I was 5 when my sisters dressed me up as a bride. We used to play various games, but this one was one of my favourites because I loved donning sarees. Though I am a boy, seeing myself wearing a saree and makeup gave me another level of satisfaction. But my happiness couldn't last longer! One day my father saw me dressed as a bride, and instead of being happy, he got enraged and bashed my sisters for dressing me up as a bride.
He asked me not to dress up in women's clothing again. I started missing the makeup, jewellery, heels, and my all-time favourite, sarees! As days passed, my desire to dress up as a bride became intense, and then one day, I locked myself in a room and did my makeover. I wore my mother's saree and jewellery. The degree of happiness it brought to my spirit is beyond words! I wasn't as happy playing cricket or football games as I was when I was dressing up. So I used to skip my matches to dress up.
I did this secretly until I was caught red-handed by my parents. They were shocked to see me dressed like that and screamed,
"Yeh ladkiyo ke kapde kyu pehne hai?"This time, instead of being quiet, I took a stand for myself and confessed my love for sarees. My parents have grown up in a society that prioritises the orthodox, so they asked me to hide my 'so-called talent' until I could stand on my own two feet!
For eight long years, I would drape sarees behind the closed walls of my room, but it felt suffocating.
Obvious questions struck my mind: why is clothing gendered? Why is cross-dressing normalised for girls but not for boys?When I started growing a beard, I would shave before dressing up, but one day I put on a wig with a beard. It felt weird, but I found my real self. I loved my one-of-a-kind persona.
My friends said, "If you dress that way, people will consider you a transgender person."These remarks were going beyond me, and one day I confronted my parents, claiming that this is my original personality; I have embraced it wholeheartedly, and now it's time for you all to take a call! They asked me to leave the house.
At 22, I packed my bags and left the house. Without a roof over my head, financial support, or any clue what to do next, I took on the daunting challenge of starting anew in my life. I started as a freelance photographer to help myself financially. I yearned to dress and pose the same way as the models when I was photographing them. So, without a second thought, I started modelling. In no time, my photos went viral and were featured in the newspaper too. My self-esteem soared, and I could picture my life blossoming.
I realised this was the sign, and there has been no going back ever since!
People did and have been calling me "chhakka," but I never paid heed to them.Their criticisms have always spurred me to work harder and perform better because I know that my achievement will be a great reply to their comments.
I have proudly established myself as India's first androgynous model, an interior designer, a professional photographer, and one who loves donning sarees. There is no other way to describe me: I am a Beardwali, and that's who I will always be! Embrace the unique beauty that only you possess, and make sure to show it off to the world.