Incident, from where originated the concept of transgender’s tale, ‘Bhinna Manisha Bhinna Katha’

Conceptualised by Dr. Iti Samanta, ‘Bhinna Manisha Bhinna Katha’ perhaps is the first-ever TV show in India that depicts the struggle of the third gender. Aired every Monday at 9.30 PM in Odisha’s premier Television channel Kalinga TV, the show narrates pathos of this community. Himanshu Khatua is the advisor/mentor of the show.

Transgender persons are often treated as social outcasts in modern society. They are somehow labeled as different humans. However, though they are poorly integrated into society, at times they are invited to auspicious events to offer blessings. They are invited to bless newborn children. Yet, despite being deemed the harbingers of good luck, eunuchs are often treated with disdain. Indeed, the modern-day Hinjda experience is predominantly one of social inequality. However, the story does not end here.

Dr Iti Samanta

Poet, novelist and storyteller Dr. Iti Samanta, chairperson of Bhubaneswar based Kadambini Media and editor of Odia feminine monthly magazine ‘Kadambini’, thinks differently. Encouraged by her brother Dr. Achyuta Samanta, founder of KISS and KIIT, she decided to dwell upon the topic in a series of TV shows. Not only the renowned transgenders of Odisha like Mira Parida, Aishwarya Pradhan or Sadhana Mishra were featured in the show, but the talk show also picturized the emotional tale of renowned transgender and transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi from Maharastra, who is well known in Bollywood.

However, well before the TV show, Iti Samanta had dedicated the March 2017 issue of ‘Kadambini’ to the transgenders. The famous Odia monthly magazine carried the tale of transgenders where Iti herself came up with a few articles to seek justice for transgender persons. She wrote the long but hearty editorial feature that conveyed some untold stories about transgender persons. Both, the TV show ‘Bhinna Manisha Bhinna Katha’ and the issue of ‘Kadambini’ have been widely applauded by audience and readers far and wide.

Cover page of March 2017 issue of ‘Kadambini’

In this context, this reporter approached Dr. Iti Samanta to ask, what made her come up with such a subject. In her response, she narrated an episode she had experienced in her childhood, which actually was the incident from where she started to think about transgenders. 

The concept of ‘Bhinna Manisha Bhinna Katha’ took birth when I was merely a kid, says Dr Samanta. She went on narrating the anecdote:

As a kid, I used to visit the haat (market) with my mother. It was around two to three kilometers from our home in the village. The market opens twice a week. We used to walk down to the market. Though for a kid it was a tough task to walk such a long distance, still I used to go. The reason was – Guda-khuduma (a local sweet made of jaggery) was available at the marketplace.

A still from TV show ‘Bhinna Manisha Bhinna Katha’

One day I had been to the haat with my mother. After the marketing was over, I insisted mother to buy me a piece of the sweet (Guda-khuduma). I started dragging her towards the sweet stall where Gudakhuduma was sold. However, on that day, mom denied for it. She was of the opinion that she cannot afford that sweet every day. Yet, I was undone. I literally started weeping for not getting my cherished food. I went on insisting her in many ways.

The shopkeeper noticed our tête-à-tête and advocated my mother not to make the kid unhappy. Finding no other excuse, finally, she bought me a piece of Guda-khuduma.

Now, I was overwhelmed and both of us started walking back to our home. I was licking the sweet and was almost dancing. Oops! Suddenly, someone bumped into me. I barely saved my piece of sweet from falling down and looked back with anger. I yelled at him telling how he could not notice me and he responded back with same ire.

However, in the meanwhile, I noticed that he was strangely attired. For the first time in my life, I came across such a human, who although biologically seemed like a man, his dress up, activity and speaking style were like a woman. I was stunned. I marked that his dialogues were different and had ample essence of femininity.

After the incident, I asked my mother about him. I asked what type of a human he was. My mother just asked me not to discuss about him anymore. However, it was like a nightmare for me. I enquired everyone, every friend of mine and almost all of them advised me to forget about it.

Afterwards, as a grown-up woman, at times I came across such people. I came to know that they are transgender persons. Especially after the launch of ‘Kadambini’, I often stumbled upon these people during public meetings. Whenever I would meet such people, I would keenly observe them. Out of curiosity on different occasions, I started talking to them to know more about them. Gradually I came to know about their sorrows.

I researched and found that transgender persons existed even in ancient times. They have been depicted even in the epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. However, I was keenly sorry to know about their demeaning social position. In most cases, they get rejected by their family members. Even in society, they are looked down upon.

However, transgender persons are humans. And they must be treated with respect, I felt. And hence, finally, I decided to write about transgenders in ‘Kadambini’ which later pushed the idea of presenting it in a TV series titled ‘Bhinna Manisha Bhinna Katha’.   

Written by – Himanshu Guru, Kalinga TV

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