“ If people are doubting how far you can go , go so far that you can’t hear them anymore.”

– Michele Ruiz 

       An inspirational person must motivate one mentally or emotionally , so that (s)he can build a strength within herself to overcome all the obstacles and achieve success. An inspirational person should have immense courage to fight against all the odds of their life to make a difference in the world. Capability of showing empathy and to appreciate others is another trait of an inspiring person. He/ she should be emotionally stable , in order to inspire and influence others. An inspiring person should follow the motto of “ Make a difference “ to contribute for the upliftment of society. Last but not the least ,  an inspiring person always believe in collective power , he/ she should always think about the betterment of others and never be selfish . All these characteristics of an inspiring person is present within the famous and great personality Manabi Bandyopadhyay. The first transgender college principal of India , Manabi , who has fought endlessly throughout the last decade for the transgenders in a society where prejudices are associated with something that is perceived as ‘ not normal ‘ . Transgenders , are always within the category of ‘ marginalised’ and treated with mockery and mistrust by the society. But Bandyopadhyay made a history when she was made the principal of Krishnagar Women’s College in Nadia district in 2015. 

Dr. Manabi Bandyopadhyay’s Biography and Her Social Activities :

       Born as Somnath, the youngest son of a middle class family in Naihati, in 1966 , Somnath took her new name Manabi , which means ‘ beautiful woman ‘ in Bengali. In 1995 , she published India’s first transgender magazine Obo – Manab ( Sub-human ) which reflects the oppression of society on the transgender people – they have been treated as sub-humans. Bandyopadhyay herself has stated in an interview to the Hindustan Times, how she has fought the battle against ignorance of society , where she and her father has been threatened with dire consequences because of her transgender identity. She did her M.A in Bengali literature and joined the Vivekananda Centenary College in Jhargram as a lecturer where she has been continuously abused by her colleagues and the student union leaders. In 2003 , she underwent an expensive gender reassignment surgery and became a woman .She was the first from her community who has completed her PhD on transgenders in 2005. She was the notable among the LGBT( Lesbian – gay – Bisexual – Transgender ) activists and played a major role behind the sanction of the law for the LGBT community on 24th August, 2017, when India’s Supreme Court allowed legally the LGBT community to freely express their sexual orientation. On 6th September 2018 , consensual gay sex was legalised by India’s Supreme Court. Bandyopadhyay has struggled a long time for over fifteen years for the rights of the transgenders and ultimately gained success when the Supreme Court officially recognised the transgender community as the third gender. Her contribution for the society includes the reservation of the transgenders in government jobs. Furthermore , she has also inspired the transgenders to educate themselves as most of the transgenders are poor , they survive through begging on the streets or end up as sex workers. Not only for the transgenders, she also stood for the girls who come mainly from the remote areas and an immense pressure was upon them to get married at an early age. She always motivates the girls to be self – dependent and concentrate on studies. She has adapted a son and named him  Debashish Manabiputro. Even in today’s society when people think that being transgender is a ‘ mental disease ‘ , Bandyopadhyay tried to reveal the distress a person feels due to a mismatch between their gender identity and gender assignment at their birth through the books written by her where she shared her life experiences with the readers.

Dr. Manabi Bandyopadhyay’s Achievements :

       She disseminated strong message for the society in her book , A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi – “ Beneath my colourful exterior lies a curled up , bruised individual that yearns for freedom – freedom to live life on her own terms and freedom to come across as the person she is. Acceptance is what I seek.” ( Manabi Bandyopadhyay) From the excerpt,  it becomes prominent the repression and suppression of the society against which she battled and finally snatched equal opportunities for the long discriminated and neglected transgender community. The vice chairperson of West Bengal Transgender Development Board , Bandyopadhyay has also written other books also Ontohin Ontorin Prositovortika  ( EndlessBondage )( 2002 ),  Third Gender in Bengali Society and Literature ( 2012 ) , Amar Arjita Naritwa ( My Acquired Womanhood ) (2019), one that speaks about the hijra community in India , and the other book documents the third gender in our society and literature. Her socially anomalous position was only cemented by her excellence in academics. The stubbornness in her character was noticed early in her life when she decided to live with her family despite their inability to actively support her and not joining the hijra community. Her story of standing alone and fighting with the higher education department shows that earning academic degrees is not an easy task for a transgender. She influenced many people by disclosing fearlessly the dark tragedy of her life , how she had to shift from many houses because of her transgender identity. ‘Self respect is the first priority’ is the message which she promoted in the society by describing her bold step of resigning the former college because of the gheraos and non – cooperation from the staffs and section of students. She has inspired the whole India to think from a new perspective , India’s first Transgender Poet’s Meet was organised in 2018 in Kolkata under the chairmanship of Manabi Bandyopadhyay , sponsored by the government. This is an event which encouraged the transgender community .Many transgender poets took part in it including Rani Majumdar , Aruna Nath , Debajyoti Bhattacharya , Anjali Mondal , Debdutta Biswas. Manabi Bandyopadhyay , as the vice chairman of Transgender Development Board , addressed many issues of the members of third gender to formulate a policy. The members of the board also take up the frequent complaints about the ill treatments and harassments faced by the transgenders  so that it could be handled by the police. Matters related to the sex reassignment surgery of the transgenders and their all round development has been looked after by the Board under the supervision of Bandyopadhyay. The film Nagarkirtan by Kaushik Ganguly ( 2017 )captures the experience of the transgender community rarely portrayed in Indian mainstream cinema where Bandyopadhyay played a major role to depict the breath taking ruthlessness that reflects the hidden traumas of the third gender community. The story of the film describes a narrative of resistance against the society which gives courage and mental support to the transgender community and helps to change the mentality of the people towards the third gender. Bandyopadhyay has brought many people from trans community to the special screening of the film. Her only desire was that the film should reach every corners of India so that the harassments faced by the people dealing with issues of gender dysphoria can find a path to cope with the situation. 

