Yesterday, we lost another transgender warrior in the battlefield. Ramu*. “Brother. Friend. Family”, I said to the nurse at Thrissur District hospital mortuary who asked me what our relationship was. 25 years old. Too young to leave us. Too tired to stay. He was the life of our group. The perpetual clown laughing and making us laugh constantly at all his jokes. Even when he left us, he had a toothy grin on his face. “He is laughing his way through even death”, I said, breaking down when I saw his body at the mortuary. “Rigor mortis”, replied my partner. The condition in which the muscles on the face stretch out to freeze the last expression on his face. The last expression on his face was a smile. We all believe that. Because that is how he lived amongst us. The boy who was constantly smiling through everything.
A brilliant actor on and off the stage. He always would tell you what you wanted to hear. He convinced all of us that he was leaving to go to his sister’s house in Allappey. He convinced us by making calls to his sister in front of us telling her that, letting us all confirm what he had told us. Ramu planned everything in life. Even his death. He was one of the first transmen we knew who had begun his physical transition. The joy he felt on seeing the fuzz on his face form and voice deepen had us fooled into thinking he was moving towards life, not death.
A soulful singer, who had such a beautiful voice, the one thing that the rest of us worried about when he started his hormonal injections was that he would lose his singing voice when his voice dropped. And he was so sharp about things. He would’ve probably been the CEO of some big company if he had an MBA and wasn’t trans.
Born in a working class family in Thuravoor, Kerala, he lost his mother who committed suicide when he was two years old. His older sister, six years at the time, raised him and his younger brother, then, a six-month old baby. They would go to relatives’ houses asking to be fed because his father was never at home. I saw his sister at his house crying inconsolably asking him why he hadn’t asked her to join him when he decided to leave.
When he fell in love, he fell hard and loved with all his heart. He was loved dearly in return, to the point where people were willing to end their lives for him. But he was torn apart from his lovers, separated by families, by the cold forces of gender, money and a vindictive society. These took its toll on him, creating a gnawing despair that grew over time.
The day after he left us saying he was going home, we got a call from the Thrissur Railway Police saying they found his body. We are grieving despite knowing he wouldn’t have wanted us to. He would have wanted us to laugh through this all. But, we are not strong like Ramu. There are times when humour doesn’t work and despair engulfs us. This is one such time. We will never get over this loss. All he had was packed into a little plastic bag and handed over to us by the nurse at the mortuary. A pair of head phones, a platform ticket and 160 Rs: that’s all he left behind. That and the memories of time spent together laughing through all the hard times.