City of Djinns: a year in Delhi by William Dalrymple

City of Djinns: a year in Delhi by William Dalrymple

Author:William Dalrymple
Format: mobi
Tags: Sociology, Names & Genealogy, Social Science, Asia - India, Travel, Local history, 20th Century Description And Travel, Travel & holiday, Description and travel, Anthropology, Cultural, Delhi (India) - Description and travel, Delhi (India), Asia, History, Social life and customs, Anthropology - Cultural, New Delhi (India), Delhi (India) - Social life and customs, India, Essays & Travelogues, Travel - General, India & South Asia
ISBN: 9780002157254
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 1993-12-14T12:00:00+00:00


This classy poetry appeared to do the trick. People began piling out of the house: two daughters-in-law, several small children, some unmarried daughters, two old grandfathers and the new bridegroom. The new bride, required by Hindu etiquette to be blushingly coy for several weeks after her marriage, cowered beyond the open window, twitching the lace curtain. Vimla now took centre-stage, while Panna grabbed an unwilling daughter-in-law and whirled her around in a waltz for a few steps.

As Vimla pirouetted, pulling her sari over her head in a parody of the Dance of the Seven Veils, Chaman Guru put down the cymbals and got down to the serious business of collecting money. The grandfathers both put fifty-rupee notes in the plate, while one of the daughters-in-law presented Chaman with the traditional gift of a plate of flour. But this clearly was not enough as far as Chaman was concerned. She signalled to Panna to carry on singing. A few more fifty-rupee notes were offered, but again Chaman shook her head. Eventually, as the song wound on to its thirtieth verse, the bridegroom presented Chaman with 1000 rupees (about PS25). Bowing and scraping, the eunuchs withdrew.

It was a strangely farcical routine, and must be extremely tedious to enact day after day. But when society closes off all other opportunities there are only two choices for the eunuchs: dancing and prostitution. Of these, going on tolly is probably preferable - and possibly more lucrative.

I was always struck by the eunuchs' lack of bitterness. Through no fault of their own, through deformity or genetic accident, they found themselves marginalized by Indian society, turned into something half-way between a talisman and an object of ridicule. Yet in their own terms they seem fairly content with their lives, and they do not rail against the fate that has left them with this role. In the rickshaw on the way back from that morning's tolly I asked Vimla whether she would like to be reborn as a hijra in her next life. She considered for a while before answering.

'Do you have any choice how God makes you?' she answered eventually. 'I pray for our welfare in this life. But the next? It is in the gods' hands.'



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