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Set in the backdrop of 1990 Calcutta, She is a story about finding one’s own identity in spite of all odds. The story spins around the life of Kusum, a brave heart whose identity is often untitled and blurred; it does not belong anywhere, definitely not under the ‘he’ or ‘she’ bracket, thanks to our social conditioning. Will she be successful in her mission? Find out in She, an utterly absorbing read that derives inspiration from Tagore’s “Ekla Cholo Re” song, which urges everyone to move on despite the fear of abandonment from others.

REVIEW : For years, transgenders in India have been treated as nothing. In fact I don’t think people understand the concept of the other genders. A man wanting to be a woman or vice versa, people going through a sex change operation and anyone else who is even remotely different from the “norm” have been treated as less than human. Even books, most common positions occupied by the other genders are prostitutes or comic characters who come around clapping their hands, dancing and asking for money. While this is common, the question we must ask ourselves is, why is it common?

Recently I got an email from a friend of mine, after I told her about this femme friday thing, alerting me to the fact that a transgender woman has recently been accepted into the Indian Police Force. Do you know how happy this makes me? I’m not not even aware of the different politically correct terms for the various distinctions (I’m not even sure if transgender is the right term here) and I’m so happy. Imagine how happy this woman must be?

So when I got an email asking me to review a book, She : Ekla Cholo Re, I accepted immediately. I may not be the cause of a change for them. I may not even make any difference in their lives, but I don’t want to be ignorant. So I accepted the book and read it.

This book is an attempt to make people in India recognise that transgenders or anyone else associated with a different gender from the traditional is also a human. That they have rights too. That they have feelings too. The story follows a professor who meets a lady, Kusum, on the side of a road and offers to give her a lift to her destination. In the car they end up talking and he gets to know her and her life more. It’s a very different writing style from the norm but was not hard to read.
The thing is that such books are rare, almost impossible to find. So this is a great start. While the language could use a lot of improvement (it’s rather clear that the author thinks in his native language and does literal translation into English prose.) And most of that results in it being only understandable by an Indian audience but as that is the intended audience I’d say this works.
I hope the author writes more in his native language in the future. His ideas and intentions are great and I hope to see some growth in his writing skills.

Have you ever thought about the other genders? Are there any books you’d think highlights their struggles more?

P.S. I’m not sure if this belongs in the Femme Friday category but since Femme Friday is about treating the genders equally and no just giving importance to men, I’ve put it here.

*I received a copy of the book for an honest review.