G Madhana ran away from home 50 years ago when she realised that she was a transwoman. Today, she runs a successful biryani empire in Coimbatore.

‘Madhana Biryani’ is synonymous with flavoursome non-vegetarian feasts for big events and functions for Coimbatoreans. The road to build this empire has been a long one for the 68-year-old transwoman.

Born in Thanjavur, Madhana left home at 18 as her family couldn’t accept her identity. “I acknowledged my identity right in my childhood but I didn’t know how to make others understand it,” she says.

She came to Pollachi and worked as a cook in a Muslim family’s house where she learnt the art of biryani. “They were experts in preparing non-vegetarian food. I learned cooking from them and used to cook for up to 100 people back then.”

After working there for nine years, she moved to Coimbatore and set up her biryani business. She started ‘adopting’ younger trans persons and taught them cooking.

They faced many challenges in the beginning as they had no money, no house and no trust from people. “People looked at us with disgust, stared at us and mocked us,” she recalls.

Through her hard work and sumptuous biryani, over 10 years, she turned those stares into tons of orders. From catering for small events with 100 people, today she cooks for more than 10,000 people.

Madhana’s top-rated dish is the mutton biryani. The average price of one kilogram of the biryani is Rs 150.

She has trained more than 15 trans women, and 10 of them have started their own catering businesses. She has since reconciled with her family as well.

However, employment opportunities for trans persons are still scanty and she hopes for a day when it changes and they are accepted for who they are.

“I was and am trying to help fellow trans women get skilled in different fields so that they can lead a respectful life,” she adds.