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While transgender communities across the country are unable to earn anything due to the national lockdown, this Kinnar community in Baroda, Gujarat, is feeding the needy across their city.
“Almost ten days after the lockdown was implemented, I heard a child crying loudly near my house. When I went there to check, I was taken aback,” says Kinnar Noori Kanwar. “I saw that a six-year-old boy was being beaten by his mother because he had been asking for food since morning and the mother had nothing to give him.”
Witnessing the heart-wrenching scene, Noori decided to help.
In the first phase of lockdown, with the members of the Kinnar Samaj (Transgender community), Noori distributed cooked food to almost 250 households for a week. Zoya Kuwarba and Meenakshi were some who helped her.
Zoya says, “We would cook dal, sabzi and roti, sometimes poori, to pack and distribute in the slums.”
Then, around 25 of Noori’s followers went to 700 low-income families to distribute flour, lentils, rice, sugar, oil and spices for 15 days. She says that food was also delivered to people in the local slums.
Despite the mistreatment by most people, Noori and her community offered food and assistance. They also shared their contact details, asking the poor families to reach out whenever there is a food shortage.
Noori says, “What would we do, seeing them in pain like this, how can we eat and stay at peace? So we decided to mortgage our gold jewellery to help them.”
She adds that gold has very special importance in the Kinnar community. It is their life’s savings.
“Regular people depend on their children to support them as they age, but we can’t do that. So we invest in gold to survive in our old age when we won’t have any earnings,” she says.
But the pandemic has made her feel that it is more important to help people than save for the future. And so, she and her sisters are doing everything they can for the people of their city.
She mortgaged a piece of jewellery that she had bought after saving for years, “It was very close to my heart, but that’s okay. Life is long. Seeing starving kids and their parents will calm my soul.”
India’s first openly gay prince, Manvendra Singh Gohil, works with the LGBT community across and outside the country. He also runs a charitable trust called The Lakshya to help such people in Gujarat. Gohil explains that this lockdown is quite different for the gay and transgender communities than it is for others.
He explains, “People of this community have always lived under lockdown. It is common for them to be cut off from the rest of the world, while at least being able to go to public places. But in this difficult situation, the people of our transgender community are helping the needy, without seeking any help, which is very commendable.”
Shobha, director of Gujarat’s Lakshya Trust, works with the LGBT community. She counsels them and recalls that when the Kinnar community of Baroda spoke to her about helping the poor with their savings, the pursuit of their empowerment felt complete. They held an e-meeting with Shobha to finalise the areas to distribute the needful.
Then, they took permission to visit different slums in rickshaws, where many were only eating rice, which had weevils.
While the Lakshya Trust helped them obtain passes to travel during the nationwide curfew, the Kinnars used their savings to purchase the essentials for the needy. For the first 15-20 days, they distributed cooked food, and later, after lockdown 2.0, they made packets of raw ration to hand over to a thousand households.
Through both initiatives, they spent nearly Rs 40,000 of their savings to help the needy!
Shobha says that Noori and her community members followed social distancing norms while helping. “These people reach the streets and announced that everyone should stay inside their homes and that food packets will be left outside doors to avoid any human interaction.”
While using their savings to feed the poor amid the pandemic, the Kinnars are also counting days till this crisis comes to an end. “We do not have any source of income right now. We cannot move out to sing Badhai, which was the only way we made ends meet. So we’ll help others and ourselves till the savings last, hoping to get back to our normal lives and sing on the road,” concludes Noori.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)