Rajkumari Kinnar, popularly known as Rajkumari Kinnar ma, is a trans woman from Ritudih, a village in Jharkhand’s Bokaro district, and is held in high esteem by the people in the area.
And for good reason. The 55-year-old has not only single-handedly raised 8 orphaned children, and given them a new lease of life, but also frequently undertakes food and clothing distribution drives for the needy, and spends about 75 per cent of her earnings to fund wedding celebrations for families marrying off their daughters.
Apart from that, she has also funded the education of children in the local orphanage at Ritudih.
“The bulk of my earnings come from people who call me to their homes to bless them, their newborn children, or the newlyweds in their families. Sometimes, I also organise street dance shows. However, I tend to prioritise other activities and helping people out, above my family’s needs, and as a result, there is never enough money to buy vegetables or essentials. There are many helpful vendors who, understanding the situation, offer me products free of cost, but I never take charity. I instead do some menial jobs around the city, and earn money to make ends meet,” says Rajkumari.
The residents of Ritudih say that Rajkumari never turns away anyone who needs help. She is also a skilled mediator, and has helped solve several disputes in the neighbourhood.
Bijli Devi, Rajkumari’s neighbour, says, “If there is an argument between two community members, or if anyone is raising their voice in our locality, Rajkumari ma will definitely be there trying to calm them. When a family does not approve the marriage of a young couple who are in love, Rajkumari ma will speak on their behalf to convince their family members to not abandon their children.”
Once a Rejected Child, Now a Loving Mother
Rajkumari has been fending for herself since she was only 10.
“I came to terms with my gender identity very early on, but my parents could not accept it so they disowned me and threw me out of the house. With nowhere to go, I ended up on the streets outside a temple. Some members of a rans community in Bokaro, were kind enough to take me in, and give me food and shelter. I do not want anyone else to ever feel the way I did or go through the challenges I faced. This is the reason why I do what I do, ” she adds.
Five of her eight children are girls, and her youngest is a 9-month-old boy.
“I found my five young girls abandoned many years ago, and was touched by the pain they had gone through. Two of my sons were adopted from an orphanage, and one was abandoned by his family at a young age,” says Rajkumari adding that the girls and her eldest son, Amaresh are now married.
Rajkumari’s 13-year-old son, Shubham, says he is proud of his mother.
“I want to grow up to become a mechanical engineer. But, I also want to be like my mother, and help people. Although we struggle financially, she has provided help to whoever asks for it, and she has ensured we never lacked anything,” he says.
Overcoming Opposition From the Transgender Community
Rajkumari faced massive backlash from members of the transgender community for attempting to raise a family of her own.
“Raising a family and social service is seen as something that goes against the community norms, so they ensured I found it hard to earn a living by taking over the areas where I used to perform and give my blessings. Even when I complained to the police, no action was taken against them. I soon realised that a mission of spreading love such as mine will be challenged by others from time to time, so I continued helping those in need,” she says.
The Trans Woman Who is a Beacon of Hope
An important figure in the neighbourhood, Rajkumari is sought out by many when they need some advice, help or even money.
“Often, when I bless a well-to-do family, I receive jewellery for my service. So, if a needy family seeks out my help for their daughter’s wedding, I give away these pieces of jewellery as gifts to the bride and groom. In the past, I have also pawned jewellery to buy ration and clothing for homeless elderly people who have been forcibly removed from their homes,” she mentions.
The pandemic has been hard on Rajkumari, but even as she struggles to make ends meet, she ensures that she continues to help people to the best of her abilities. In the last few months, she has used her savings, donations from community members, neighbours, and influential people, to distribute clothes as well as two meals a day to those without provisions. She also claims to have distributed ration worth Rs 1 lakh to more than 300 individuals.
“Everyday, I spend Rs 500 from my own savings to purchase vegetables, and other essentials. Even today I distribute dal and chawal to at least 20 individuals in my locality. Some eldery people staying near a temple also drop by to collect their meal,” says Rajkumari.
Baijnath Mahto, a member of Ritudih’s Panchayat acknowleges Rajkumari’s significant efforts. “Not only does she provide food and clothing, and fund weddings, she also provides warm clothes, blankets, and shawls to the homeless and needy in winter,” he says.
Rajkumari’s zeal for service and her kind heart may set her apart from the rest, but she remains modest. “I was born with nothing, will leave the same way. So, why not do some good work along the way, and give back to society?”
(With inputs from Kumar Vikash)
Photographs courtesy: Rajkumari Kinnar
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)