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Making a living for eunuchs - Payal Singh (Payal Guru)
Born in a Thakur family on April 26, 1980, Jugni was fourth among five children in Ram Bahadur's family in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh but was cursed on her birth, especially by father Ram Bahadur Singh who longed for a baby boy.

"My mother Shanti Devi had to face the wrath from everyone around. Yes, I was born a eunuch (transgender)". "Being eunuch (hijra), I was cursed by everyone but my mother Shanti Devi always protected and raised me as a "girl child" along with other three sisters, though my father, who was a bus driver with state roadways, treated me as a blot in a upper caste family,"

"He pressed for changing my name to Jugunu, saying that as a male I will have little difficulty in society". "My mother says I was beautiful among four sisters. As time passed by, I found more happiness in the company of males. I constantly felt changes inside me and I was becoming feminine in character and style. I liked girlish dresses and enjoyed the company of girls, especially while dressing up". "However both my father and brother were averse to this and I was beaten up mercilessly whenever they found me in girls' attire. They used to shout that as eunuch (hijra) I need to change my appearance and look more 'manly' and not feminine,"

"My mother was sympathetic but helpless in front of the ire of my father in particular who under the garb of being drunk used to beat me up. One day he literally tore my clothes and beat me till the time I became unconscious,"

"Suicide seemed only option to me. I ran away from my village and boarded a train. The journey was more horrifying as an elderly person in the train sexually assaulted me and when I got down at a nearby railway station, I met the same fate from a police constable. I asked myself: "Is the male world like this everywhere?"

Having realized that it's difficult to survive in the male dominated society, Jugni had to convert herself as Jugunu when she finally landed up in industrial city Kanpur. "Everyone is not bad in this world", says Payal recalling her association with some decent people who helped her like Anwar, Santosh Singh , Katiyar Saheb and Ashok Sonkar. They not only provided shelter to her but helped her in whatever way they could. If Anwar gave her shelter in a slum area along with his mother, Santosh Singh, the then manager of Apsara Talkies in Kanpur got her employed as gate keeper in Poonam Talkies.

She worked as Projector Assistant with Katiyar Saheb in the talkies. Payal did not disclose her identity and kept wearing male dresses. One day when it was disclosed, she had to shift her base to Lucknow. A gang of eunuchs however kept a watch on her and she got trapped by two eunuchs – Riya and Tabbasum and was taken to their chief Guru Mai. Initially reluctant but when beaten up mercilessly, Jugunu alias Jugini introduced herself as Payal Singh. She had to succumb to the pressure of Guru Mai and join the Dera/Gang.

She however never liked the life style, the regular use of liquor, and the way fellow eunuchs were involved in sex work and vowed to take revenge one day. Circumstances once again brought Payal back to Kanpur but not before deciding to take revenge from Guru Mai by reining the Guru Mai's Dera one day but with a different cause. Today Payal Singh or Payal Guru as she is called by this popular name rules one of the important Gharanas near Moti Mahal. Most of the people from the community go for Badhai but their living conditions are much better as they follow certain etiquettes and rules framed by Payal.

She does not find any significant impact after Apex Court's decision to refer a batch of curative petitions against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (a colonial-era provision criminalising consensual sexual acts of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) adults in private) to a five-judge Constitution Bench for a possible back-to-roots, in-depth hearing.

As far as impact is concerned all these are on paper with no substantial changes in offing, Payal said and remarked, "Be it Police or public at large, Transgender do not get a dignified place in the society". The option of "Others" so far has not brought entitlement of loans, housing & employment to them."

When asked if she can get a bank loan or vehicle loan with ID, "No", she quipped. "The authorities want us to file Income Tax Return. Can you put us in the category of fixed income to file a return?" She asked and said, "There is a long way to go if you talk of giving a dignified life and a status in the society to the eunuchs."

Unmindful of the Apex Court's recent verdict, Payal has contributed to the society in recent years by working for poor and downtrodden children as well as girls towards their education and marriage through Payal Foundation.

"I am not only compassionate towards eunuchs but for every poor boy and girl in the society who could not get their dues and therefore devoid of a better life." She set up Payal Foundation in 2010 which is a non govt. social service organization having a non political, non religious and non commercial character. Today it has grown into a huge social service organization working for rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned children, the abandoned elderly, women in distress, people addicted to drugs and liquor and victims of natural disasters in rural and urban.

These people need help – a home, education, someone with whom to share their problems, or just care and companionship. Yet, having little or no money and no-one to turn to, they are often neglected and left alone. So, by providing shelter, support, counselling, and empowerment, her foundation gives them a chance to live the life they deserve full of hope and happiness. While Payal individually goes to different workshops and conferences and puts across her view point, her foundation helps in pursuing the community health related activities, sanitation, prevention and care activities for STI/ HIV/AIDS and linking approach of RCH (Reproductive & Child Health) tuberculosis and malaria services.

Hoping that affiliation with political powers will help bring strength for the community, Payal joined a political party few years back and contested as a candidate in the parliamentary elections from Lucknow but today she is sad that even political parties exploit situations. Payal has worked for TV Serials " Savdhan India " appeared on TV shows in Life OK , Zee besides playing an important character of a mother in a powerful theatre performance "Akhi Maan Hoon".

She has been conferred with an award at National Book Fair in Lucknow with Mahendra Bhishm coming out with a book "Main Payal ( a biography on Payal's life ). She is today part of many TV serials, her story being filmed by Bollywood including famous Vishal Bhardwaj and has travelled to USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, London and UAE to participate in international conferences.

"It's only in India where you are looked down upon and hated," she said and referred to other countries where she was treated as a normal human being and became part of all the activities. She wishes to contribute to the society in whatever capacity she can.

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