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”