Dr. Manabi Bandyopadhyay ‘s Contributions to Society :

       The transgender people have long been the subject of ridicule and they were labelled as only suitable for begging by singing and dancing. Bandyopadhyay has inspired them to dream beyond the stereotypes and to aspire to a life of dignity and respect as any other human being. She has inspired people to break the gender roles – the stereotypes regarding attributes and behaviour that is considered acceptable and appropriate for a person based on the biological sex. Recent studies have shown that almost half of transgenders attempt suicide or have self – harmed , many women as well as men who do not fit into the stereotypical gender role constructed by society suffer from depression and mental disorder. Manabi Bandyopadhyay is a light of hope for them , whose life story continues to inspire everyone. The fashion shows with stereotypical images of beauty which sets the notion of ‘ perfect beauty ‘ with toned body and sharp nose has been dismantled when Manabi Bandyopadhyay stands with the transgender models after jewellery fashion in Kolkata.  Where many women and men are suffering from issues related with ‘ body shaming ‘ which leads to higher mortality risks , Bandyopadhyay with other transgender models spreads the message of “ Freedom of Expression “ that shatters all the preconceived idea of ‘ beauty ‘. The sex workers , who are still considered as an outcast in society and the street kids have been observed with Dr. Bandyopadhyay on the occasion of bhai phota ( bhai dooj ) . The members of Manabi Foundation, a welfare organisation for the transgenders blessed the street kids by applying vermilion and sandal paste tilaks on their foreheads on the occasion of bhai phota , a ritual where the sisters pray for the life and prosperity of their brothers. Bandyopadhyay was invited for TEDxIIFTDelhi in 2017, which is a platform for speakers to present well-formed ideas, where she speaks about the present scenario of the transgenders in India. Not only the transgenders but any LGBT person are termed as chhakka or hijra , which is not only humiliating for the person to whom it is addressed but also for the entire country , India , a country of diversity which is always known for democracy and equal human rights. 

 Dr. Manabi Bandyopadhyay Makes a Positive Impact on Society :

       Dr. Manabi Bandyopadhyay is a famous and inspiring person who not only speaks about the social problems but works in the practical field , she does not only write or speak in a theoretical manner but arrives on the battle ground as an activist. She achieves her success when in 2014 the transgenders were declared as the ‘ third gender ‘. Although media has spotlighted Bandyopadhyay when she reserves the chair of principal at Krishnagar Women’s College in 2015 but her struggle is life long. She has began her battle not for only the 490,000 transgenders in India but all the LGBT people in the early years of  1995 with the first publication of the transgender magazine Obo-Manab. She has ended her dichotomy between body and soul with the gender reassignment surgery and became a woman in 2003. This incident has inspired many ‘ others ‘ to find their true gender identity by constructing a body which their mind yearn for long. All throughout the last decade, she has fought for the equal human rights for the transgenders in India and won the battle for the second time in 2019 with the Transgender Persons Act. Manabi Bandyopadhyay is associated with the grass root of Transgender Rights Movement in all through the last decade. Today increasing awareness  of LGBT rights have been disseminated in society through social media , it is more acceptable to the millennials , Gen Y and Gen Z but discrimination still exist in society . All the laws will be effective only if we strongly support the trans persons , stand beside them , they are wanting nothing more than the basic human rights. Manabi Bandyopadhyay remains an  inspiration for the world for her life story of endless struggle and achievement of success.

                       “ Be Yourself , The World Will Adjust.”

– Manabi Bandyopadhyay 

Priyanka Basu, Chandannagar , Hooghly, West Bengal

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