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Living a life of dignity

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RHYTHM OF LIFE The troupe performing the `bindela dance'. --- Photo: K.R. Deepak
RHYTHM OF LIFE The troupe performing the `bindela dance'. --- Photo: K.R. Deepak

The dancers brought a smile on everyone's lip

The Rajaka Colony in China Waltair wore a festive look. The residents had enough reason to celebrate. It was the 40th annual parasa (fair) of the Mother Goddess. The highlight of the festival was a 20-member dance troupe. As the performers danced their way through the narrow, winding lanes of the colony, they evoked smiles from men, women and children alike. The grace with which they danced, standing on long sticks was no less than that of professional dancers.A few troupe members dressed as `perantalu' followed the dancers, went from house to house, and applied `tilak' on the foreheads of women and girls. A woman was overheard saying: "Bindela dance chala bagundi" (the `bindela' dance is excellent) and other women nodded in agreement.The troupe members, hailing from Saluru mandal, have been entertaining crowds in Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Anaparthy, Rajahmundry, Bhimavaram and other parts of the State for the last eight years.They have proved the saying, "Where there is a will, there is a way", true with their strong will and determination. The eunuchs of Chinaparannavalasa village of Saluru mandal in Vizianagaram have proved that possessing bi-sexual characters cannot prevent them from earning a decent living.Though scoffed at by society sometimes, they do not have any complaints and seem to lead contented lives with the thought of earning a livelihood through rightful means while drawing smiles from festive crowds.Unlike their urban counterparts who are cursing their fate and living at the mercy of shopkeepers and the general public, the dance troupe from Chinaparannavalasa are drawing cheers and earning the appreciation of people wherever they perform. They earn three or four times more than the income their counterparts get in urban areas, and when they have no work they plough the fields in their village.However, the analogy is not made to belittle the urban eunuchs. They are often exploited by anti-social elements and forced to beg rather than their exploiting the public. Deserted by their kith and kin, and with none to share their grief, they spend secluded lives and move in groups seeking alms from shopkeepers."Though we are born eunuchs, we are fortunate enough not to be deserted by our families. We learnt dance on our own and in the beginning we used to dance on the ground balancing `bindelu' (water containers) on our heads. Later, we improvised the dance by attaching sticks to our legs and dancing on them," says dance troupe leader Yandrapu Suryanarayana.The troupe is in great demand during festivals like Ganapathi Navaratri, Devi Navaratri and jataras in urban and rural areas.How do they make both ends meet during the slack season?"We own small bits of land in our village and plough them. When we move out of the village to perform in cities and towns our parents take care of the fields. The remuneration depends on the place and public patronage. While each member gets Rs.150 a day in Vizianagaram, it is Rs.200 in Visakhapatnam and Rs.300 in Rajahmundry. Food and accommodation of the troupe members are taken care of by the organisers."On the contrary, the efforts of eunuchs in urban areas go largely unrecognised and they are scoffed at by people. The contribution of a eunuch towards promotion of AIDS awareness didn't even earn the appreciation of the authorities leave alone rewarding her."At times we manage to earn Rs.50 a day while we are forced to go without food on some days," says Kumari, who leads a 15-member group living in a single room house at a slum near the old Rajeswari Theatre."None gives us any work. The Government has also failed to recognise our plight. We are neither given loans to take up self-employment ventures nor allotted houses under any scheme," says Kumari.The group is shelling out Rs.500 a month as rent towards the accommodation they managed to get in the slum. "We are not allowed to fill water at the public tap on the street till all the other families have filled their day's requirement. We would be the last to fill our quota of water everyday," she says."I launched a campaign against the dreaded disease, AIDS. I used to supply condoms at secluded parks and to commercial sex workers but my efforts were not recognised by the Government," says Kumari regretfully.The dancers remind one of the quotable quotes: "Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone."B. MADHU GOPAL

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