Yesterday night, I got into a surprisingly empty local, perhaps because it was a little later than usual and all the ladies were already home. For some reason, I prefer standing near the exit, where the breeze is free flowing and the city passes by you in a starry blur.

In the second stop, two more people joined the frugal company. I could not help but cringe a little at the new entrants. One of them was a transgender. Now, before you judge me, let me clear the air. I have nothing against transsexuals. Just that in India, their community is perceived in a very different light than any other country. A large part of the transgender community in the country begs. They are either branded beggars or prostitutes. And there is a deep rooted superstition in India that the blessing of a transgender is very good and that one must donate them money, because their curses are also considered to be potent and powerful. There are a lot of other reasons why transgenders are largely either feared or mocked in the country.

So yes, I can get uncomfortable around them, hoping they will not come close and bother me for money. Because these days, I am pretty broke. But soon I realized that the transgender was probably someone dressed up for a skit. Because she adjusted her hair near the forehead and I saw that it was a wig. He then pulled out a little mirror and started adjusting his make-up. I was sitting right across them.

I looked away and started listening to music. Another stop came, nobody got in. I looked to the gate and my gaze also fell on the guy who was dressed up like a woman, in jeans and a pretty sequined blue top. He was still looking his face in the mirror and examining his cheeks. I listened to another song and the man kept staring at his mirror while talking to the boy who had got on to the train with him. It seemed a little narcissistic to me, I don’t ever remember anybody looking at themselves for so long, not  me, not anybody. Maybe the skit or play was very important.

Photo courtesy wikimedia commons
Photo courtesy wikimedia commons

Another ten minutes passed, but the man was still looking in his reflection, closely touching his non-existent wrinkle lines. It was as if he was staring at every single pore on his face. He then looked up at me with disdain. And it felt like he judged me for being randomly picked up god to have been made into a woman. Suddenly I felt sharply aware of my physical being, but in a different way, not in the way when we get conscious because we know men are lustily casting their gaze on us, but in a strange guilty way of having being bestowed with a physical body some men wish they were themselves born with.

In the next stop, another passenger got in. She was a very pretty young girl and the man sometimes would look at her with disdain too. And then go back to gazing the mirror. Like If he stared at it for long enough, his appearance would change miraculously. I noticed his hand had muscles, very masculine hands. I wondered if he was struggling with his sexual identity. It seemed like he was desperate to be a woman, to look like one, to feel like one. Suddenly I felt curious, I wanted to talk to him, ask him about his life, but somehow I did not have the courage to. Maybe some other day.

I wondered if he would someday look at the mirror and be satisfied with what he saw. And then I looked away.