“Devika, someone is at the gate; the warden is screaming your name.” Dolly knocked on my door and gave the message.
I was preparing a PPT for the next seminar on equal rights and gender discrimination. I went to the balcony to see who it might be, and the warden came running behind me to warn.
“Aren’t you aware of the rules? Boys are not allowed on the hostel premises!”
Out of shock, I peeped down, and there he was, my childhood friend Prasad Kaivalya aka Chinu, looking here and there. Jokingly I asked her.
“From which angle he is looking like a boy to you?!”
I was, born and brought up in a small town in Andhra Pradesh called Kadapa. My parents raised me like a princess though I am bit a rebellious. Because of their upbringing, I always stood differently from my peers. I still remember I was in the first std. During assembly on the school ground, a boy with a water bottle hanging on his chest stood behind me. On the first day itself, he was shivering and crying. And other kids were teasing and laughing at him.
In my authoritative tone, I told them to back out and say sorry. This boy hid behind me until all the kids ran away. A teacher called his name Prasad Kaivalya. From that day onwards, our unique and incredible friendship started with glory. When we were in the 7th std, I learnt that he was born differently. And this made people tease him for being different. But it never affected our growing friendship. My friends and relatives warned me, but who cares?
I wanted to pursue an MA degree in sociology and got admission into a reputed college in Hyderabad.
“She needs some etiquette lessons from me, it seems!” He was fuming at the warden.
Though I was not expecting him suddenly at the hostel gate, I was waiting to confess something to this best friend. Yes! You guessed it right. I was in love with my senior, Rohan. Together we dreamt of having our own family in the future. Chinu used to his bike in Hyderabad so it would be easy for us to roam around. We headed to my favourite restaurant to relish Hyderabadi biryani. I asked him directly. “According to you, what is love?”
“Devi, when amma fights with the world for my existence, it is love. When I see giggling kids playing in the park, it is love. When your amma gives me a plateful of my favourite podi idli, it is love. And above all, the most precious love for me is our friendship!”
“Idiot, I am asking about romantic love between a man and a woman.” I made faces.
Looking deep into my eyes, he said, “Then it would be you, you and only you that I can dream about.”
Though they were like jaw-dropping words for me, I knew he kinda pulling my legs. “Have you lost it? I want a MAN to marry me, not you. Have you ever looked at yourself?”
He looked upset for a while, but soon in his usual chirpy tone, he asked me as if he had read my heart out. “Is there anything special you want to talk about?”
I just talked, talked and talked about Rohan and finally declared that he should help me if our parents would go against this marriage.
I was so engrossed in my world with Rohan that I couldn’t get to know what my best friend Chinu was going through. He never, even for a second, felt jealous of me for being romantically involved with another man. For him, it’s my happiness which revolved around his life. He was at a stage where he neither could remove his feelings for me from his heart nor could accept the truth. He felt tangled in a bunch of emotions. He fought a war with himself. He was silently weeping inside but always had a smile on his face in front of me. He couldn’t even show his sorrow to his mother. He comforted me with his words whenever Rohan and I fought. He showed how much he cared for me whenever I cried because of Rohan. He was the first person who jumped with happiness like a kindergarten kid when I passed MA with flying colours. In short, though away from him, I was still his world and life.
Though Chinu had a family business to look after, he was always fascinated by the fashion industry, and this passion for fashion kept him on his toes. He was into writing the articles in the local magazines and newspapers under an anonymous name. He was always aware of new trends and helped me dress up during many college events.
And true to his words, Chinu helped me in convincing my parents to marry Rohan. Everyone got into preparation for the marriage. It’s again Chinu who had taken care of everything from the marriage hall to catering to decoration. He closed his heart to any negative emotions till I got married. During a function, he knocked by the people saying when we have a HIJRA to dance, what’s the need of any dancer? That time for once, I felt terrible for him. I wanted to rebuke them, but Chinu stopped me. He hadn’t wanted any tumult at this stage. On the 25th of May, 2018, I tied the knot with Rohan. I had to shift to Hyderabad permanently after my marriage. More than my parents, Chinu wept when I left Kadapa.
