In a grimy car-wash in Rawalpindi is a magnificent and unlikely image. Bubbli Mallik, a Khwaja-sira (transgender person) rides a motorcycle exhaling roses through this otherwise masculine space and affirms

“Hum Hain Takhleeq-e-Khuda.” – “I am a creation of Allah”

A total reclamation of existence, particularly in Pakistan. Her hair is long but her face shows the gentle markings of stubble. Her hands are strong, but decorated in bangles. She wears no dupatta and rides on her big bike through the streets.

Khwaja-siras in Pakistan are often associated with curses and blessings. When a khwaja-sira knocks on your door, people rarely turn them down. This mysterious belief in the power of their prayers, however, often comes from a place of fear. At weddings in particular, Khwaja-sira’s are invited to bless brides but are rarely allowed to be a bride themselves. In a society stuck in the binary of genders, there is little acceptance of diversity. Hence, khwaja-sira often live in small exclusive communities of their own, away from their biological families and with temporary lovers and jeweled by heartbreaks.

In Rawalpindi, The Fearless Collective in collaboration with Bubbli Malik of Wajood, learnt about lives and loves of the khwaja sira community. Hanging out at Bubbli Malik’s place on Kyani Road with her friends, followers and fans, our workshop involved a ritualistic ceremony where instead of blessing others, each person placed their palms on their own heads, and asked for ‘duas’ or blessings for themselves. What do we want to receive? One of the themes that emerged, was absolute comfort of their place in the universe, but a lack of acceptance by their own families and fellow human beings.

Part of Wajood’s struggle is normalizing employment opportunities for the transgender communities, taking them off the streets and into workplaces and schools. The Fearless Collective mural in Rawalpindi is one of the few artistic representations of the community, created by transgenders themselves, in the world. The wall was created in collaboration with a group of some of the loveliest students of National College of Arts that Bubbli works with in her canteen in Rawalpindi, where judgement has been replaced with love. “I am divine. and fearless”

We began the evening here at our workshop with a “Pizza party” where various members of Bubbli’s community came together. A surreal moment of cigarette smoke and swapped nail-polishes.


Our first exercise was called “Nazar na lage”, a take off the ritual of ‘removing the evil eye’ practiced in the Khwaja Serai community. As we’d place our hands on the coal we’d talk about the Nazar or eye/perception upon by the world, and our fears associated with it.

The second part of the ritual was to create an elaborate bridal throne that each of us took on. The Khwaja Serai community is known to be dispenser of blessings at weddings, but rarely ever take that place themselves.

The next morning as Bubbli jumped onto her motorcycle to ride to work, it felt perfect as a representation of her community, we felt like it was perfect for the wall. We got permission in the very masculine car-wash service station on Kyani Road, next to her house.
The painting was created by members of the fearless collective, the transgender community and the most incredible students of NCA Rawalpindi where Bubbli works The students meticulously painted roses upon which we all wrote the blessings that we wanted to receive from the world and changes we wanted to see. Painting in blessings that we'd like to recieve, Respect, belonging and Work opportunities were some of the things the community asked for.
A lot of the girls we painted with had never climbed ladders before in their lives. But by the end of the experience, there we were 20 feet up in the sky watching the sun go down; surrounded by awe, surprise and fearlessness