The Virgin Eunuch
Audity Falguni; born on 18th February of 1974, has obtained her honors and masters degree from Faculty of Law at Dhaka University. She has so far authored 17 books including six short story collections, two collections of poems, one collection of essays, three research books and five translation works from English to Bengali. Her latest short-story collection "Opaurusheya 1971" has won the Prothom Alo Best Book Award 2011.
Hey! Don't call me a hermaphrodite! I am a perfect woman. I'm pure… like a virgin! No man, nobody, has ever entered me. Don't you believe me? I am the virgin eunuch! I swear.”
No sooner Kumari hijra ('Kumari' implies a virgin and 'hijra' implies a hermaphrodite or eunuch) had swayed her body in dance rhythm, the crowd thronging in the village fair roared with wild laughter. Being amused, they whistled and clapped their hands. Kumari's body is tall, dark and slender and hardly offers any feminine curve. S(he) has worn a faded red saree with pale golden lining. Her breasts neither are not as full, ample and mature like those of an adult woman, nor are those too flat like a man's chest. Occasionally, s(he) adds false breasts of rubber or coconuts on her tiny breasts to look like an adolescent girl and a very sweaty blouse seems to hang on those breasts. S(he) also decorates her hair with cheap garlands of plastic flowers.
“Hey, Brothers! Kumari hijra and her dance troop have entered the fair. Now they will sing songs in chorus and dance. They will have a lot of fun!” Says the people gathered in the village fair. Some of them are poultry vendors; some have come in the Upazilla market to sell flour after husking the wheat in machines, some sell glass bangles of different colors for rural women. Some of them have arrived in the market after riding for miles on a van while some others have simply come on foot. They bring their kitchen garden products of winter vegetables...carrots, cabbages, cauliflowers, tomatoes or potatoes, and sell them from dawn to dusk, gets scorched under the blazing sun, count money and at end of the day...when they just begin rubbing their sweaty palms, faces and necks and look upon the looming evening...Kumari hijra and her dance troop come with anklets in their feet, face powder whitening their shaved faces and a touch of lipstick on their manly lips.
“We have come...we have come...we are the virgin eunuchs...don't you have faith in us? We are as pure as newly married brides!”
People choke into laughter again. God, those wretched ones who have neither a penis, nor a vagina have the audacity to call themselves intact? Ha! That is beyond funny! How many women on this wide world are really virgins after a certain age? There are exceptions, of course, such as Mother Teresa, the Christian nun. She is the old European lady who used to wear a white saree with blue lining who spent an entire life within the leprosy patients in Kolkata. Then there is Taposi Rabeya, the devotee Muslim lady of Iraq, who never got married and sacrificed her life for Allah and His Holy Messenger. There's also Mother Sarada, wife of Thakur Ramkrishna Param Hangsha...the great devotee couple of Goddess Kali who never had coitus in their conjugal life and slept like brother and sister for a lifetime. Except these three holy ladies, is there anyone who is a virgin beyond a certain age?
“Kumari hijra can really make you laugh. Do you know that among the Hindus, a woman is considered to have lost her virginity just after she menstruates for the first time? Even if she remains unmarried, stays celibate, she is still not considered a kumari. This is why Hindu people worship a girl of eight to ten, one who is still a 'kumari', on the eighth day or Ashtami of the Durga puja...to honor the fathomless purity of a virgin!”
“Hey, from this point of view, what should we consider Mother Teresa, Taposi Rabeya and Mother Sarada? Just think about it! Even holy women like them cannot be considered to be virgins from that viewpoint... and this eunuch claims to be virgin?” The villagers exchange cigarettes among each other, take tea with lots of milk and sugar poured in it, and discuss the taboos relating to women's bodies... the shrine of the prettiest and ugliest flesh, the fountain of both heaven and hell and the unending wonders of life! “But have you seen the young nuns of the Catholic mission... aren't they too pretty to not get married? They give the poor children medicine and powder milk each month... they are so pure!”
“Probably they are. But you cannot believe a woman to be really pure until she passes to the graveyard or the cremation ground. Purbey sati, urbe chai, tabey meyer gun gai... only when a woman of high morals prove her chastity through her lifetime and then gets cremated with good records of no scandal... you can praise her only then after her cremation is over... the Hindus think so... sacred books of all the religions stipulate that a woman can be believed only after her menopause! Prior to that she is always the seductress and is as menacing as snakes, and an agent of the devil himself. Do you understand?” The male crowd at the village fair carry on.
