All over India when you catch a train, sometimes a group of transgenders, or hijras, will board and ask men for money. They clap loudly, touch men on their heads and the men are expected to give the transgenders ₹10. I’ve seen them enter shops or restaurants and ask for money. What I’ve never seen is anyone refuse them, and if you give them money they’ll bless you which apparently is a high honour. An English bloke I met in Agra was telling us about the time he refused to hand over cash to a transgender so she grabbed his crotch and the guys working at the hostel laughed and told him you can’t refuse them, it’s bad luck. I’d say so too, being sexually assaulted on a train sounds like really bad luck to me! He went on to say that they show up and weddings or births and bless them and people pay them whatever they ask for. So far I’ve not had the bottle to ask them for a photograph, I’m sure they’d let me for a fee but y’know. Shy init.
Anyway, the point of this story is on account of the fact I was sat on the train from Guwahati talking with a group of journalists and two transgenders came up to the window. They didn’t ask anyone for anything, they were talking about me and one of the journalists translated and said, “She says you are beautiful.” Nawww, look, now you went and made me blush! I pressed my hands together and said to her, “Dhanyavaad.” She smiled, waved her hand and said something in Hindi before walking off with her friend. The guys fell over themselves thanking her and explained, “She has blessed you! This is very good!” Boom! Got blessed by a hijra and it didn’t even cost me ₹10.
These guys were something else though. One of them was a proper character and told me I was lucky because today I was talking to a “fully enlightened person.” He went on a long winded ramble about men and women, and how we all have each gender within us.
“You are female!” he told me. Well, nice of you to notice because of a lot of Indians insist on telling me how much I look like a man. He continued, “I am also female. And I am male. And you are also male. You have male in you but it is dormant.” Erm, I beg to differ matey, I’ve never had male in me. Gold star lesbian, I am. But he’d not finished. “I have female parts too but they are also dormant. Look, I will show you my female part.” Aaaand that’s when he showed everyone his nipple. I cracked up laughing, I couldn’t help myself. So did his colleagues and the bloke sat next to me. Fucking hilarious and I’m sorry, dude, but I don’t think “fully enlightened” people whip their nipples out on trains.
Anyway, I just spent last night in my hotel doing laundry and drinking vodka. I think vodka has been a running theme when I’ve had nights in by myself because I’ve not liked the town or I’ve been having a bad mental health day and coping with humans wasn’t an option. But today I shall mostly be crossing the border into Nepal which will involve a bus, the skillful avoidance of cycle rickshaw wallahs that want to try and convince me that the short walk to immigration is several kilometres up a big hill, parting with US$100 and hopefully a smooth entry into what I’ve heard from so may people is an incredible country.
Siliguri, West Bengal, India
Stayed at: Conclave Lodge, tucked away around the back and not to be confused with the more visible, more expensive Conclave Hotel in front of it.