A clap against bias

Updated: Mar 29, 2020, 10:06 IST | P Vatsalya | Mumbai

A new podcast focuses on India's hijra folk, bringing a community of 20 lakh to the centre of mainstream conversation

Fida Khan, the host of the podcast, is a member of the 6 pack band
Fida Khan, the host of the podcast, is a member of the 6 pack band

The hijra people are going to get their due, which goes beyond the attention and scorn they invite when they roam the traffic signals, clapping for alms. De Taali – Life of a Transgender is a new podcast on Spotify, which is hoping to have us see India's transgender community as more than caricatures. Produced and curated by Shameer Tandon, the show is hosted by Fida Khan, 28, a proud hijra woman, who is also member of India's first transgender musical outfit, 6 pack band. "Fida is perfect to host the show because she is vocal, well read, aware and emotive. After working with her as a composer for 6 pack band, I was confident that she should be at the helm of things," says Tandon. Abhinav Nagar is Khan's co-host, in the capacity of an explorer who wants to better acquaint himself with the triumphs and tribulations of India's third gender.

There are five insightful episodes out so far, each one tackling uncomfortable questions about the community and its identity. While one looks at what it's like to grow up in homophobic families, another looks at the intense conflict that hijra people face with their bodies leading to eventual castration in most cases.

The podcast also explores adapting to non-biological kinship and having to resort to sex work to earn money. Even as Fida talks about her own journey, the show features a medical expert, a writer, and other members of the kinnar clan, who offer a glimpse into the hijra samaaj and its traditions.

Shameer Tandon, the curator and producer of the podcast, shares a laugh with host, Fida Khan
Shameer Tandon, the curator and producer of the podcast, shares a laugh with host, Fida Khan  

Due to their conventional occupations and appearance, hijra women are more visible than other members from the LGBTQIA+ community. Some estimates peg India's hijra population at about 20 lakh. This visibility is a double-edged sword though, because while on the one hand it means that others can't ignore them, on the other hand, it means that they are prone to violence and discrimination. "The NALSA judgment and the revoking of Section 377, are all changes that have but occurred only on paper. On ground, things haven't changed. For instance, we don't have reservations in schools or jobs. A lot of us end up dropping out of school due to constant bullying, which makes us ineligible for white-collar jobs. So, we are forced to rely on tried and tested methods of money making. If it weren't for the support of my community, I don't think I would have survived alone," insists Khan.

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