Chakka! The Word From Where It Begins
Never underestimate the power of words. They can act as bottle caps to stop the flow in a fixed shape. Or, they can become the propeller for someone’s journey. It all started with the evenings when a small child was called ei chakka.
It all started with a word – chakka…
It was a habit of the child to be around her brother while he was on the field. She did not feel like playing. While all the boys had sweats as things to clean, she played in the sands. She stood as a different boy. She was the chakka. She was the child who enjoyed making sandcastles for her dream prince. She did not want to play cricket but wished to make a house for a father who could never acknowledge her. She wanted to be a creator of buildings, who saw life in the mere dust and dogs and cement and water.
She was behind those diary pages, speaking to innumerable beings around her. No one could see them. She was the mad chakka. She talked to her prince. She enjoyed playing with him. Eventually, she made friends with the ‘girls gang.’ She never understood why they played separately. She found it quite disturbing at times that her games were discarded as child’s play. It requires creativity to make a good castle, to create a good plot for the story game. Today, as I write this letter, I ask every reader if games can also be chakkas.
She never found it interesting that people called her with an unchosen and unexplained name. However, she did start to detest it. One fine evening, as she was returning from school, she saw a lady. The dignified persona was her perception of her. He did not quite understand why she was being ridiculed. However, when she looked at her, she felt fear. It stayed with her. No longer did she want to be called chakka. But she could not change it. She could not become him. It remained as it is for every aspect of her life.
It all started with a word – kamar…
The human body is an interesting phenomenon. It has uniqueness for every individual context. Though unrelated, every name describes a certain body. I recall the child who was named because of her kamar. She liked her body for her agility. She liked her body for its swiftness and flexibility. She loved her body for its endurance. But she did not like it that her waist defined her. It still stands as an enigma for me as to how body parts are defined. A list of on-medical prescriptions is followed like the Constitution of society. Never were such laws discussed and debated and voted on before 1950. I do not remember kamar being a factor for someone’s identity and existence. But it seems that society was quite ahead of its time.
It defined things from ancient times so that discussions won’t ever be needed for ratification. But if those debates would have been held, then, perhaps, chakka would not have been a constant tag of insult. If the body was not constricted to notions and perceptions, it would have been mobile and not just walk. It would have allowed the child to learn her dance form. It would have allowed her to enjoy the dances with the ribbons. It would have allowed her to live a life when her body would not be used to insult her and her beloved reptile.
If the body were not about the showcase of skin for one section and covering of skin for another, then she would have been able to live a life without any covers. If belief systems, unexplained and unquestioned, did not overlap the anatomy by her naïve nature, she could have known that kamar is an asset. She could have loved herself a little more. She would not bruise it with tight jeans to walk straight. She would not struggle and get hit by deuce balls to grow her waist size because she was ‘unavailable’ in the men’s section. Instead, she remained stuck with her body. She could not change it. She noticed every slur, every attempt by her circle to avoid the discussion, and yet, she remained in the constant struggle to know the skill of ‘walking straight.’ As I pen down my letter, I wonder if my kamar defined sexuality for everyone. Suppose kamar was the standard of measurement of someone’s being.
Moving on in constrictions…
While I wish to draw every line of this sketch with utmost detail, I also realize that some areas would remain unseen. They would remain unstated forever. It is not because, in any way, I intend to hide my being. I love my canvas. But I also know the law of the paper. It has patience. But it cannot be a wholesome space sometimes, perhaps, because it can carry the scars. However, it cannot carry those scars that seem as war marks today, once were mocked as weakness and pettiness. Marks that did not come out of an accident, but a series of incidents. They were not wanted, but anyway, they made their place on this body. I have been moving over for twenty-two years. I moved on with each one of them in place in this letter. But with constrictions pending to be resolved. Restrictions that do not allow a chakka to be like a normal being.
Normativity, though mainstream, is never allowed to people who seek it the most. Chakka was never allowed the space to be normal with which she understood herself. Her back was scared with whips of taunts and teases. She lived with the chains of fear and bowed down to numbers that did not even go by her wished sex. For her, inches were never about the length of masculinity. She wanted pretty inches for her feet because she wanted to walk. But certain styles are not meant for chakka. Some spaces can be judged by minds who talk of the market, but they could not comprehend her walking. She was too short for the male section and unfit for the female section. But then, I wonder if there could have been a section for her. To let her breathe in the cheers, to lighten up her confidence under the spotlight.
She moved on. The wheel keeps rolling. It should never gather the moss. That is the rule of the prescription. As she rolled with the passing time, each night, she questioned herself if she was desperate or could not do it because she was not allowed. She kept questioning herself.
Questions have a tricky game. This letter is a question. It is a question for everyone who could not ever understand her consent. It is a question for everyone who cannot comprehend non-living tabular-form elements. It is a question for them if human lives are more valuable than noble elements to be remembered and respected for the test of humanity. Suppose this test is worth the attention. It is a question for each of those heads, who fail to grasp the distinction, so clean and unclear. It is a question, a query, a doubt – if restrictions are all that encompasses for every trans-individual to move on in their lives because never will their voices find their representation by them, for them, of them, and through them.
Letters will keep flowing…
I will keep writing. Not just this month. Not just for this time. I will keep writing for each time, even if the mind goes numb. I will keep writing as the voice, which did not give up. I will keep writing to each of my sisters, for their dignity is with these words. I will keep writing for each ally who held on as extremists tried to narrow the rainbow to one shade. I will keep writing for all those who are chakkas, kinnars, jogtas, hijras. I will keep writing letters – because letters, my readers, will always drip with some unsaid, unmeasured, unrecorded reality.
Featured graphic: Vaibhavi Pant