The Hijra People
Hijra people are legally recognised as third gender in India as they don't associate themselves as neither male nor female. In western culture they are referred to as transgender, a woman trapped in a man's body. Hijras are often encountered in streets, trains and other public places, demanding money from young men. If refused, the hijra may attempt to embarrass the person into giving money, using obscene gestures, profane language and even sexual advances. There are several myths surrounding the hijra community. Hijras are considered dangerous. They are known for bestowing blessings, but they can bestow not only blessings but curses too. The curse of childlessness is wielded as a weapon against anyone who refuses to give them money or makes fun of them.
Hijras perform religious ceremonies at weddings or at the married couples home after marriage, involving music, singing and sexually suggestive dancing. These are intended to bring good luck and fertility to the newlyweds. Although the hijras are most often uninvited, the host pays them money. Many fear the hijras curse if they are not appeased therefore will always pay or gift them whatever they may request. Should they not do so the hijra can bring badluck or infertility to the newlyweds.
I recall vividly as these robust women in full traditional clothing, decked with jewels and heavily applied make up arrived at our front door the day after our wedding. I watched on from inside as they talked candidly and my relatives all smiled and laughed at the drop of anything they said. I was told do not go outside the hijra are here. If they see you are white they will charge us twice as much money. But alas the loud overbearing woman made her way into the house and immediately noticed me. She asked me for money and I said I do not have money I have no work. Everyone laughed as my husband translated. They were extremely nervous I would say something wrong. She then pointed to my wedding ring and I told her this is mine. She said I would owe her a gold ring. The hijra admired at just how white I was. As I was so white she then doubled her price of 2500 rupees to 5000 rupees and my mother in law quickly obliged. She ran to get the cash as the hijra went back outdoors in the courtyard where everyone was seated.
There were three hijra however only two were dressed in women's clothing. These two women started dancing and singing to the audience. The two hijra took it in turns to perform. Whilst one performed the other went about collecting food from my mother in law as payment. They threw rice over my husband and I as we sat and watched in spectacle. The hijra then fed me a traditional sweet and threw more rice at me. She still could not fathom my whiteness. It was seen as beauty. They were almost black in comparison. After 20 minutes of performing they accepted the 5000 rupees payment. Given my beauty they returned the 2500 extra rupees. Although my mother in law did not take it back lightly in fear of disrespecting the hijra. My husband and I then received a blessing and the hijra gifted me a ten rupees note. It is tradition to keep hold of this note and not lose it as it will bring us good fortune in bearing children.
It is believed that if your child is born a hijra then the hijra community in India have the right to claim your child as their own. Hence the fear people have towards them with the belief they will be cursed to have hijra children and be childless. It is thought that this is punishment by god to be a woman trapped in a man's body.