On a big screen outside is the scoreboard. Thiruvananthapuram is leading with 97 of its winning points coming from participants who are transgender.
This was not the final scorecard. The ninth edition of the Kerala Literacy Mission's Continuing Education Arts Festival was only coming to a close on Sunday evening and it has been a year of happy surprises for the organisers.
â€śTransgender students who have come back to school to write their equivalency exams for class 10 and 12 have worked hard for the arts fest,â€ť says Shamila R, centre coordinator of continuing education, Thiruvananthapuram Corporation.
â€śAround 21 of the transgender students attending the continuing education classes at the SMV School in Thiruvananthapuram are taking part in the festival. For at least a month they were training in Koodu, a shelter home for trans persons at Pappanamcode in Thiruvananthapuram,â€ť Shamila says.
The training showed results too. For Oppana, Thiruvathira and Sanga Nirtham â€“ all group dance events â€“ the transgender students came first. There were also prizes for solo events.
Sreekutty with her prizes at the Continuing Educaton Arts Fete
â€śWe worked a lot to take part in such a programme. There was a lot of support too â€“ from Shamila maâ€™am, and the district coordinator â€“ Prashant sir. Earlier, we could only watch such events. Now, we can also take part in it. We enjoy it so much, rushing from one stage to another to perform. It is through this platform that we could experience what a kalolsavam (arts fest) is like,â€ť says Sreekutty, patron of Oasis Cultural Society, a community-based organisation for the welfare of trans persons in Thiruvananthapuram. She has written her class 12 equivalency exams.
Soorya and Ishan, the trans couple who rose to fame with their wedding in May 2018, were also part of the fest. Soorya has finished her class 10 exams and Ishan his class 11 exams.
â€śI can say there has been no discrimination against the transgender students at the school, and all the students interact freely with each other,â€ť adds Shamila.
Classes for continuing education are offered on Sundays and second Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm.