Wall of Fame

Tahir Ali Khilji

“And what does the father do?” The judge asked the lawyer.

The lawyer looked at the father with hatred and spite, and replied with sarcasm, “He is a lawyer, but, what he does, no respectable person in this world would do. Sir jee, he convinces transgender to use condoms and then has the audacity to call himself honourable, and fit to father a son. Tell me Sir jee, would any person with an iota of self-respect do something like this?”

The judge looked down at the father and said to him condescendingly: “At least respect your profession!

You are a lawyer too! You should not be indulging yourself with this kind of filth and wasting your time.”

The die was cast. The year was 1998. The father, none other than me.

I was seeking custody of my son but I could not get it. I contested for five long years, and the case gets cited in the textbooks, but my choice of career was an indictment against me. Apparently, my passion for raising awareness about HIV/AIDS among transgender communities was a punishable offence.

1998 was also the year when VISION came into being. Its mission: access to basic human rights for under-served communities and social justice for all.

Reflecting back, I did not lose anything. I was, and still am, famously called mad for wasting my talent.

My closest friends think I would have been an asset to the judiciary of the country if I had continued to hone the skill and the talent given to me by the Almighty. I think they exaggerate.

Recently, my niece looked at Team VISION’s artwork on the wall of 140-B Model Town and asked excitedly: “Does the Wall of Fame and the VISION logo mean that the house is now VISION’s office?” I couldn’t respond. All I know is that this is where VISION came into being. More importantly, this was the space where the concept of transgender movement was conceived for the first time and the rest, as they say, is history.

The journey has been an arduous one but full of hope and passion. This small piece of wall, or in fact, the entire boundary-wall cannot possibly have all the hands that were part of this journey. It reminds me of the AIDS quilt that may have started with a few swathes, but became enormous. Similarly, VISION’s peaceful struggle and the journey may have started small, but different pieces are now coming together to make it a beacon of hope among the trans youth community across the country.

It was VISION that laid the foundation for what has followed, and it will always be VISION taking it further because struggle and movements have different twists and turns that have to be navigated.

I may have lost custody of my son and I may not be leading a so-called opulent life and driving a fancy car, but my madness drove me to where none of my friends dared to go. When I leave this world, I will leave a legacy of a couple of generations of transgender leaders who will take this movement forward. I will happily see it happening from under the Chikoo tree my mother planted in the backyard of the house.

To my niece, my response is that this is the same passion and dedication that made her put up the banner “Black Lives Matter” outside the house in Bethesda MD, USA, when the times demanded.