An inspirational story

Debarati Palit Singh
Saturday, 16 March 2019

Author Rhythm Wagholikar, who has written a book on transgender activist Gauri Sawant titled Gauri - The Urge To Fly,  talks about her and the condition of this community in India

Pune-based Rhythm Wagholikar was destined to write a book on transgender activist Gauri Sawant. The young author met Sawant at an award ceremony and before he knew, he had started working on the book titled Gauri — The Urge To Fly. The book has been conceptualised by Rachana Shah and published by Right Click Publication.

The book has captured every aspect of Sawant’s life — from her struggle to get accepted and her social work, to her being known as ‘nani’ and so on. “I had met Tai (as he calls Sawant) at Savitribai Phule Rashtriya Puraskar ceremony in Nashik. She was one of the awardees and so was I. Until then, I had just heard about her and seen her work on television. I was quite intrigued to see her. The moment she walked into the auditorium, she made her presence felt through her big bindi or broad border saree. Once she went on stage and spoke about her story, there was pin-drop silence. Everyone was in awe of her,” recalls Wagholikar who feels that we always look at transgenders in a different light but they do not deserve to be in society, just like its other members.

Wagholikar says that last year on Mother’s Day, he had hosted a programme where Sawant went on stage and asked him to write a book on her life. “Back then, I was writing The Soul Stirring Voice — Gaanasaraswati Kishori Amonkar. I had worked with musicians, so for me, this was going to be a different experience. But I also wanted to do a lot of research before I got my hands on her story,” says the author whose first book Swarlata — Rhythmic Reminisces of Lata Didi, is said to be the world’s first book printed in the unique shape of a gramophone record. 

Coming back to the book on Sawant, a lot of leg work, endless interviews and research went into writing it, Wagholikar informs. It was Sawant’s confidence in him that boosted his morale, he adds. “Many asked her, ‘Why did you let Rhythm write the book?’. She was like, ‘I have read Rhythm’s work and I am confident that he will do justice to the person he is writing about. He gets into their life and writes.’,” says the author. 

He adds that writing the book was a roller-coaster ride for him. “I had never seen a transgender’s life so closely. Going through the emotions that these people go through made me really sensitive towards their community. When Tai adopted a girl, other transgender members in her house asked her, ‘Why did you get a human baby’? This makes you realise how harshly we must be treating them,” Wagholikar says and adds, “When people say, ‘Transgenders don’t fit in our community’, I want to ask them, ‘Do we fit in their community’? Why are we discriminating them on the basis of their gender and sexual orientation? What are we showing to the future generation?’ .”  

The youngster who has also founded the NGO Applaude, says that Sawant is a complete woman because she has every shade of womanhood in her. “She is a mother, daughter, sister and now a nani (grandmother). She is a motivational story because she has done so much for her community. Her journey from the traffic signal to various important platforms is a commendable one. She is the face of her community. She adopts children of sex workers, transgenders and gives them a new life. Right now, she is trying to gather funds to build Nani Ka Ghar, a rescue home for such children,” he says.

While being on the field with Sawant, Wagholikar got to see the condition in which these children live. It was heartbreaking for him. “We give our children expensive toys to play and these children blow balloons out of condoms because they don’t have toys. People really need to accept these people. There are educated transgenders who have been denied jobs,” says the author who was conferred with the prestigious Mahatma Gandhi Samman by the NRI Welfare Society of India in recognition of contributions and dedication to worthy causes and achievements in keeping the Flag of India high at House Of commons London. 

He hopes that the inspirational story of Sawant will at least bring a change in the way people look at the community. So touched is he by the difficult conditions faced by transgenders that he is writing his next book on them too. So far, his three books have been on three very strong personalities in their respective fields. He says that the focus is not just on their work but what they have been through to reach the position, which nobody really knows. “There are very few people who know the challenges that Lata Didi or Kishoritai Amonkar has gone through and I wanted to focus on that,” he says before signing off.

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