Book Review: ‘The Truth About Me' - A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi


Picture Credits: Amazon


A person’s gaze is often sharper than the tip of a knife. It says everything without actually saying it. People direct their gaze to things that they consider to be unusual or out of the bounds of their pre-established stereotypes.


It can be unusual beauty or unusual intellect or even unusual physical make-up of a person. What people fail to realise is the effects of this on the subject of their gaze.


Imagine being put on display and people looking at you from every angle possible as if you’re some artifact in a museum, looking at your flaws, parts of you that you’re anxious about, the stuff you can hardly face yourself, and then having them pointed out and ridiculed for everyone’s entertainment and curiosity.


What traumatizing feeling it must be. This is what a person belonging to the Hijra community deems normal.


Introduction


Book’s Name - The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story


Author’s Name - A. Revathi


Genre - Non-fiction, Autobiography


Original Language - Tamil (Translated in English) 


Synopsis


‘The Truth About Me’ is the unflinchingly courageous and moving autobiography of Revathi, a Hijra who fought ridicule, persecution and violence both within her home and outside to find a life of dignity.


Revathi was born a boy, but felt and behaved like a girl. In telling her life story, Revathi evokes marvelously the deep unease of being in the wrong body that plagued her from childhood. 


To be true to herself, to escape the constant violence visited upon her by her family and community, the village born Revathi ran away to Delhi to join a house of Hijras. Her life became an incredible series of dangerous physical and emotional journeys to become a woman and to find love.


About the Author


Revathi is a Bangalore-based writer and activist working for the rights of sexual minorities. She is also a trans woman belonging to the Hijra community and was born as a boy named Doraiswami in the district of Namakkal in Tamil Nadu. Revathi’s first book called ‘Unarvum Uruvamum’ (Our Lives, Our Words) was published in Tamil in 2004. 


It's a compilation of true stories about people from the Hijra community in South India and inspired other Hijra writers to publish their own books. After the success of her first book, she decided to write her own story and published ‘The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story’ in 2010.


Revathi also made her acting debut in a Tamil movie called Thenavattu having two more transgender lead actors in 2008.


Psychological Analysis


The purpose of this book is to bring to surface, the cruelty casted on the Hijra community and the denouncement of their rights to a normal life by the society that refuses to acknowledge their existence. In India, Hijras are invited at child births and marriages to gain their blessings.


When they are considered to be so holy, why does society completely shun them and leaves them no option but to resort to sex-work as their only means to survive? Before being able to even fight for their rights, sexual minorities don’t even dare to come out of the shadows for fear of being scorned. That’s the kind of toxic environment the society has created.


Revathi discovered in early childhood that she was a bit different. She felt more herself when she used to dress up in her mother’s clothes than when she played with other boys of the village. Her parents hoped that as she grew up she would cast these feminine qualities aside and behave more like a man as she was meant. 


But as time passed by, she felt more and more out of place, that she was a woman “trapped” inside a man’s body. She was ridiculed by her parents, siblings and peers for something that was neither her fault nor her will. 


When she met some other young gay men in a nearby town, it was like she had received validation that she wasn’t, in fact, some sort of alien, that there were others like her, that a boy could become a girl or more precisely, a Hijra.


This book informs us and teaches us patiently, the torments of what it's like to be different. Revathi, in her never-ending quest of happiness, first fled from her village to Delhi where she got her sexual organs removed as an initiation to the Hijra community, finally becoming the “woman” she always wanted to be, what she always felt she was. 


Even then, it wasn’t all flowers and rainbows for her because everytime a Hijra walks down the street, they become the subject of the agonising gaze and the dehumanising taunts of the passersby, questioning their existence.  


Even though the government passed a law to protect them, all the injustice and violence inflicted on their community goes, more often than not, uncorrected. Running away from home and coming back just to be considered dead by her family, fleeing again to be sexually exploited in the end, Revathi led an exhausting and brutal life. 


And even though she found a conventional job and her life became a bit stable, the wounds of her past merely scab over and continue to reopen time and again. Such is the fate of transgenders in this society. 


Famous Quotes 


  1. “Men and even women stared at us and laughed, and heckled us. I realized what a burden a Hijra’s daily life is. Do people harass those who are men and women when they go out with their families? Why, a crippled person, a blind person -- even they attract pity and people help them. If someone has experienced physical hurt, they are cared for both by the family and by outsiders who come to know of it. But we- we are not considered human.”.


  1. “Sex work was considered a crime, which is why if a rowdy grabbed one of us in the streets, or bundled us into an auto, there was no one to take our side. In fact, from our perspective, there was no difference between a police and a rowdy. They both behaved in a similar way.”


The Bottom Line


Revathi’s story makes you stop at every turn to absorb the pain. It takes you through the forbidden narrow streets where the transgenders live with even narrower scope of happiness. Even if you're a ‘normal’ person reading the book, you’ll feel as if it’s you who’s trapped and is struggling to break free. 


My ratings for the book - 3.5 on 5


Get your copy of the book from Amazon - The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story


Written By - Sanjana Chaudhary


Post a Comment

5 Comments

  1. Absolutely loved your blog!! The way you've covered the review of the book is brilliant. Could you please tell me how many chapters are there in this book?

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