BY YUSRA JABEEN
KARACHI: When she was first arrived in this world, her parents thought they gave birth to a boy. They named her Abdul Aziz.
Aziz belongs to the Rana/Rajput family, which follows a strict and conservative conduct of Islam. He had three brothers and eight sisters.
A lively person, unapologetically herself, Bindiya said ever since she turned 12, she knew something was unique about her, that she had something that was only her “own”, that she was not Aziz.
Birth of Bindiya
One day, her brother and sister-in-law became parents to two twin babies, a daughter and a son.
As part of badhai, a tradition where members of transgender community visit households and congratulate families for the good news, some members from the transgender community visited the new mom to wish her well. They sang and danced for her.
When it was time for them to leave, a person from the transgender community spoke to Bindiya’s sister-in-law, thanked her for her hospitality and kindness, and gave her money as gift for her newborn children.
The gesture left the new mother shocked as she thought she would have to pay, whom she thought were solicitors.
Bindiya’s sister-in-law, touched by the gesture of the transgender community, encouraged her then 12-year-old brother-in-law to be who he truly was.
Here comes adolescence
Bindiya saw a tumultuous time in the next few years. She started spending more and more of her days at the dera, a place that houses transgender people.
“My elder brother used to fight with me and beat me,” Bindiya said, adding the honesty in her behavior and the way she carried herself bothered some of her family.
“I was frustrated and heartbroken. So I decided to run away from home,” she said, adding she joined the transgender community in interior Punjab as she felt safe and free with them.
After some five months of staying away from her family, she called home.
“I spoke to my mother who broke down in tears when she heard my voice. She said she missed me and wanted me to come back,” Bindiya recalled. So she heeded to her mother’s request and returned.
Home not-so-sweet Home
Once back, Bindiya’s father sat her down and asked her what she wanted.
“I want the freedom to be myself,” she said, telling him how she would feel more comfortable if she lived around people who understood her struggle.
Listening to her request, Bindiya’s father financed her to help her rent a small apartment in Mehmoodabad, Karachi. She was 15 years old at the time.
Her seven-year-old brother also accompanied Bindiya to her new abode. Bindiya finally found room to breathe, quite literally.
But like everything in life, this freedom also came at a cost.
A relative saw Bindiya dancing at an event and said something disrespectful about her to her parents. Her father then got Bindiya a mobile phone, the kind that came with an antenna at the time.
One day, he called Bindiya and told her to visit the family. “Come as who you are. Dress up and feel free around us. We can’t wait to meet you,” Bindiya recalled her father as saying.
That day, Bindiya felt truly happy. “My loved ones have finally accepted me whole-heartedly,” she had thought to herself, saying her joy that day could not be masked.
Bindiya’s guru, from whom she had learned everything about herself, asked her why she was dressed up on a Sunday. “Sundays are usually our off day as we have no badhai scheduled,” she said.
“I told my Guru my father wanted to meet me and wanted me to come home as I am and not what society wants me to be, and that I am really happy,” Bindiya said in a voice that was less than chirpy now.
“But Guru warned me. She said I should go but I should also be careful.”
Bindiya then got a taxi, and she and her brother left for home.
When she arrived at her father’s place, she was a bit taken aback when she saw all her immediate family members together with their spouses, sitting in the drawing room.
“I wanted to introduce you, Bindiya, to all our family members so that nobody is shocked when they see you like this or when someone talks about you in bad taste,” her father said.
So Bindiya took it as a welcoming gesture and shrugged off the discomfort she felt. She then sat down in the drawing room and started chatting with her family while she sipped on cold Fanta.
“I could detect a sarcastic and accusatory tone in the way Abu spoke to me, but I chose to ignore, thinking it is all in my head,” she said.
“My mother kept telling my father during our conversation to not do ‘it’, to which my father would say ‘it is necessary’,” Bindiya recalled, saying this added to the uncomfortable vibe she got the moment she had entered the house.
What followed shook Bindiya forever.
Her father then distributed a stack of 100 notes worth Rs1 each. “Bindiya, I want you to get up, play a song, sing and dance for us, just like you do when you visit strangers,” her father said.
“I can’t do it Abu,” she said, in a breaking voice.
“Why not? If you can dance in front of strangers and pick up the cash they throw at you, why can’t you do the same with your family?” he asked Bindiya.
Fifteen-year-old Bindiya, feeling humiliated, did not know what to say. Instead, she sat down on the floor and burst into tears.
“My mother and my sisters came and hugged me. They said they couldn’t see me like this and what my dad did was unnecessary,” Bindiya said, adding she then told her father she is leaving the house for good and that she would never come back.
No surprise there, she said, that her father let her go.
Bindiya shared everything with her guru who reaffirmed her self-confidence and her conscience that she did nothing wrong by being true to herself.
Life was setting Bindiya up for something greater, her gut-feeling told her.
Death and life after
“Then, when I was 18-years-old, a close friend of mine fell sick; so sick that she died,” Bindiya said. She was close to her deceased friend’s mother, who now lived in Punjab.
“‘We couldn’t celebrate her life with us. But we can send her off peacefully to the next world,’ she told me,” Bindiya said.
“So I took it upon myself to ensure my friend’s mother got to see her child one last time,” she said, not knowing what challenges transporting a corpse from one city to another within Pakistan involved.
She took her friend’s body from the morgue to the airport. Friends from the transgender community accompanied. When she got to the airport, she discovered a death certificate from the hospital was needed in order to transport a corpse by air.
“So we rushed to the hospital where my friend was admitted. There, we learned we need to get the district nazim as well as the police to verify my friend’s death before the hospital could issue us her death certificate,” Bindiya said.
The troop then went to the police station where they met one of their worst nightmares.
“The police officers jeered at us and asked us invasive questions. Death of our transgender friend was a joke to them,” Bindiya said, adding that was the day she decided to give up dancing and dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of her community.
And that’s how Bindiya Rana, as Pakistan knows her, was born. – SAMAA