Why Live a Dou­ble Life?

India Today - - LEISURE - —As told to Chinki Sinha

Ire­mem­ber my vil­lage—a re­mote ham­let of four or five houses, about 150 kilo­me­tres from Kath­mandu. When I was a child, I used to re­mind my­self that I was a boy, and try to be­have like men. I wanted to be a girl, but I was afraid.

The last time I went back to my vil­lage was when my mother passed away. I cried all the way. She had told me once that it didn’t mat­ter whether I was a son or a daugh­ter. My mother knew my heart. After high school, I came to Kath­mandu and started work­ing in a restau­rant to pay for col­lege. Em­ploy­ers would taunt me and say that I was driv­ing away their cus­tomers. Then, in 2005, I saw an episode of a television show called Sang­harsh about trans­gen­ders. I didn’t feel I was alone any­more.

One night I saw two trans­gen­dered women walk­ing to a night­club, and I fol­lowed them and ac­costed them. I told them I had wanted to be a woman all my life. I told them I wanted to be with them. I told them I wanted to wear makeup. That was the be­gin­ning of my trans­for­ma­tion. My adop­tive mother in the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity rechris­tened me An­jali Lama.

I was a pretty boy. My friends of­ten said I should be a model. But I never thought of try­ing un­til a Nepali mag­a­zine called Voice of Women put me on the cover for a fea­ture on the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity of Kath­mandu in 2009.

After that, I was re­jected for Nepal Fash­ion Week thrice. In the press, I was Nepal’s first trans­gen­der model. But a sec­tion of fash­ion de­sign­ers was against me. In 2010, I went for breast aug­men­ta­tion in Bangkok, us­ing my savings. I felt very happy. At least I could have part of what I al­ways wanted. I first au­di­tioned for the Lakme In­dia Fash­ion Week (LIFW) in Fe­bru­ary 2016, but I was not selected. I was heart­bro­ken, and I re­turned to Nepal and tried to for­get about mod­el­ling. I was over 30 years old. But I wanted it so badly that I saved up money and re­turned to Mumbai in June to au­di­tion for the Au­tumn/Win­ter sea­son at LIFW. I was re­jected again, and again I slunk back to Kath­mandu.

Then I re­mem­bered my mother had told me never to give up. A friend agreed to let me stay with him in Mumbai, so I moved here in Novem­ber last year. I wrote to mod­el­ling agen­cies. No­body wrote back. My money was run­ning out. I spent count­less hours in a dark room think­ing about my life.

Then in De­cem­ber, I heard that LIFW was again hav­ing au­di­tions. I had failed in the past be­cause I had hid­den my gen­der, so I wrote to Lakme and asked if a trans­gen­der could au­di­tion. They said I could. For the next 10 days, I prac­tised my walk and taught my­self not to be daunted by any­thing. This time I wasn’t re­jected.

Now, I am happy. I am happy with my body, my dreams and my jour­ney. I came from nowhere. Maybe I will go ev­ery­where.

“When my mother died, I cried all the way to my vil­lage. She’d told me it didn’t mat­ter if I was a son or a daugh­ter”

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