“Hey!” screams the hijra, “Why are you talking about nasty women? Don't you see the hermaphrodites present before your very eyes? Why don't you gaze upon us?” Kumari and her dance troop start to sway their bodies in an exhibitive manner. They sway to the rhythm in the air. After the darkness has set upon heavily in the premises of this village fair, one or two flames can be noticed here and there. Just after the end of two days' long market, the seasonal fair of the winter has begun. Pretty arrangements of village casino under the lantern and sale of country cakes and hot nuts at the end corner of the fair ground, huge piles of rickshaw vans...no, no circus party has come this year to add gusto in the fair. The fairies of the night have not come either! Who knows where the helpless girls have gone after the mullahs evicted the only brothel of this region?
“Do premik, do pagol, kay korti hai bolo? Mujhe sey pyar ho gayee ho, apna dil key ki bholo (Two lovers, two insane souls, what can they do? We have fallen in love with each other, to tell honestly)!”
Hindi movie songs on the loud speaker cuts across the wind of the night and the crowd of men again thrive before the tent of Hindi movie shows in the fair. The hero and the heroine are dancing together on a large sea beach. The young man is in a white shirt and faded blue jeans while the girl has worn a mini skirt showing her ample and golden colored thighs. Kumari hijra feels uncomfortable and s(he) realizes s(he) need to go to the bathroom. S(he) begins walking at end of the fair ground and squats down to urinate.
“Oh, the heroine of the movie has such thunder thighs! I don't have such luscious thighs! This is why men do not want to spend money after me!” says Kumari as s(he) gazes upon the sky. S(he) could not earn a penny despite singing and dancing for the whole day from dawn to dusk. If s(he) returns home empty handed, what s(he) would tell to Laily Begum, the Guru Maa, their clan leader?
Everybody in the family knew that Arshad is a boy until he himself came to realize that he is neither a man like his brothers nor a woman like his sisters! His parents, however, had known the truth since his birth. But, they concealed the fact from everybody amongst the relatives and neighbors. Today, s(he) cannot recall how once s(he) came to realize the bitter truth! All s(he) can reminisce that s(he) could not mix with either the boys' group or the girls' group in school as soon as s(he) was growing up! It was as if s(he) didn't belong. One day s(he) came to this abode of the eunuchs. “Who am I?” S(he) thought. “I don't know...I don't know...I am neither a man...nor a woman,” was the answer s(he) could think of. If one doesn't have a penis nor a vagina... then s(he) has no caste nor creed. Can hermaphrodites offer prayer in mosques or enter the temples? Can s(he) cast votes in polling booths?
“Kumari! Kumari!” Two men call out strongly. Their famished eyes glow in dark. “So, do you want me now?” S(he) laughs. Too many stars sparkle in the sky! The galaxy is infinite. One star, two stars, three stars... just like the innumerable stars upon the sky... Kumari has too many 'husbands' in the area! They consume her nights after nights. Pay or don't pay as they wish. Does she know too many details? Only s(he) can now feel the gentle touch of sudden cool breeze blowing at end of the night and consoling her body stick with sweat. Now s(he) can get rid off the damp saree. Laily Begum, the Guru Maa has been sick over last couple of days. S(he) has offered Kumari shelter in adolescence and gave her a profession...today is it not her obligation to go home at least with some rice and vegetable for the old Laily?
Kumari, do you recall the fairy tale father often used to tell about? The myth of Sayamvara? That in the ancient India, whenever a princess became worthy of marriage, her father used to call upon the princes of all the neighboring states and the princess had to stand amongst all the princes with a flower garland in her hands. The princess, then, used to offer the flower garland round upon the neck of the prince who appealed as the handsomest and worthiest man to her. Fairy tales, childhood and games! Can you recall the childhood games Kumari? Two elder brothers Imran and Ikram and two younger sisters Tithi and Swati...and Arshad, five of them together used to clap hands and chant the rhyme as they gazed at the galaxy by evening, “Aai rey amar shuk tara/ aai rey amar sandhya tara (Morning star come to me/ Evening star come close to me)!”
Now the bewildered starlight dangles upon Kumari's body. As if the fossils of millions of stars are rushing towards Kumari across billions of light years. Her eye lids gleam silver because of sweat and tears. If you taste them, they must taste like salt of the ocean. Billions of stars light up the sky.
One star, two stars, three stars...
One husband, two husbands, three husbands...