Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | February 27, 2015 | 10.15 am IST Follow @anisha_w She is matter of fact about having been a sex worker for around 20 years of her life. And equally matter of fact about having given it up. Mangaladevi Sangeethamma is a transgender woman who has “not undergone a surgery and things like that”. Now 50, she was born Ravi but her family has long accepted her identity and her mother, and some nieces and nephews live with her in the house-cum-temple she has built with her own money. “As a child, my family would scold me for washing vessels and clothes and other work that women do at home. Unable to bear it, I ran away when I was around 12 years old and lived and worked in a red light area in Bombay,” she says. She says it was difficult at first, but then “one of us found me and became my guru and taught me how to live, and how to work and how not to anger the owners. Our seniors would advise us, tell us what to do, what not to do when it came to work and even life.” Sangeethamma says she worked under her guru for eight years, giving the woman her earnings. She says, “Earlier there used to be awe and high regard (bhaya-bhakti) for the gurus, but now that culture is all gone.” She says that the younger lot of transgenders today are wayward, often earning money easily by being with a “boyfriend”, “getting diseases, drunk, and picking up bad habits”. They want nothing to do with the “guru-shishya system”, she rues. Until the age of 35, she did sex work and then moved to Bombay. “I then came to Bengaluru, and made some good friends. So I gave it up. I knew that if I had continued, I would not have had friends or a family,” Sangeethamma says. Starting afresh in the IT city for this transgender woman was not easy. For a while she worked setting up toilets in her village in Kengeri, on the outskirts of the city. Then finally, she decided to build a temple with her savings.  “With my own money I have built the Mahalakshmi Temple. I myself bought the land and then built the temple with my own money,” she repeats, adding that her house too, is located adjoining the temple. She can be found performing pooja in the temple on Fridays. She says people have no problem worshipping at the temple and that people accept her for who she is, and are not bothered by her being a transgender woman. She is the inspiration for filmmaker Ajay’s upcoming venture Pumstri. Sangeethamma lived near his house when he was a child and recalled that she would often be treated differently, which spurred him to make a film on transgenders.  Read: Here comes an Indian movie with a full transgender cast, produced by transgenders Asked to talk about whether she had a partner, Sangeethamma said: “I never wanted a partner. I never liked anyone and rejected the ones who liked me.” Now, at 50, she spends her time “visiting friends, eating meals at their houses and coming back home”. Prod a little further, and she says that a lot of her time is also spent in teaching around 25 of her “students” what she knows, but does not say much. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

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