Why Live a Double Life?
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”