Life was pretty nonchalant in the initial days of my new beginning with Rohan. He showered love with beautiful surprises regularly. We both were busy in our occupations. Chinu’s frequent phone calls stopped because I was always busy either with my work or outing with Rohan. He even once neither complained nor mentioned my unavailability. I could not notice that Chinu was drifting away from me. I had Rohan to share with, everything forgetting Chinu’s existence. Rohan had surrounded my life now. My mother once called me to tell me Chinu was hospitalised due to typhoid. I just changed the topic and hung up the phone. Surprisingly my mother messaged me saying, how could I forget Chinu and how could I don’t even have the courtesy to call him at least once. How could I be so insensible and inhuman? My thinking and my behaviour surprised me too. He had sacrificed so much for me, and I forgot even he existed.
It had been one and half years into our marriage; I found out that I was pregnant. I was on cloud nine. But unexpectedly, Rohan didn’t show any happiness. He was busy with work and work-related stress, or I thought so. I was dealing with and handling my pregnancy and related complications all alone. I strictly told my mother not to tell Chinu about my pregnancy. I felt strange that how could I hide my life’s most beautiful turning point with my best friend.
My little world broke into pieces when I learnt about Rohan’s affair with his colleague. I confronted him, and he accepted and told me he wanted a divorce. There was no begging or crying, and I silently packed my bags and came to Kadapa. I was in my second trimester then. Chinu was unaware of anything. But one day, he bumped into me during my regular visit to my gynaecologist. And as expected, after coming home, he fought with me for not sharing the mayhem I was going through in my life. The pain, the agony, the confusion, the uncertainty, everything that I kept to myself, came out from my heart. I felt relieved. From then, he started accompanying me everywhere, from visiting the doctor to evening walks.
Our relatives, my friends, our neighbours, nobody had even the slightest hint about my divorce and thought I came for my delivery. One day, Chinu sent me a message to get ready wearing a traditional attire designed and accessorized by him. He wanted to take me out somewhere. I thought through me he wanted to showcase his designs. But surprisingly, my parents also accompanied me.
When we reached the venue, I was wide-eyed at the sight in front of me. Traditionally decorated stage, the aroma of an authentic south Indian feast, the sweet-sensual fragrance of jasmine gajras, and the Vedic mantras from the music speakers all indicated the grand stage and function was for ME. Yes! It was all set for my Seemantham. Unknowingly, tears rolled down my face. For once, Rohan’s face came in front of my eyes and vanished. With the support of my parents, Chinu arranged everything to bring back my lost smile and happiness. I felt like this divorce had destined to keep my baby away from all the sorrow. And at the same time, I thanked my stars for giving me a best friend, a soulmate in Chinu, and the most understanding parents. My parents, without any hesitation, told everyone that I was in the middle of the divorce process, and all we needed was their support and blessings. Everyone, including Chinu’s mother, kept us assuring their support. My eyes searched for Chinu to thank him for everything he had been doing for me. He sat alone in a corner, watching me accept blessings showering on me and my baby.
Without even uttering a single word, we both exchanged our heartfelt talk through our eyes and gestures. Unknowingly, I was falling for his innocence and unconditional love and care for me. I was oblivious that I wanted to grow old with him. His eyes very clearly told me that he still deeply loved me.
One evening, everyone at home was out for a function. I was all alone, was munching my favourite snack, kodubale, and watching a movie on the TV. I was in the last month of my pregnancy and was just eight days away from the due date. I was happy because two days ago, I finally got the divorce officially. Chinu was at the door as my parents requested him to check my wellbeing. He came with a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and a bouquet. He was all grinning.
“Guess what?” His chirpy voice commanded me. I nodded with no clues.
“See this! I am on the cover page of Vogue India, and finally, the world accepted and recognized me as I am!” His face glistened in the moonlight.
I hugged him and was about to open my mouth. I felt a sudden urge to pee with unendurable cramps. I couldn’t open my mouth and just let out a scream. Chinu understood it was the time to welcome my baby, and without waiting for anything, he rushed me to the hospital. Throughout the hospital journey, he assured me that everything would be fine.
Suddenly one moment, he said, “I Love You! And I won’t leave you!”
I was not in a position to reciprocate his proposal. Finally, my little angel arrived, and with her, she brought my lost sunshine, hope and faith. On the hospital bed, I whispered to Chinu.
“I love you with all my heart. I want to grow old with you. Are you willing to take me, and my daughter into your life?”
