Friday, May 05, 2006

I, Ms. Rajani Nair

Sex change, I assume, must be a very expensive affair. I’m not interested in finding out how much it should cost for the simple reason that, I don’t think I will ever need it. I’m delighted to be born a woman and even more delighted to be living as one.

So what is the big deal?

The big deal is that almost everyone who calls up for the first time asks for a Mr. Rajani Nair. I have been living with this title of Mister, for God knows how many years! My bank thought I was male (in spite of writing FEMALE in big bold letters in the Gender column of the application form), so does Indian Railway. The Credit Card Sales Executives think I HAVE to be mister, or may be even Mr. Rajan ‘Saar’, the ‘i’ was a spelling mistake, you see!

So yesterday, I told the lady who wanted to sell Mr. Rajani Nair a ‘lifetime free credit card’ that she “just missed him. He died only 20 minutes ago. Would she like to leave a message I might pass on to him if I felt like?” I’m sure the poor woman was so confused and scandalised, but managed to say that she was sorry about the death and even muttered a ‘thank you’ before ending the call.

No, I was not named after the actor Mr. Rajinikant (I was born to very Mal parents who had no idea who Mr. Rajinikant was till my Dad landed a job in Chennai). I’m Rajani because I was born in the night - my maternal uncle’s ingenious suggestion. Sadly he is no more. I wanted to thank him for his splendid suggestion because I just realised how much I LOVE my name. Even I couldn’t have found a better name for myself. Of course, there are other meanings to my name which I found out a couple of years ago: Rajani, it seems, is a river in the epic, Mahabharatha, and Rajani is also another name for Goddess Durga. Now, that’s something!

Male me? Ha.


There she is! Jet black, a little plump (must be the daily dosage of fish and meat) and very fast for her size. And just furry cute. This is the third day I am coming across this cute little thing. She is waiting to cross the road as usual. My destination is past her current territory. I walk on, making sure that our eyes don’t meet. My goal in this entire 2 minute activity is to study the action-reaction factor.

I watch her take two cautious steps forward. A guy cycles past lazily. There she goes, back to square one. She watches as a group of men approach. There are three of them. Have they seen her yet? Nah! One of them has just seen her. He touches his friend’s arm, points in her direction, alarmed. They slow down, almost to a halt.

The men are dressed formally as though they are on their way to an interview. The tell-tale resume folder, borrowed tie, polished shoes, combed hair… are all in full attendance. And of course, the jargon speak. “You know Murugappa’s annual turn over is………” GK time, I suppose.
Now that all of them have seen her, the drama unfolds. There is an unmistakable fear in their eyes, and, confusion. Should they speed up, or stand still or turn or run? I have been witness to many similar scenes before. I have seen different people from different sections of the society in varying age groups go through this emotional roller-coaster. And, for all my study on this kind of behaviour and situation, I must have gotten my doctorate by now.

They look at each other and hasten their steps, all eyes on her, trying to get past her before she can dash across. It is turning out to be as expected. Now she will make her move. 2 frightened eyes, 2 pointed ears, a furry soft body that has pulled up into a comical porcupine-like look darts across the road, missing the men by a whisker. I am about 2 feet away. Phat! They men have stopped dead in their tracks. They look at each other. A cat, a CAT, has crossed their path. That too, a black one. Now what? Curses follow. The options are very clear – walk a few steps backwards and then carry on as though nothing has happened or better, just take a 3600 turn and proceed. They look up just in time to catch me smiling. I walk past them, looking over my shoulder gives me an even funny view of three grown-up metrosexuals doing a 3600 degree turn in the middle of the road. Superstition, it seems, is not out of fashion. So much for all our education, open-mindedness, polish and urbanised living.

Tell me, why are we so criminal and unjust to a poor cat? If it were a dog that had crossed the road, trust me, no one would have had a problem. If it the damn dog had chased them down the road and then bit them, still no one would think of taking a 3600 turn or go a few steps backwards or chant a mantra. They would just walk over to the nearest clinic for an anti-rabies injection. Come on people, give it a thought. How many such stupidities do we religiously follow day in and day out? How many such assumptions are we living with? How much of our lives are we going to waste on stuff like this?

I have no idea how my superstitious friends’ day was. Mine I must confess, was extraordinarily good.

Getting to the facts, what I have learnt over a period is, if you don’t want to invite the cat to cross your path, ignore it. By looking at it in the eye, you are intimidating it. It is a very timid creature and given your size, it has every reason to feel powerless and scared. And run it will, at the first available opportunity. I have got my lesson, have you?