Laxmi sat beside the chain-linked fences of the lake. The place was uncharacteristically quiet. It usually bubbled with walkers or runners of all age and ethnicity in the mornings, slowly morphing into a quiet place for the lovers to meet through the afternoons and evenings. But, as if to empathize with Laxmi's mood, nature was cruel enough today, that not even desperate lovers came here for a stolen kiss.
Their loss, Laxmi thought, because even in the 40 degree celcius temperature, there was a cool breeze blowing in from the south side of the lake. It might rain today, Laxmi mused, looking up at the sky. The heat was unbearable and the clouds were making it even more stifling. Other than the very mild breeze coming in every once in a while, not even a leaf on the surrounding trees moved much.
Laxmi lit a biri , with the matches she kept in her blouse. She stopped smoking cigarettes and welcomed the cheaper version of the poison when she found Bihaan. Even though she was just twenty back then, she had enough experience to know that she will have to sacrifice a lot of things to keep that little source of light in her life. She kept him, and the cold winter morning that she found her little boy in the garbage dump was the best day of her life. Her little boy, her Bihaan, her dawn. She remembers asking the teacher from the NGO who came in to provide them with basic education and also taught them how to avoid STDs. The teacher was a woman in her thirties, with kind, doe eyes. She had told Laxmi to name him Bihaan, which meant dawn, since Laxmi said he was the source of light in the never ending darkness of her life.
Laxmi felt a bitter pang of twisting pain in her chest when she thought about her son. Her son. Who she had fought the hell and heaven to keep in her life. And her boy was grateful. He was grateful for everything she had done for him. Saving him from death, starvation, providing a roof on his head and clothes on his back. Even though he knew his mother sold herself to strangers to keep ends met, his pride and faith in her never faltered.
And he was a smart boy, he was. Always in the top five in his school, all through high school. He even held a rank in his college. He was smart, kind and passionate. All the things Laxmi wished her boy will be and more. He was a blessing, and Laxmi thanked whoever was up above for sending him in her life.
You see, Laxmi's life wasn't easy. She was also abandoned after birth, for being a hijra. It wasn't really her fault that she was intersex, but her parents must have thought she was, so she ended up in the hands of Meera maasi, who was a eunuch and her mentor. She was the one who taught Laxmi everything, from getting money from scared people on the streets to how to please men with her body. Everything. At twenty, when that was all that Laxmi did, Bihaan did enter her life like a ray of sunshine, making her believe that all the pain that she went through didn't go unnoticed by whoever was up there. Whoever it was, they were looking out for her.
She took a long drag of the almost finished biri in her fingers and threw it into the lake, where it extinguished with a slight hiss. Looking at the setting sun, she found a sense of self in it. It looked like the sun in her life was also setting, it was dusk, it was Godhuli, not Bihaan. Another sigh escaped her as she thought about yesterday.
"Maa, I need to talk about something." Bihaan had said, playing with the fray strings of his old t-shirt. His tick giving away his nervousness he was so desperately trying to hide.
"Tell me, baba, what is it?" Laxmi had said, pausing the show she was watching on the beautiful, red smartphone her son has gifted her on her forty third birthday. He bought it with the money he earned by tutoring children.
"Maa, I know, you have a lot of expectations from me, and you know I'll try my best to never ever let you down." He had said, fumbling with words to reach his final destination.
"You'll never let me down, Baba. You know that." Laxmi had said earnestly. Not expecting what he had to say next. Her son heaved a sigh to collect himself.
"I just had to tell you that I'm... I'm gay." He had barely finished the sentence when his mother's hand came down on his soft cheek as a hard slap, for the first time in his life. His neck had snapped to the side with the force with which the blow was delivered.
Laxmi's heart broke at the sight of her son's beautiful brown eyes watering as he looked at her disbelievingly.
"Maa?" He had whispered. Broken at the betrayal of his mother that he loved more than breath. Surprise and pain making appearance in his expression.
"You're NOT Gay!" Laxmi had roared, all love forgotten. This couldn't be happening. She would never allow his son to even taste the bitterness of the life she was forced to swallow all her life. The hate, the jeers, the taunts, the isolation from mainstream society. This was why she never went to any Parent Teacher meeting in her son's school, ever. She always asked the teacher from the NGO to go, which she sadly agreed to. She never wanted her son to feel isolated. Never wanted him to feel the heat of the hate of a bunch of ignorant prejudiced bigots. But here it was, her worst nightmare, coming true with every word that came out of her son's mouth.
"But, Maa..." Her son had started. Trying to make her understand that he didn't have much choice in the matter. Wanting, no, desperately needing his mother to listen to his side of the story. Wanting to talk to her about the boy that had his heart, body and soul.
"No!" Laxmi had roared and he had cowered in front of that rage. Tears changing into silent sobs as his mother had stormed out of the room of their small house in the slum. His slender body slumping into the bed as he lost the strength to even call up his boyfriend to share this heartbreaking experience. The rejection from the one person that he had believed will always accept him.
Laxmi had wandered around for a few hours aimlessly before coming back home at the crack of dawn. Her little baby boy had fell into an exhausted sleep by then. Tears still running down his cheek that now sported a bruised handprint. Laxmi's heart broke at the sight. Guilt twisting her insides, she had left again. Roaming around the half sleeping city instead of staying in their home.
That's how she came here, back to the place she worked in. She had gone to collect money with her other friends, scaring the young boys by demanding money that they easily gave. The difference between the hijras and normal beggars was that they didn't really beg, they demanded the money, and people gave it to them. Because honestly, Laxmi and her friends, didn't really have a sense of decency for the society that had abandoned them. So the 'decent' people gave up their money without argument. They usually left the women alone, empathizing them somehow. Surprisingly, a lot of women gave them money willingly, without them having to threaten.
Laxmi found a sadistic pleasure in scaring and embarrassing men, but today she kept to the end of the group, not wanting to involve herself in anything. Then she had left after a while, sitting beside the chained fences for an hour or two.