A very common thing happened, while I was traveling from Bhubaneswar to Gunupur. I was traveling via train and I was in the sleeper coach. After few stations, a group of third gender people boarded the train and they started DEMANDING money. Now understand, it’s a shame that a group of 5-10 people without any arms and ammunition can intimidate a whole bogie of 75-80 people.
I tried ignoring them first but eventually was forced to give money to them, not out of respect but out of fear and this has become a tradition and today I question this tradition. Though they don’t demand a huge sum of money and some might also say that you’re not becoming poor by donating 10 or 20 rupees.
Now imagine the reserved coach, a minimum of two teams can go through all 12 coaches and collect at least 50 Rs/bogie. And all this within few stops. While they don’t accept anything below 5 Rs from passengers in the reserved class, they accept even 2-3 Rs from the passengers of U/R. They get down at the next stop and then get on to a train in the reverse direction.
Assuming 8 such train rides a day, they earn around:
50*12(coaches)* 8(trains) = Rs. 4800/day.
That is about Rs 1,05,600 per month (Assuming they do this 22 days a month).
You need to understand that I’m not against the community, I’m against those people who feel that it’s ok to continue a crime in the name of tradition.
Demanding money from anyone forcefully is no less than a robbery or loot. These people in indian trains have been demanding money from all class of people (poor to rich), in a very unacceptable and more of an act of blackmailing. If you don’t intend to pay which you have fundamental right to deny, they would tease, abuse, humiliate, insult, embarass and even harm you physically. To me this is violation of my rights to deny. I don’t want to pay to someone who would resort to such means. I would rather pay that money to a beggar with severe disabilities or a poor child or person on the same train doing something (entertaining, cleaning etc.) to earn a livelihood.
Pay them if you feel pity on them (an act of kindness), not if you fear the consequences of being insulted or embarrassed (an act of a coward). If you are paying them out of fear, remember you are losing dignity and courage that you must demonstrate.
I have decided that I won’t give these people what they want, but I cannot do this alone. One person can initiate a change but he or she cannot complete the task, for that support is required.
Majrooh Sultanpuri once said, “Main Akela hi chala tha Janib-e-manzil magar log saath aate Gaye aur karwaan banta gaya”.
I appeal to each one of you, show courage. When you step back, it gives confidence to them to rob you, insult you and blackmail you. Please understand, courage needs to be demonstrated when it is actually required. Paying money or running away from the scene shows that you are a coward. Which I am sure you are not. It just takes one act of courage, bravery to achieve confidence and respect in your eyes and others.
I am happy to pay them willingly if they are humble and show respect to us too. Infact, if a small child can clean your compartment with his own piece of shirt why can’t them, work anything like this or entertain to earn money instead of demanding it.
I don’t know how I will react when I meet the third gender again but I know one thing for sure that I won’t give up without putting up a fight. I hope you guys do the same too.