Transgender activist Akkai Padmashali’s autobiography Karuṇegondu Savālu was launched on June 28 by eminent theatre personality Prasanna Heggodu.

Akkai Padmashali with Prasanna Hegodu, DK Shivakumar and Sowmya Reddy at the book launchFacebook/Sowmya Reddy
news Books Saturday, July 03, 2021 - 13:10

“People like Manabi Bandyopadhyay to Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi and Gauri Sawant have written autobiographies. In spite of so many people who have spoken about their journey, there were still issues that had not been spoken about. My book focuses on those issues that are unspoken. I felt, when were we going to question the system? It is not a matter of sympathy but that of building empathy,” says Akkai Padmashali, a transgender rights activist, on her autobiography. She is the founder of Ondede, a human rights organization that advocates the rights of children, women and sexual minorities. The book, she said, was written not only to speak about the issues, but to create empathy in society for the transgender community and also question the system that neglects them.

On June 28, Padmashali’s autobiography titled Karuṇegondu Savālu (Challenges to Compassion) was released in Bengaluru. Written initially in English by the trans activist and her friend, it was later translated in multiple languages including Kannada. The book — translated into Kannada by activist and faculty of Bangalore University, Dr Dominic — was launched by eminent theatre personality Prasanna Heggodu, in the presence of Karnataka Congress Chief DK Shivakumar, Jayanagar MLA Sowmya Reddy at Bengaluru’s Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Akkai said that the initial plan was to write the book over four years. However, that got expedited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “My friend Gowri and I worked on the book. She and her team made a transcript of the experiences I had narrated and finally the English version of the book was written.” Gowri Vijayakumar is a Women’s Studies Research Centre affiliated faculty at Brandeis University in the US, and worked to document Akkai’s life and her journey for the book.

The English book will be launched at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Akkai said. The book focuses on many aspects of her journey, she added, such as sex work, begging, family’s non-acceptance, social discrimination and universal tour she undertook to speak on the issues of the sexual minorities and how the countries like the United States, Nepal, Japan, Sri Lanka etc were dealing with issues of gender and sexual minority communities.

Akkai said that the book also focuses on her marriage, separation, adoption, inheritance, etc. She added that formal institutions like family are still driven by patriarchal ideas. “As a transgender person married to a cisgender man, because of your gender identity, sexuality, institutions like family have a different context. Challenging the societal norms, the patriarchal attitudes and challenging the law that is not in favour of the transgender community have been highlighted in my book,” she said. Akkai adds that she hopes her autobiography it would contribute to the discourse on the issues of the transgender community.

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