From having to beg for a living to a theatre artist, ‘Living Smile’ Vidya has come a long way
‘Living Smile’ Vidya lives in a one-room tenement in Saidapet West. From her hometown in Tiruchi to Chennai, it has been a long journey.
Born as Saravanan amid three sisters, she was blessed with education.
Amid gender confusions, she left home to join the transgender community at 20, but not before graduating with a master’s degree in applied linguistics from Tamil University in Thanjavur. After she moved away from Thanjavur, Vidya begged for a living.
After an illegal gender-reassignment surgery in Andhra Pradesh, she settled in Chennai, where the theatre movement engrossed her.
She held a job in a rural bank in Madurai for two years, but theatre was her mainstay.
“In the bank’s rolls, I was Saravanan aka Vidya. But I wanted to break away completely as friends knew of my transformation and couldn’t accept me. I struggled for two and half years to get my name changed in the gazette. Now it is easier for others,” she says.
Living Smile in the name adds to her positive outlook, she adds.
Her autobiography has been translated into five languages and she has been recommended by the Kannada Sahithya Academy for an award.
Vidya was among the five transgenders who petitioned the Madras High Court in November for three per cent reservation in education and employment opportunities in the State.
She enjoys doing ‘physical’ theatre, which requires her to enact roles and play the clown. Her performances won her an award from the British Council and the Charles Wallace India Trust scholarship.
She will pursue a six-month theatre course at the London International School of Performing Arts from January. On return to India, she plans to conduct theatre workshops in schools. Her dream is to be employed as a woman in mainstream media. She dreams of assaying a full-length role of a biological woman on silver screen.