One unhappy customer callIt all started with a Thursday phone call. It was another usual day at the Guardian MFI branch office in Kulithalai: borrowers were coming in to collect their disbursed sanitation loans. An angry customer called up the office and vented out her dissatisfaction about the delay in her loan disbursement. The phone was on speaker and I could hear a hoarse voice say” You don’t help people in need which is your sole purpose of existence”.
“It is Ms. Vinodhini, her loan disbursement got delayed because of her absence in town”, said Mr. Vignesh a field staff. Impulsively, I asked Vignesh if we could go have a meeting with the unhappy customer .Vignesh gladly obliged and that paved way to my meet up with Ms. Vinodhini.
The simple household
It was around 1 pm when I and Vignesh reached Ms. Vinodhini’s house in Mahadhanapuram. What appeared to be a Kali temple from outside turned out to be a small home. Inside there was an old woman who appeared to have her lunch.
She saw me click a picture and called out to Vinodhini. A person who appeared to be a woman came storming out. Vinodhini glanced at Vignesh and said “Please come in” with a sarcastic tone.
The inspiring story
Both I and Vignesh pacified angry Ms.Vinodhi and then she began to narrate her story.” I am a transgender and it has taken forty years for me to say this with pride. I told me intentions to my parents when I was six years old and they drove me out of the house.
I traveled to Mumbai and did all odd jobs like clearing pig dung, cleaning toilets and construction work. I studied hotel management and worked in various kitchens as a cook across Mumbai. I made sufficient money and decided to come back to Mahadhanapuram- the very same village from where I was driven out to settle down”.Ms. Vinodhini- Life of determination and hard -work
The hip –hop action Plan
“When I landed at Mahadhanapuram none of my family members were willing to take me in. Hence, I decided to make a family for myself. How did I do it? I leveraged my skill of hip-hop dancing. I learned the dance form during my days in Mumbai from another friend and hence I decided to set up a dance school.”Ms.Vinodhini said. When I further asked about her dance school, she was super excited. She showed me pictures of her in western outfits and animatedly posed for a picture.
Vinodhini – Hip hop costumes
“My dance school is in Chennai and I’m there training for the first twenty days of every month. There are fifty students in my school whom I train. For the remaining ten days I’m here at Mahadhanapuram”, she said.
The good deeds at Mahadhanapuram
Vinodhini’s friend joined our discussion and she went on to explain her good deeds.
Vinodhini’s friend joining our discussion
“Vinodhini adopted four male children. She raised them up with the little money she made out of her dance school. Now three of them have grown up and have started working. Since Vinodhini is a cook, anyone from this village can walk into this house for food. The lady whom you saw when you entered was her guest for lunch today”, her friend said. She continued, “My hotel management background always keeps alive the cook within me. She insisted that I taste the rose milk she prepared and I happily did.
Vinodhini showcasing her culinary skills for us
Paper chit miracle- a temple for transgenders“I was waiting for you to ask about the Kali temple outside this house”, Ms. Vinodhini told me. “I was waiting for you to bring it up somewhere in your discussion”, I said. She laughed and told me that the idea to build Anghalaparameshwari temple for transgenders came about when she was denied entry to one of the temples in Chennai. She took us outside and asked me to click a few pictures.
Angalaparameshwari temple –built by Ms. Vinodhini.
Her friend too joined us and told us that this deity is very powerful.”When we villagers have confusions to take decisions we come here and throw chit papers with choices. Ms. Vinodhini picks up the chit for us and whatever choice comes up we go with it”.
Upon hearing this Vignesh got enthusiastic and decided to experiment with this ‘paper chit miracle’. Vignesh, experimenting the paper chit miracle
“Every full moon night, transgender communities from across Tamil Nadu throng to this temple and worship this deity. It is believed that Angalaparameshwari enters the body of transgenders every full moon night. Hence, it is mandatory for us to visit the deity’s temple that day. When I was denied permission to enter one of the temples I decided to build my own ” Vinodhini stated.
The full moon night hardships
Ms. Vinodhini explained that about one hundred transgender communities come here every full moon night and there is a space constraint. “Since we are transgenders, the villagers are reluctant to allow us to use their household toilets.
Hence on that day, we face a lot of difficulties”. So I decided to have toilets constructed at my household and hence applied for a loan at Guardian MFI “, she said and gave a sarcastic look at Vignesh. She then took us to her backyard and showed us the proposed plan for her toilets for the transgender community.
Ms. Vinodhini- with her proposed plan for sanitation
Vinodhini’s youngest son
Ms. Vinodhini’s youngest foster son called out to her when we were in the backyard. We walked back into the house.
Ms. Vinodhini with her foster son -Babu.
Future aspirations:It was 5 p.m. in the evening and it was getting late. We decided to make a move and Vinodhini came outside to send us off. Her final words to me were “I just have two more wishes, one- to make my son Babu an engineer and two- to raise a tomb over my Angalaparameshwari temple “.
As our bike raced away, I clicked one last snap of Ms. Vinodhini. `A Guardian Angel’ a short story by Ruskin Bond came to my mind. The protagonist in this story led a life just to prove a point against the oppressions of the society. Guess I met another `Guardian Angel’ here.The Guardian Angel-Ms. Vinodhini