At the tender age of seven or eight, Nabin Waiba realised that he was not “comfortable” in his own skin. Always drawn to things that belonged to his sister, more than his own possessions, growing up became a difficult affair. And difficult it remained for a long time, till a transgender encounter turned out to be a life-changer.
Today, Nabin is Anjali Lama who was recently in the spotlight when she became the first transgender model to sashay down the ramp at Lakme Fashion Week.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Anjali. Talking about her earlier days, she says that she used to hang around with girls and her sisters, and loved wearing their dresses.
“In school too, my friends used to eve-tease me and say that I behaved and acted like a girl. College was harder as people used various derogatory terms and words towards me, and all of this affected my studies as well,” she says.
After completing school, when Anjali moved to Kathmandu (from Nuwakot district) for further studies and happened to watch a television programme that talked about the many issues faced by the LGBT community. Realisation dawned and the young student thought, “I am same as them”. Soon after came an encounter with a group of transgender people on the street and Anjali asked for the address to their office. “I visited them and shared my story and feelings. They provided some counselling and I came to know about my sexual orientation.”
“It was then that I decided to change myself to what my inner soul was always asking for,” she says, explaining the transition that has made her one of India’s most sought after models today.
The journey has been far from easy for the 32-year-old who did not share about her new identity with her family in the beginning as, she knew they would not accept it. “They aren’t aware of such things and we live in such a conservative society that we do not even talk about sexual behaviour and feelings,” says Anjali who got silicone breast implants in 2010 in Bangkok.
So it was only after about six months that they finally came to know about her through a relative.“My brother called me up to enquire and I said yes. What followed was a minute of silence from his side, after which he told me I let them down and that my relation with my family ends right then. Then after a couple of weeks I contacted my sister and told her that I wanted to talk with mum. I shared my story and she told me that they had noticed something different in me (than my brothers) and advised me to follow my heart but not get involved in wrongdoings,” she says, adding that Anjali is a name given to her by a trans friend.
Ask her about her decision to enter the fashion industry and Anjali, who moved to Mumbai in November last year, says that her friends in college always complimented her on her height and slender frame.
She says she never took the compliments seriously until her transgender friends complimented her too. She decided to give modelling a try, and joined a modelling agency where she learnt the nuances of the profession.
“The only reason I came to Mumbai was for Lakme Fashion Week and try for modelling. I had tried for LFW earlier as well, but wasn’t selected. This time I thought of going for the audition one last time – it was like a do-or-die thing because I had left my job in Nepal before moving,” says Anjali who gave her best and finally got selected.
“It was very hard when I started out, and I had to knock on the doors of various people and ask them to include me – all in vain. Being a trans, stigma and discrimination is always attached with you. I started with any fee at the beginning, and then slowly people started noticing me and gave me chances. From 2008 there has been no looking back,” she says, adding that while she had all the qualities required to become a model, her identity often became the only reason for her rejection.
“But I never gave up and stayed positive and focused,” she continues, pleased that it was finally her presentation, walk and potential that won over her identity.
Anjali, who has now become a role model for many, says she would like to give out a message: “Success doesn’t come with a click; you have to work hard, learn the most and stay focused on your goals. You never know when your day will come.”
Content with her first international project, Anjali is now busy developing her network and trying to make the most of this opportunity. “I definitely want to move ahead from this because this has come as a ray of hope for me,” she says.
And if not a model, what would she have been? “An LGBT activist,” she says.