Human Interest
Shamsi also accepted Miga’s mentor Renjini – who helped Miga pick him over another man who showed interest in her – as his adoptive mother.
Miga and Shamsi. All photos by arrangement.

A couple getting married to each other against all odds and living happily ever after: This is the story that every Indian movie has told us will come true if your love is true. For Kerala couple Miga and Shamsi, this fairy tale has come true – but not without its share of trouble. Ever since photos of their wedding were published – without their consent – by a Malayalam magazine, they’ve been getting abusive messages, and Shamsi’s relationship with his family has soured.

The reason? Shamsi is a cis man, and Miga is a trans woman. Shamsi is a Muslim, while Miga is a Hindu.

Barely a week after the wedding, Miga is disillusioned with the fact that a prominent magazine would publish their pictures without their consent, with no concern for their privacy. “How could they print our photos without permission?” she asks, sitting at the Oasis Cultural Society, which works for the rights of transgender persons.

Miga is also worried if Shamsi’s job in the Gulf would be at risk. “Would the magazine give us a job then?” she asks.

Even as she’s angry and disappointed with the way her story was published – with neither Miga nor Shamsi having any say in their own life story – it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want her story told.

After all, epic love stories come from the people around us every day – and Miga and Shamsi’s is one such.

Leaving home, finding her identity

Miga has always loved to dance, and started learning classical dance when she was in Class 2. She won prizes at dance festivals – but her family wasn’t too proud of her achievements.

“My brother didn’t like that I danced. He was ashamed of this feminine side that I showed,” Miga says. “He would say he can’t take me with him. They would leave me at home when they went for festivals. All that hurt a lot,” she recalls.

While confusion over her identity troubled her when she was younger, the questions went away when she met another transgender girl. When Miga was in Class 12, she met Syama – then a degree student.

“Here was someone who thought like me. We shared our stories, we had the same thoughts. I understood then that I was not alone. And that there is a community. We made more friends – Apoorva, Sreemayi. That’s how I came to the Oasis,” Miga says.

Soon, Miga left her parents’ house and dropped out of college. The trigger was a dance programme that she had choreographed. One of the girls couldn’t make it and Miga had to take her place, for once wearing women’s costumes for the performance.

“I loved that, being a woman in mind and body, dancing. I thought then, why cannot I live like this – I am an Indian with every freedom of a citizen. Why can’t I live as I desire? That’s the time I met Sooryamma, one of the first trans people to wear a woman’s clothes and walk in Kerala. I came to terms with my identity,” Miga narrates.

“I had decided that I’d go back home only after getting a job and began making a living,” she recalls.

How a mentor became her mother-in-law

Once she got acquainted with Oasis, the organisation also became her source of income. Miga joined an Oasis project as an additional counsellor – and Renjini, who founded Oasis along with Sreekutty, was the director of the project.

“We got very close and Miga loved me like a daughter,” Renjini tells TNM. “We were in Tamil Nadu then, because we couldn’t live in Kerala. Later, when we moved back to Kerala and took a house in Attingal, it was just Miga and me. She told me about two men who showed interest in her, and asked me to choose one,” Renjini smiles.

“I chose Shamsi,” Rejini reveals, and thus began the love story between the couple – with the blessings of the woman they both fondly called Sabu Amma.

“Sabu Amma chose the one that my heart desired,” Miga says. “I had met him on Facebook. We talked as friends, and slowly got to know each other,” she adds.

Shamsi works in the Gulf, and came down to Kerala two years ago on a break. And that’s the first time the two of them met face to face. Together, they went to a temple, and there, he told her his love.

An engagement followed, without the knowledge of Shamsi’s parents; he left afterwards, with a promise that he’d come back in two years.

It was a long wait. “We didn’t know if he’d come,” Renjini says.

But he did – and he came to see Sabu Amma. Her heart melted when he asked if she could be his mother, and conduct his wedding with Miga.

Renjini, Miga, Shamsi, and Anil Chilla. 

“We have a lot of trans children but this was a man from mainstream society accepting me as a mother. He trusted me, my love. And Miga became my daughter-in-law,” Renjini says.

Like she planned, Miga now has an income, a job, has helped her family members in times of crises, and they have accepted her. They came for her wedding, while Renjini came as Shamsi’s parent.

“I have children, I have relatives. But I want Shamsi to do my final rites,” Renjini says.