In St. Andrews Public School at Thakurpukur, Kolkata, geography classes have a slight twist. While the kids certainly seem to enjoy the class and their teacher – Suchitra, these classes were once taken by a man – Hiranmay.
Their acceptance of this change of gender in the same person is what makes this an especially moving story.
When Hiranmay joined the school to teach geography almost seven years, he was one of the youngest among the lot. His teaching techniques were an absolute hit with the kids. His mannerisms, posture and speech were different than the other male teachers, but the students never made fun of him.
Sometime later, he took a long break, promising students that he would return. A few months later, the teacher returned, looking happier than ever, with a new name and gender identity. Hiranmay is now Suchitra.
The children showered Suchitra with all their respect and couldn’t care less about their teacher’s gender.
The teaching staff was aware of Suchitra’s identity, who openly discussed her feelings with them – especially the felling that she was a woman trapped in a man’s body.
She also told them how her family rejected her and her struggle throughout her education at AG Church, South Point High School and Behala College. But nothing deterred her from completing her geography honours.
She shut her bullies down by excelling at academics and bagged two MAs —one from EIILM and Jodhpur University and a BEd from Bundelkhand University.
Moved by her colleagues support, she told the Times of India, “For the first time I felt wanted. The administration realised I was transgendered. But that did not matter, and I was as respected as the other teachers.”
“My headmistress was sympathetic, and my extended leave was granted when I went for surgery to Moradabad in UP under Indivar Upadhyay. She told me my job was secure and I could go ahead without fear,” Suchitra said.
Suchitra’s surgery has certified her as a trans woman. For a few minor complications, she will undergo a second round of treatment by city-based plastic surgeon Manoj Khanna and endocrinologist Anirban Majumdar.
She might need a long leave again, and her staff has been gracious enough to immediately grant her the leave and stay carefree about her job.
“We still sometimes refer to her as ‘Hiranmay’ and use the male pronoun, but that’s unintentional, purely out of habit. Otherwise, we are doing everything in our capacity to keep her mentally stable and happy. She is a rare gem, who can effortlessly hold the attention of her class and bring in such joy into learning that her gender identity never mattered to us or to the students,” said the school’s headmistress Pragati Mukherjee.