boy, at the window, turned towards her and began walking.
He hugged Asmita tight and began crying like a baby.
“I’m sorry. I’m really really sorry” – he kept on repeating, pleading guilty for his act of ending his life.
Asmita patted on his back, comforting him – “Its ok dear. Its fine. We all go through this.”

Beeeeeeeep – the invertor made the sound again.

The main phase electricity had come back and hence the invertor got switched off.

Asmita said – “Whether life is a ceiling fan or a table fan does not matter. Electricity gives fan the its life.  
It gives breathe and heartbeats.
Similarly our life also gets its energy from something.
Its called Love. L-O-V-E.
Deep down every human being wants to love and be loved. And its ok if sometimes we don’t feel loved – just the way sometimes there is power cut off.
We feel dejected and depressed. Lonely and disgusted.
During such times always always ask for help. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help.

Many a times what we are going through, almost every other human beings have already gone through in their life.
So don’t worry that people will judge you for whatever you are. Got it?”

“Yes.” – the boy responded.

“As they say – Life is an ice-cream.
Enjoy the ice-cream before it melts.”
“Yes.”
“Do I sound too preachy?”
“Yes. A little.”

 

Both of them smiled casually at each other.
The boy came near Asmita, took her hand in his and with deep voice said – “Thanks a lot. You saved my life.”
Asmita patted him on his shoulder and said – “I’m glad. Now stop thinking or worrying about what happened in the past.
Basically stop living in your past, will you?”

The boy nodded.
Asmita continued – “Kill your past and bury it somewhere. Let the new phase of life begin.”

The boy smiled and nodded again.

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Ell P
Admin

A very incisive post, Loki. I love the tension here. The twist wrt to Asmita’s identity was an amazing way to bring about her understanding and compassion. I understand why that needed to be done, why this would make the boy open up further. Technically, in many places I saw redundancy. For example, “He hardly blinked his eyes.” Likewise, there are many places where there could have been more show than tell. For example, “Stunning – Asmita said to herself, in astonishment and awe!” could have been, “Asmita’s hands shivered at his response, a latent hunger to know more about… Read more »

Ankit Jha
Admin

The counselor also being a transgender made the conversation so much wonderful.
It skipped a lot of idealistic talk. Yours still has some, but that is still fellow to fellow, and that makes it more down to earth.
You displayed the narrative in a different light than the usual, and that worked for me. Good work.

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