Laxminarayan Tripathi or Laxmi is a Hijra from Mumbai. In this autobiography Me Hijra Me Laxmi, Laxmi talks about her journey from childhood to attaining fame as an artist. She is also an activist for the rights of the third gender. This is one the rare biographies of the LGBT community that intends to dispel many myths about them. More importantly, it gives an average reader a peep into their world. The world that is surrounded in secrecy and gives rise to many myths and speculations.
As a personal story of Laxminarayan Tripathi who was born into a respectable Brahmin family hailing from UP, but living in Mumbai, it is disgusting and inspiring at the same time. When you read about her sexual exploitation as a child, you shudder. Though I wonder why she did not tell it to her parents? for they could have certainly helped as it appears from the rest of the story. Her giving into her younger brothers friends seems very unnatural to me.
It seems more of a choice than something forced upon her. Honestly, I did not believe completely in that part of her story. Though it packs a punch for the rest of the story. Going by her courageous character in the rest of her story, wonder why she did not display any in the childhood? However, her journey to convert to a Hijra while remaining a son to her parents is very interesting. What makes it unique is that she did not leave her family or her family did not ditch her. And she continued to live two worlds parallelly.
Her journey to activism is filled with gaps like most activist’s stories are. However, assuming whatever is written is true, Laxmi did manage to get some respect to LGBT community. She became their face and their voice. She broke quite a few norms for both parties and faced equal resistance from both the inside and the outside world. Her work on AIDS prevention and her portrayal of Hijras in popular films both shaped Laxmi into what she became. Fame and money were not an issue but she still attempted suicide. And there is a hint that alcoholism is an issue with her.
The most interesting part of the story, Me Hijra Me Laxmi, is the rituals and traditions of the Hijra Gharanas. How they induct the new Hijras into the community. How they have a Guru-Chela relationship that is almost like a parent-child relationship. The traditional ways to castrate the new induct that is painful even to read. I always knew that Hijras go through some training as they all follow a set pattern when they interact with the public. But I never knew that they have such an elaborate training on how to get the public to pay them.
Incidentally, most of the Hijras come from the lowest strata of the society with little or no education and then they isolate themselves to an extent that no one dares to go near them. What Laxmi did was open an interface between the society and the Hijra community. Author and translators of this autobiography assume that Laxmi could do so because of her education. It was education that gave her the conviction and the strength to go out and meet the world as Hijra, unapologetically. In fact, she not just accepted her identity, she used it to the hilt to get attention to herself and leverage it to make a lucrative career for herself.
Though Me Hijra Me Laxmi, is an autobiography, Vaishali Rode wrote it in Marathi and then R. Raj Rao and P. G. Joshi translated it into English. The notes by author and translators at the end make a good reading and give you insights into the story of Laxmi. Pointing out things that are missing in the story. They also place her story among the rest of the LGBT literature for the curious reader.
Me Hijra Me Laxmi, by Laxminarayan Tripathi, is a unique story, read it.
Another good read on LGBT literature is Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar. Incidentally, this book is also in Marathi.