He just said yes and went out of the room. A tiny gloomy expression passed on my face, and I felt ashamed for expecting too much from him. Later a nurse came and asked me why Chinu was dancing and jumping like a small kid. And with that, I got my answer.
We named our daughter Shubha. On the naming ceremony day, we both revealed to our parents that Chinu and I wanted to get married. As expected, bound to societal norms, it was unacceptable for them. Though liberal and modern, when the situation rose at their home, our relationship seemed absurd to them. They started talking about how abnormal it would be to be a part of the same society. Hue and cry, emotional blackmailing, howling, swearing, they did everything to separate us. Chinu’s mother went on to the extent of visiting a baba to release her son from my black magic.
We saw all sorts of drama for a few days. Everything was unsuccessful from their end. And instead, our bond got stronger day by day. Seeing our strong willpower and bonding, finally, they had to surrender to our love. They accepted us. We fought and won a small battle, but we failed to gauge that there was an enormous battlefield waiting for us.
We were at the marriage registrar’s office and submitted all our required documents. We thought we would register our marriage that day itself. Instead, they sent us out of the premises. Later that day, police came to arrest Chinu with an arrest warrant, saying it was a criminal offence. Being a trans, he had no right to marry a GIRL, which was unnatural. He was creating uneasiness in society. People made viral videos that how this relationship was peculiar and a crime.
“And we are now here expecting justice from the honourable court and inclusiveness in the society” With this statement, Devika stopped talking and gulped a glass of water.
Rajneesh, the reporter from The Rational News, a news channel, jotted down the key points from Devika’s interview.
This case stirred up the whole Kadapa town. Many places witnessed mobs damaging public property and screaming, “Save our culture, punish the culprits.”
After the interview, Devika was on her way to the police station. The mob tried to attack her. She somehow managed to enter the police station premises.
She yelled at them to back off and screamed, “You all MEN full of so-called fake manhood can’t even match with my Chinu’s dusty shoes.”
With the help of police protection, she reached home. She approached the Shamil foundation, which was active in many LGBTQIA initiatives. Bharat, their activist and a lawyer by profession, took up her case. Meanwhile, Devika’s and Chinu’s families, Shamil foundation, and lawyer Bharat including the reporter Rajneesh, all started getting life threats.
Devika’s lawyer Bharat appealed to the High Court as the judgement passed by the local court of Kadapa was partial. The public prosecutor in the High Court, Govindan, didn’t want to leave any stone unturned as he was getting all the limelight. By hook or crook, he wanted this case in his favour. On the other hand, Bharat wanted justice for his client based on the constitution that is Devika and Chinu have all the rights to live their life with dignity. Govindan argued that if such relationships were bound to happen in society, our culture would be at the stake. After hearing from both parties, the honourable High Court judge postponed the verdict as he wanted some more light on the LGBTQIA community and their rights.
Meanwhile, Rajneesh aired Devika’s interview on his news channel, The Rational News. He wanted to approach the public to gather empathy for Devika’s case. The digital media showed its magic. LGBTQIA community members started arriving in Hyderabad from all corners of the nation. Everywhere wherever eyes go, all could see the rainbow colours. Though it was December 2020, it seemed like June, the Pride Month. Every nook and corner of Hyderabad witnessed long Pride marches. The public was now aware of the pain, the community goes through to survive. This incident stirred up the whole nation and all eyes were now on the honourable judge.
Rainbow colours surrounded the High Court in Hyderabad. This day was going to create a history. Whether would it happen or not, only time could tell. Just one wrong decision could bring adverse effects on the community’s trust in the nation’s judicial system.
The honourable judge gave the final verdict, “There is no reason to hold them back.”
“All majors have the fundamental right to choose their life partners irrespective of how differently they have been born. In a progressive and ever-improving society, there is no place for violation of the rights of any individual. Society has to move ahead. Safeguarding such relationships and the couples involved is the responsibility of the government. They also are equal citizens of our country.” He added.
Devika and Chinu finally registered their marriage and were now called a LEGALLY wedded couple.
The next day all major newspapers came to the doors with full front-page coverage of Devika-Chinu’s marriage on the court premises with the headline THE DEVIKA PRASAD CASE.
Amma – mother
Podi Idli – a south Indian breakfast
HIJRA – a trans person
Gajra – a flower garland
Seemantham – baby shower function
Kodubale – a south Indian snack
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